It’s that time again of mixed emotions: you feel it’s spring one day then… well… you know. It kind of feels like that has been life this whole past year, a day of optimism then… well… you know. With “pretend spring” comes thoughts of planting. Last year I planted a batch of seeds in the sun room and I was so excited I actually got tomatoes. Not a lot of them, but with my lack of green thumb skills, even just growing one is a huge win for me. I was impressed how large the plants grew, I had to put cages around them for support, I snipped off those runaway vines that wouldn’t produce, I took them outdoors, fed them yummy food and I might have even whispered kind words to them when no one was looking. There is something both satisfying and depressing at how much care is required to get a handful of delicious tomatoes. There is so much work and without the supports, feeding, and pruning, nothing would come of it. Many times we approach our lives exactly the opposite, with little or no care given to the most important parts. In John 15:1-8 Jesus talks about how He is the vine and His Father is the gardener. He talks about being attached to the vine for growth and about pruning and about sniping off non producing vines. His teaching wasn’t that difficult to understand, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…” (verse 5) I think today we consider being tied into anything or given support/structure as restrictive. In the past, freedom was tied to purpose, a flourishing in ones vocation or gifts given by God (or the gods), so discipline and pruning were welcomed. Today we see those words as limiting and punitive rather than restorative and redemptive. I need to say, discipline isn’t my favorite word either, waking up at set times, making your bed, combing your hair (if you have some), brushing your teeth (if you have them), exercising… All these can feel limiting or create discomfort in the short term, but they are practices/disciplines that set a path for long term flourishing. We have experienced a lot of different practices and disciplines this past year and before you make assumptions as to where I’m going next please let me stop you. I’m a pastor, my job is to point everyone as best I can to Jesus as a source of life, salvation and hope, I’m not here to make judgments on rightness or wrongness of the approaches, whether they set us up for future flourishing or failure or both. But what I do know is we’ve all been cut, whether cut off or cut back. We have all experienced the discomfort of the blade (garden pruners). So the real challenge I want to continue to make is don’t let this discomfort go to waste. There have been things in our life that have been cut away that need to stay that way, they weren’t healthy and we didn’t need them. There are things in our life that have been strengthened that we need to allow to bear fruit. Let take the time to ask God to illuminate these areas in our life so the pain and discomfort we have all felt isn’t just endured as we get past it, but embraced as we are strengthened by it. And in all things, remain in Jesus.
If you’d like to know more about what a life with Jesus looks like I’d be happy to have more conversations.
‘Til next time,
by Pastor Dave Zimmerman