So yesterday I decided to take on the small project of trimming the shrubs in front of our house. An hour later and they were questioning witnesses about the Michigan hedge-clipper massacre. I am not saying it looked bad necessarily…but it may take a large amount of forward thinking vision to imagine what the shrubs may look like by next spring. But everyone agreed that it needed to be done. They just see this as the “ugly” stage in the process. I wonder if we see the “ugly” stuff we go through in life as pruning as we look forward to what will be or just as “ugly” stuff.
John 15:1-2 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful”. I have always understood (or at least I thought I did) the concept of God cutting off the branches that do not remain in Christ. But even the branches that remain in Christ he begins to hack away at as well. Pruning, by definition is not an easy word – cutting away that which is superfluous or unwanted. For those of you who have ever pruned fruit trees or rose bushes (or even ambitious shrubs in front of your house) you know that pruning always leaves a permanent mark on the plant. The plan never fully recovers from the pruning and yet Jesus is very clear here when he says that his Father prunes nay branch that remains in Him so that it might be more fruitful. We are permanently marked so that we might be more fruitful.
A couple of weeks or so ago, my wife and I were having a conversation about scars and tattoos and as to whether or not those might be carried with us into heaven. We both loved the idea that the scars that held significance to you would be a part of you forever (both of us understanding that we will one day see our Lord with nail prints in his hands and feet and a scar in His side). But as I think more about it, I think every scar that we receive in this life carries weight. If we have the ability to trust God with weaving our stories of misfortune and heartache into his tapestry of redemption, then every scar carries beauty. Scars that help us to identify with our fellow human…even if it is the scars of abuse or neglect…even if it is the scars of a lost child or loved one….even if it is the scar of a battle against and unholy disease…
We often see this stuff as “ugly” stuff, but maybe it could be “ugly pruning” instead and God can redeem even the most heinous atrocities in the human story. That is the beauty of grace.
I am still not sure that my shrubs will recover though.