Last week I wrote about Jesus being our Master Gardner. He is the one who prunes away all that is dead in our lives. He does this in His personal tender way. As I wrote that message I felt the love of God in my heart. I felt encouraged and excited for the work God has begun, and promises to finish in my life.
I started the week feeling so free, so confident, and so full of hope. Then something happened. I didn’t realize it at first. I just noticed that the freedom and peace were gone and in it’s place was the usual angst, frustration, and weariness I am trying so desperately to avoid this year.
Every day I had a list of things I believe God wanted me to tend to, and get back on track. They included things like eating healthy, exercising, and writing. However, each day I drifted further and further from these goals. The further I drifted the more miserable and frustrated I became.
This all came to a head Saturday night. My daughter and I were going to go to a special church service at our old church. I have been excited to go hear this guest speaker for months. I had great expectations for this service. It had been a long day and if it were anyone other than the guest speaker we both would have opted to go home and rest.
My daughter was late in meeting me which meant we were going to be late to the service. Mind you she was only 5 minutes late but something within me snapped. I spent the car ride to church lamenting about how I make sure to get everyone to their events on time and I put everyone’s needs first, and on and on like a mad woman. I tried to tell myself to shut up but I just kept ranting. (Since I know my sisters and mom are reading this and thinking “Oh poor Charley! Please know we had a great talk after and I fully apologized when we got into church and she is not emotionally scarred in any way 🙂
Truth is I wasn’t mad at her. I was mad at myself. I was mad because it was Saturday night and as I looked back on my week I felt once again as if I had failed. Not only did I not accomplish any of my personal goals- I actually got further from them and self imploded.
As praise and worship began, I couldn’t raise my hands as usual. Instead I hung my head and started sobbing and praying. My prayer went something like this “Jesus, I am so sorry. I know I am supposed to be worshipping you right now but I can’t. I am so sick of failing. I am so sick of falling short. I am so sick of believing big things and seeing nothing. I am so sick and tired of dealing with the same issues year after year. I want to quit. All of it. But where would I go? I give up. I don’t have it in me to try anymore.”
Sometimes it really boils down to that. It’s not that we have great faith. It’s that we have nowhere else to go. We have sought the world and all of it’s comforts and promises and repeatedly came up empty. We feel unsure of all the promises of God, but we do know that the world has nothing to offer. Even in our worst moments we have a little flicker of hope burning somewhere down deep.
It says in John 6:68-69 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
I have come to know that Jesus is the Holy One of God. I don’t claim to understand all that that means, but I do know that He is good. As I walked into the restroom to wash the mascara off my face (I looked like Alice Cooper), I heard in my heart “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand.” I scoffed at the words, thinking they were my own thoughts poking fun at me.
I went back into the service and cried some more and left feeling just as bad as when I got there. I reverted to my old behavior and crawled in bed with my two boyfriends, Ben and Jerry, polished off a pint of Tonight Dough, and went to bed feeling depressed and frustrated.
I did not want to get out of bed on Sunday. I did not want to go to church. I wanted to lay in bed lamenting about my failures. I got up and made my coffee. While in the kitchen my daughter started giving me tips and suggestions on how to achieve my goals. Bless her heart she is a go-getter. I have never met a fifteen years old with such conviction and determination. She inspires me everyday.
I thanked her for the pep talk and went outside with my coffee. Again I heard “He prunes with a tender and gentle hand”. Being a little thick headed I still didn’t get it. I did however start feeling as though the frustration and depression were lifting. I actually looked forward to going to church.
Don’t you love it when you go to church and you feel as though the entire message was put together just for you? That is what it was like for me yesterday. Again, I heard “He prunes with a gentle and tender hand.” It took me awhile but I finally got it. I had once again come up with a self-pruning plan. It my excitement to have the Lord begin the pruning process in the dead areas of my life, I jumped the gun (so unlike me) and came up with a master plan of my own, assuming it was the way God would do it.
God’s ways are tender and gentle. My ways were not. Though I would love to rip off all of the ugly branches of myself, such as insecurity, doubt, negative body image, impatience, food struggles, etc. God has a gentler way. Not only is it more gentle, it is longer lasting.
I am so quick to try to hide the branches of my life that I don’t like that I take short cuts in dealing with them. The thing about short cuts is they never lead to lasting change. Eventually you revert back to old ways and habits. God’s tender, gentle, and often gradual process is painful in a different way. It can be painfully slow at times. However, in the end we have lasting change rather than a temporary fix.
If you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle of defeat, perhaps you are trying to do your own self- pruning. Self pruning has worse side effect than the average pill advertised on tv. Self pruning side effects include, but are not limited to: frustration, depression, anger, irritability, and complete disdain for anyone that seems to be enjoying a care free life. If you experience any of these side effects please go straight to the Healer and let Him treat you to an antidote of lovingkindness, tenderness, and mercy.
Dear Heavenly Father, I confess I cannot do life on my own. I keep trying to make changes in my self and I continue to fall short. Thank you for loving me enough to help me be the best me I can be. Help me to see myself as you see me. Help me to love myself as you love me. Help me to receive your gentle pruning and help me see when I try to prune myself. In Jesus’ name, Amen,
Love, Grace, and Gentle Pruning For Us All,