Pastor's Wife, Mom, Writer & Imperfect Seeker of Jesus
Pastors' Wives--Pruning Our Lives
November 4, 2016
BIBLICAL WINEMAKING 303
Even though this blog is included in the Biblical Winemaking series, I’ve labeled it in the Pastors’ Wives section because I’ve noticed ministers and their wives as being particularly susceptible to ignoring this intricate part of the “Biblical Winemaking” process. It definitely can apply to those outside of ministry though, so please feel free to read on!
What is the purpose of the vine? That’s easy, right? To produce fruit. Whether you’re considering a fruit or vegetable vine, bush or tree, the goal is the same. Fruit (or vegetable) production is the anticipated end result. All of the soil preparation, the fertilizing, the watering, the covering from animals nibbling…all of these efforts of time and energy are to get to that one end result. Fruit.
But honestly, that’s really only part of the end goal. It’s not simply to produce fruit. It’s to produce MORE fruit. And it’s to produce GOOD fruit.
Both Matthew and Luke talk about how “every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10, Luke 3:9 HCSB) That’s certainly happened in our own garden. A vine or bush is growing well, but the fruit production is all gnarly-looking or insect infested, so we just yank it out and throw it in the burn pile.
However, for those long-term investment plants like grapevines or fruit trees, there is an important step that cannot be skipped…Pruning.
Pruning involves cutting off LIVING parts of the vine or tree, even parts that are producing fruit.
Let’s go back to Jesus’ words in John 15 again. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes (We get that—makes total sense), and He PRUNES every branch THAT PRODUCES FRUIT so that it will produce MORE fruit.” (John 15:1-2 HCSB emphasis mine)
In ministry, there is a CONSTANT flow of opportunities and/or requests to be a part of different areas of Kingdom work. GOOD areas of Kingdom work. From loving on babies in the nursery to feeding the homeless on the city streets to preaching the Word to the masses to ministering to those living in the remotest corners of the world and to everything in between. Constant opportunities. Constant needs. Constant holes to be filled.
It’s been wonderful to watch people in our own church begin ministries of their own that God has laid on their hearts. At the same time, I’ve also heard countlessly when many of those people have asked Ryan or myself to be a part of their ministry because they thought it would give that ministry more impact. Again, GOOD ministry opportunities.
So what happens when we start saying yes to opportunity after opportunity after opportunity, even if they are all wonderful, Godly opportunities?
Well, last week I went to a new apple orchard to get some cider. The orchard was run by a beautiful older couple who have operated their small family business together for 49 years. While I was there, they hooked up the last 100 gallon tank of their 2000 gallons of cider they had made. So they began talking about their highly anticipated break that was now very near.
The wife pointed at her husband and said, “he’ll finally have about two weeks off before he starts on his next project.” When I asked what the project was, his answer was one word. Pruning. This gentleman has about 1200 apple trees that he will be pruning himself…by hand…and he is 80 years old!
Knowing that this blog was coming up soon, I asked him what would happen if he did NOT prune the trees? He described how his precious apple trees would continue to grow and send out new shoots. These shoots would produce apples along with all of the other existing branches next year, but the result would actually be devastating.
Because there is only so much energy that the tree has to give, it would now be split between many more branches. And although those branches might all produce apples and look productive and successful to the untrained eye, the reality is that the apples grown would be smaller and far less sweet because the tree couldn’t keep up with the need of the branches. The end result would be less cider that was far inferior in taste than what it should have, could have, been.
Pruning is important. I’ll admit that it’s not the most fun thing in the world though. From the few bushes and trees that I’ve pruned on our own property, I know that it takes A LOT of time. Each branch has to be looked at individually while at the same time taking into consideration the tree or bush as a whole. And I’m always second guessing myself on what to cut off and what to leave.
So how on earth are we supposed to prune our lives? We’re not. Read the John 15 verses above again. Our Heavenly Father is the vineyard keeper, and it is HE who prunes us. We can fight Him though. Remember He does give us free will. But I believe that if we ask AND we listen, He WILL make it clear.
Paul penned the words to the church in Ephesus, “And He personally gave SOME to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ. “ (Ephesians 4:11-12 HCSB) Then in his second letter to Timothy he shares that for the sake of the Gospel he “was appointed a preacher (evangelist—same Greek word used) and an apostle and a teacher.” (2 Timothy 1:11 NASB)
Paul did NOT say that God called him to personally fill every role in the new church. But He did call him to more than one role.
So what has God called you and your husband to? Well, that’s between you and God.
I know, that’s not an answer we like to hear. So I’ll let you in on a couple things that have really helped me to prune my life and have peace with that pruning.
First of all, when new opportunities arise, do NOT say yes until you’ve prayed about it. I’ve had many people over the years lay a little guilt on me to get a yes, and I generally came to regret most of those yeses whole-heartedly because they were not from the Lord. So now, I ALWAYS give myself and the Lord time to communicate about each opportunity. And if the answer has to be no, then I love the way Michael Hyatt, the former president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Christian Publishing, says it. “Thank you for your request, but in order to be faithful to my current commitments, I need to say no.” Simple, concise and explanatory.
Secondly, when it became evident that I really needed to prune my life for my own sanity and the safety of my family because of my threadbare sanity, I laid out EVERYTHING that I did and was a part of: in my home, at work and in the church. Everything. Then I categorized all of it into what were the things that ONLY I was called to do (like being a mom to Reagan and Chloe), what things that God had gifted me in doing (like organizing large events) and what things were honestly things that others could do, even if I was having success with them (like leading a weekly small group).
When I then looked at the quality and quantity of the fruit produced in each of those areas, it was pretty evident what had to be pruned. And although it was very difficult at first to prune away some of those things that others could do, I did feel a tremendous peace about it.
Prayerfully, with continual pruning (because life is always changing), I will look less like the crazy unpruned vine with shoots going willy nilly in all directions, and more like the beautiful, healthy vine, producing much, good fruit.