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Do you hear the laughter?

May 2, 2015

Reading the story of the gardener and the true vine (John 15.1-8) made me think of pruning I’ve done. I quite like pruning but tend to get carried away and what started out as a light trim quickly becomes major tree surgery. That happened this year with the apple trees at the back of the house – thankfully they seem to be doing fine despite my brutality. It’s become a bit of a joke at home that I’m not allowed to play with the loppers or secateurs unsupervised! I’d really like a chainsaw but I hate to think of the devastation that would follow – I can see it now – the 8” hedge and fences would quickly end up waist height, and the trees stumps.

I may well get carried away but everything does tend to come back strong and healthy afterwards. Even so I’m glad that God is far more careful about his pruning than I am. Unlike me, I’m sure he is a master gardener. He knows just what needs trimming and what should be left to get the very best crop.

Even knowing the skill of God the gardener, the thought of him trimming away branches from the living vine scares me. It always brings me up short. It makes me want to skip on to the next passage, to hear Jesus say, “As the father has loved me, so I love you”. I am so tempted to skip over this and just enjoy the warm glow of being loved. Sometimes I’m tired and drained and that is exactly what I should do. At those times the Spirit can let me skip more challenge (for now at least) so that I can rest and be refreshed by Jesus the loving vine.

That is fine. But the danger comes when I always skip over the challenge. I need to be reminded of where all my strength and courage and sense of purpose come from – living in Jesus. I need to remember that without Jesus, I am nothing, I have nothing of real, eternal value for myself or anyone else. I can feel spiritually healthy and strong. I can start to take it all for granted. Worse still, I can start to act (and think) as though it is down to me, that I’m a bit special and so deserve God’s special treatment. I can get so wrapped up in this fantasy that I don’t even hear the Devil laughing at me shrivelling more and more on the vine that is my only source of spiritual life. Do you hear the laughter. To change the metaphor, he is laughing (and salivating) as a sheep like me wanders dangerously far from the protection of the Shepherd. Do you hear it yet? I do!

I know that nothing can truly separate me from the love of God in Jesus – Paul makes that absolutely clear (Romans 8.38-39). But I can still get cold and frightened or even badly mauled for my stupidity. With that in mind I need to let myself read the challenge of the gardener pruning the vine. If I want to really know the power of His love I need to heed the warning and stay firmly attached. That may well mean that I need pruning to be as fruitful as I can be. I need to trust God to prune me just enough with no snip unneeded. I need to get past my fear to remember all that I know of God: To remember that he loves me more than I love my self.

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