You Need to Cut It!
I’ve started taking care of house plants. Well, let me clarify, I’m not actually planting seeds with dirt and water, but I’ve been buying plants from IKEA and tending them. While it may not be as challenging as growing them from scratch, it’s still a difficult job. It’s not like the fake plants that only require an occasional dusting; no. Every plant needs a certain amount of water, must be placed under so much light, and fed fertilizer so many times in a month. Ever so often, especially when certain seasons hit, some branches die, and I need to prune them.
I looked up the actual act of pruning for the first time when taking care of my Monstera Deliciosa plant (you delicious monster, you!) that I got on sale. I learned that it’s actually very common for leaves to fall off and die. To keep the plant healthy, I need to prune off the old branches so all the water and nutrients aren’t wasted on the dying parts, and instead can be sent to the live and healthy parts to produce more leaves or fruit. The act of pruning is more strategic than simply cutting off the leaves because you also need to cut the stem supporting the dead leaves, even though it may look partly alive. When doing this, it’s important to cut as close to the main base of the plant as possible. Every bit of the dead branch needs to be cut off so all the nutrients can help grow the parts that need the most strength. Once cut, like all dead things, you throw the old stems and branches away. While it may seem a little harsh to be cutting things off of your beautiful, beloved child, I mean plant, pruning gives it the opportunity for much greater fruit to grow.
The day we decide that Jesus is Lord and begin our journey of following the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20), we become part of a great vine, at which Jesus Christ is the center and everything stems from him. He is the very reason for our existence and both He and the Father, loves us very dearly. That statement alone is great news, but it’s important we don’t let that deceive us into thinking that everything in life will be easy just because we’re loved. True, by Christ dying for our sins, we are all covered by his blood and offered salvation. But God wants more from us than just to be saved. He loves us too much to let us sit idly as a nub attached to the vine. He wants us to grow and blossom into beautiful, big branches with numerous fruit, and I bet you can guess what he’s going to have to do to achieve that.
“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.”
A Fresh Cut
There’s a difference between self-pruning and God’s pruning. Self pruning could be defined as you cutting off everything that separates you from Jesus. You need to cut it! Both are needed to better ourselves and I'm sure you can guess which one is more effective. The act of cutting things off is never particularly pleasant and is often very uncomfortable, any way you look at it. But rather than focusing on the changes and pain, keep your eyes on Jesus. Why? Because he tells us, straight forward:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1 - 2
Actively self-pruning your life requires self-discipline, strength, and seeking Biblical advice all centered on the discernment of God’s will for our lives. None of those are simple tasks and can take days, months, or even years to accomplish. But God knows that and thankfully, he doesn’t rely on us to sanctify ourselves.
Using the Bible as our guide, the Lord reveals the things we need to cut from our lives. However, this requires that we choose to obey the word of God and believe his commandments are true. As if his Holy Word wasn’t powerful enough, he's also placed the Holy Spirit in us to be our little reminder, to hold us accountable, to cut through our hearts, review our motives, and sanctify us through this pruning season. Although self-pruning, does have the word "self", it always involves way more than just yourself. Even if you choose to prune something bad off, you still need an army of people and the power of the Holy Spirit to help you through it.
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through the belief in the truth.”
2 Thessalonians 2:13
Cut (fill in the blank) Out
Before we continue with the following Bible verses, I want to warn you about a common lie that Satan likes to use, “Did God really say … (Genesis 3:1).” Oh, and the other: “The Bible is a list of rules hindering you.” I want to tell you that is not true at all! The Bible is the good news about our freedom from damnation, and God’s love story about saving us. God does tell us to stay away from a number of things, not to hinder us, but to protect us and to remove the shackles of sin. Sin is one of the biggest things holding us back from a life of freedom, so change your perspective if you are struggling with those lies.
"Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly."
2 Timothy 2:16
"Reject every kind of evil."
1 Thessalonians 5:22
"These are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart the devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush to evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in a community ."
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”''
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."
Romans 16: 17 - 18
"But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness."
1 Timothy 6:11
These are only a few things that God commands to us. Pray for God to really soften your heart and show you what you need to cut out of your life: certain traits, people, and situations, and in everything, back it up with scripture and turn to the Bible.
Bring Out the Pruning Shears
Simply talking about pruning things in your life and actually doing it are two different things. So what does it look like for you? Maybe it’s choosing to cut off that clique that causes you to fall so easily into their bad habits. Or cutting off social media because it feeds sinful, envious eyes. Or cutting off that well-paying job because it’s not pleasing to God. Or cutting off the habit of eating unhealthy food because of your greed or gluttony. Or cutting off your desire of not eating because of self-pride and the world’s image of beauty.
The act of cutting something is painful, because when you have something clinging on to you for so long, you can forget it’s there. Maybe it’s the friend giving ungodly advice, the boyfriend pushing your sexual boundaries, or the job defining your false worth. Whatever it is, let’s call it your “tumor” (that’s right, I’m going medical here for a second), it’s taking all of your nutrients and energy every day and it grows and grows, consuming your every thought, action, and robbing your joy. It can even get to the point where you can see it’s a huge problem, but because it’s so big and ingrained in you, you’re afraid to do anything because you know it will hurt more cutting it out. So you cope, and continue life with this huge tumor weighing you down; your guilt, lack of self-worth, and shame all resting on your shoulders.
Satan loves when you’re weighed down with all of that mess and he certainly doesn’t want you to pay attention to it. You see, Satan knows you’re so much more than your guilt, your shame, and your lack of self-worth, but he’s fooled you into believing that’s all you are! If you’re thinking and believing those things that even Satan knows isn’t true, then you think less of yourself than he does. Satan hates you! Yet he still knows that you have so many amazing qualities and can be a great strong branch on Christ’s vine.
Why would you think lower of yourself than Satan? Read that again. Why would you think LOWER of yourself THAN SATAN? Jesus Christ knows your worth, and I bet your mama does too. But when you know Satan, the very being set on destroying you, is trying to destroy you because you are precious to God and you are destined for an eternity full of love and overflowing blessings, it should give you a totally new perspective. He'll do everything he can to distract you from those tumors. Now, I don’t know about you, but knowing that Satan is doing all of this to entangle me is enough to look for some pruning shears.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and the perfecter of faith.”
Pruning starts with one first step: a leap of faith. Though it’s just a small leap, to some it may seem like a bungee jump. The fear sets in and you feel like you’ll be in immediate danger as soon as you take that first step. You can already see the fight you’re going to have with your friend, you’re faced with being alone, you’re faced with feeling ashamed or worthless, or you’re faced with punishment. But all of those my friend are lies from Satan trying to make you afraid and back out. Don't worry, God’s right there beside you. He won’t let you fall.
When you felt hesitant looking over the ledge, He was the cord and harness already attached to you. He would never let you go anywhere close to that ledge if He didn’t provide you a way out. You may think, “If my friend doesn’t love me, who's going to love me?” God loves you. “If I don’t have my job, how will I get money?” God will provide all your needs. “If I stop gossiping, no one will want to listen to me!” God listens and hears all your prayers. Though you may have forgotten, He was there when you were paralyzed with fear or even questioned if it would work, God still held you in his hand.
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
(Girl, if we were here together right now, I would be clapping my hands and saying, “Mmmh! Yes, girl! That is so good! Yes!). By self-pruning, we choose to move based on the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Cut off the very thing that entangles you, sister, and take that leap of faith even though you don’t know what will happen. It’s different, difficult, and often painful, but when you take that leap of faith, dive in, and still come out alive, you’ll have an example in your own life you can share with others of how God saved you from that bad relationship, job or character. He will rescue you, and pull you up from the deepest ravine.
“For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”
1 Peter 3:17–18
(I had to put two, because it’s too good.)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
1 Peter 4:12–14
You need a Care Team
If you have a tumor, you can’t just go in alone with a blade and slice it off yourself hoping for the best. Nor can you simply will it to work itself out. No one wills for a tumor to go away. Like any other operation, you need a care team: a consultant, a doctor, and nurses, all trained in some way to help you remove the tumor. Throughout the Bible, God emphasizes the importance of fellowship and the power of helping one another. Even Jesus kept his disciples by his side during his ministry. Every triumphant character in the Bible was in some type of fellowship with another believer. Adam had Eve, Moses had Aaron, and Paul had Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy. Even if you’re the one cutting off the tumor, you still need someone to help sharpen you, as iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Throughout the Bible, it’s clear that God wants us to seek help from Him and through the fellowship of other strong believers.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
Pruning is often scary but very necessary. It must be done with God in mind while using his Biblical truths as your manual. Whether you’re pruning off someone close to you, a job, an unhealthy hobby, or a sinful characteristic like jealousy or anger, you’re going to need an adviser, a.k.a. a discipler. You need someone who’s experienced and has done this so many times that they know the ins and outs of cutting and pruning things off. They should be trusted and someone who’s learned God’s Word and bases all their practices on it. Only Jesus was perfect on this Earth, and we as humans will always require some type of help or aid. Your adviser should be someone who is also constantly learning and seeking advice about Jesus’ word, so choose someone that also has many advisers for themselves.
When talking to your discipler, converse with one another and talk through the steps of the “procedure”, making sure you understand the reasoning behind it and possible results/side-effects. Make sure they can help you discern whether this thing needs to be pruned and if pruning it aligns with Biblical teachings. They should be able to help you understand that doing this will most likely be difficult and painful, but also to offer you encouragement that you’ll recover. Finally, they should hold you accountable when you feel like you want back out and have convinced yourself that it’s not worth the pain or your sin “isn’t that bad”. Most importantly, they should be reminding you of the glory of God that is to be revealed. This glory can only be revealed when you finally prune off that heavy, sinful growth that's been weighing you down for so long.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Through every stage of your pruning, you have to remember the importance of prayer. Not only is our own prayer important, but having that prayer support from others is extremely important as well. Just like those who are sick in the hospital have many people praying for them, you too need to ask for prayers from others during your pruning times. Through this entire experience, you need people praying for you as much as possible. Although, your grandma or high school best friend may not able to be “in the room” with you as you’re pruning things out of your life, you can still ask them to pray for you and make their requests known to God.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make that sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
I feel you. When you're about to cut, your heart starts pounding and your hands become clammy. In my case when I have to prune, I shake and I have to whisper, because if I talk in a regular voice, I could get emotional, start crying, yelling or become defensive.
The Holy Spirit will be the one to help you prune what needs to be pruned, but usually, He waits for you to decide to get it started. Truly, God doesn’t need our permission to do anything, but He does respect our choices and our free will. Our relationship with God is not a one-way dictatorship, but a relationship consisting of two beings communicating. The Holy Spirit prepares, softens, and guards our hearts, and occasionally he may even soften the heart of that friend you’re about to prune from your life. God prepares everything, the day, the time, the words that will be given to you by the Holy Spirit, the other person’s heart, the weather, and every little detail that surrounds your situation. He makes sure everything is perfect, regardless of how painful it may be.
“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
So you said yes, and Jesus set the stage, but now you need a “doctor” guided by the Holy Spirit to help you. It could be someone to walk with you or be waiting for you outside the room. Someone to hold your hand as you prune off that sin, whatever it may be. Maybe this person is there with you as you disconnect from social media, throw out sinful books or fattening food, or as you’re struggling with depression. Whatever you’re pruning, it’s important you don’t do it alone, because someone needs to be there to help you call out all of Satan’s lies, keep you focused, and keep your emotions in check.
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
The act of pruning off something that’s so deeply attached is uncomfortable and different; two words we don’t like. Fear can quickly set in if we don’t guard our hearts against it. Fear can then turn to regret, which can drive us to return to that person, job, or sin that entangled us so much, that we take our eyes off Jesus. The pain we feel in the moment blinds us to the joy and freedom we’re destined to have in the end. We weren’t destined to be yoked to the sins of shame, jealousy or our self-righteousness. Instead, we’re meant to be yoked to Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:29), a greater treasure than we can fathom. The issue is that if we can’t fathom that great treasure, we get fooled into thinking that our treasures lie in our beauty or our money. But we can see Jesus, and we can see the promises he spoke to us throughout the Gospel.
So say yes to pruning off your old ways and continue to run the race with your eyes set on Christ (Hebrews 12:1–2).
Congratulations, it's done! You cut that sin out of your life and now everything is perfect right? Wrong. You’re sore, and there are bandages over your wound. Removing the very thing you used as a crutch for so long, that gave you your identity, will take time to heal and unfortunately, time is something we can’t do anything about. However, with the right people around and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can decide our attitude and mindset during our recovery.
Like a nurse watching over their patient during their hospital stay, you need someone to be with you as you recover. You need to have someone to take care of you after the operation/pruning, because you’ll be weak. You might mourn over your lost sin because you relied on it for so long that it became a part of you. You may even be filled with emotions and regret because of the pain you feel now. You see your broken heart and fully feel the pain it takes to let go.
Sometimes, the tumor comes back, and you fall back into your old habits. It may take several operations/prunings to remove the hindrance that’s keeping from continuing your journey with Jesus. I urge you not to give up though. Keep going back to God. Keep going back to other believers. Keep going back to prayer. It says in Galatians 6:7-10, you will have a harvest if you don’t give up. God does not stop there though. This operation you’ve just gone through is the very thing equipping you to help other disciples and believers. Your struggle will give you wisdom that can only be gained through experience. Now, you can become the consultant, the doctor, or the nurse for someone else.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
You Will Bear Much Fruit
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
My pruning has brought me closer to God. By removing the tumors that hindered me, it exposed that the very thing I desired (love, value, and protection) were already available to me as gifts from Jesus. I just had to accept them. The very last thing I’m thinking about during those tough times are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). It’s only when I remain in Jesus that I can have those things. Jesus is all of those things. Perfectly. He is the definition of each one, and when we don’t remain in him, his love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control can’t overflow into us.
I know for a fact that if I continued in the way I thought my life should go, I would have been far too distracted to write these letters, to spend all the hours reading my Bible, researching, and spending quiet times in the morning. I never ever thought that being alone in my dining room would produce such fruit. I praise God during this time of spiritual growth in my life that he’s equipped me with a skill I never dreamed of doing and I wait eagerly for the fruit he’s going to produce in me.
So, back to my beloved plants. My Delicious Monster plant is currently flourishing. Maybe even a little too fast for the space in the room, but flourishing indeed (they grow up so fast!). But with all those new branches and leaves growing so wildly, it outgrew its current pot and I had to transfer it into a new, giant pot, the biggest the Italian garden shop had actually. But not only that, I now have three vine plants, two ficus, and two other plants with long, floppy leaves (I don’t know the names, I’m still learning) all growing and thriving. I know this is a very simple analogy and I went off on a tangent with the tumor and bungee jumping analogies, but pruning can be taught in different ways (and I don’t know a lot about plants). I find that putting complex ideas into simple, everyday analogies helps me understand them, and I hope mine have helped you understand. But to wrap all of this into a nice little bow is that as painful as pruning is, we need it to grow. The good news is that we don’t have to go through all of this alone. Instead we have other disciples and the greatest army of all: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
YOU GROW, GIRL!