by Jonni Sliver
May I introduce you to another arboreal friend? I call this the Flame tree, because each branch looks like a, well, flame (at least in my fertile imagination.) Recently I was at a friend’s house, admiring the tree, just across the road from her house. She told me that as pretty as the tree is, it requires a lot of work to keep it that way. From early on the young tree needs to be formed and certain branches cut off so that the tree would grow straight. As the tree became larger and stronger it continues to need pruning – if weak, misplaced branches aren’t removed the trunk of the tree could divide. The result would be an adult tree with a weak structure that could easily be damaged in a bad storm. But if properly cared for, the tree grows strong and beautiful and provides abundant shade on hot summer days.
It’s funny how much that spoke to me. Pruning is an important part of the Christian life. According to the dictionary, pruning is defined as: to “cut away what is unwanted or superfluous.” As a new believer I knew that there was a whole lot of superfluous matter to be removed from my heart, mind, and in the way I live my life day-to-day. But as time goes by somehow we get the idea that we have learned all we need to learn, that we are full-grown, that we no longer need to be pruned – and that is when we hit dangerous ground. Like my Flame tree, sometimes the most important pruning has to take place later on, when we appear to have grown up. Inconvenient attitudes, habits and behaviors may seem insignificant to others (or to us!), but if they remain they can bring division and weakness into our spiritual lives. The result can be devastating. Almost all of us have had a close friend or relative who seemed to have a strong faith and a deep love for the Lord, when all of a sudden they fall. Sometimes they get back up, broken but seeking, others times they remain fallen, resisting every effort to bind them up.
It is easy somehow to associate pruning with punishment, but they are not the same thing at all. God prunes us out of His grace, not His anger. As a matter of fact in Isaiah 5:6 the Lord says that when we stop listening, stop obeying, stop receiving from the Lord, He will stop pruning us! The punishment is to not be pruned!
I won’t go into details, but as I thought about my Flame tree I have become aware of more than one twig in my life that is not convenient, not a blessing. I have actually been asking the Father to do some pruning on me, and I am pretty sure that is why He pointed out the Flame tree to me in the first place!