Pruning the Heart

April 2017 article for Anniston/ Gadsden Christian Family Magazine


Isn’t it funny how God uses opposites?  I was reminded today that it is time to cut back my hydrangeas.  Last fall, my son cut back my bushes out front until they were ugly nubs (I thought he had killed them, for sure), but you know what? Today they are sprouting new growth. My son once asked his agriculture teacher how a person knows how much to cut back.  The teacher answered, “The more you cut back, the more the plant will grow in the spring.”

From this train of thought, my mind traveled to the cross. I ask God too many things.  Since I was a child, I’ve pondered why Jesus had to die.  I’ve said, “God, you are God.  Couldn’t you have devised some other way of saving men’s souls?”

His answer was simple. “I am God.”  Enough said for me. Death and life are other examples of opposites working out His plan

A friend had a similar conversation with her three-year-old about Jesus’ death:

I had a very big girl conversation with Sadie yesterday. What started as my reminding her to stay beside me while we’re walking across a parking lot (for the one hundredth time), turned in to something much more. She mentioned the danger of cars coming through and not seeing her, and they could “die” her (kill her), which made her remember Jesus dying on the cross. “Those mean people did it to him, Mama. They died him. Who was it, Mama?! Those mean people? I want to know their names!”

When I explained I didn’t know their actual names, it was just people that didn’t like Jesus, she said “That’s just mean. We love Jesus…and then there were those two girls that came to check on him, but he was gone. Where was it he went, Mama?” I reminded her He arose from the grave. She said, “Yep! That’s it! And only Jesus can do that, right Mama?!” “That’s right!” And then our conversation went on to normal three-year-old conversation.

During Vacation Bible School one year, a pastor led the children on a tour of the church.  When the six-year-old boys were approaching the baptistery, one was overheard telling his friend, “Don’t go in there.  There is a bunch of dead people in there.” The pastor then explained the symbolism and the words the boy had heard used many times, “Buried with Him in baptism; raised to walk in newness of life.”

Even the word ‘cleave’ has opposite meanings; it can mean to split or to join. I could easily get derailed here and go on and on about other opposites, but I need to get to the main point. Just as plants need pruning, so do our hearts. We need to ask God to cut away all that displeases Him. When we accepted Christ, we committed to dying to our own selfish desires and to put His will first and foremost. We can only do this when we have a genuine desire to be all God wants us to be and when we ask Him what needs to be cut back or cut away. Just as a surgeon excises a cancerous tumor from a body, I want Jesus to be my ‘Great Physician’ and cut those things from my heart that are sinful – judgmental attitudes, desires for things that aren’t pleasing to him, selfishness, wanting what I want instead of trusting Him for something better, and the list goes on and on.  I pray that when he takes away the bad, new growth in Him will emerge. (and yes, I’m aware I switched from plural first person to the singular because God will only reveal to me what is needing to be cut away from my life.  It is personal.  I can’t ask this for you. Each one of us has to have our own conversation with God about this.) Therefore, my sincere prayer today is Psalms 15:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within me.

Ecclesiastes 3 Also serves as a reminder that God created the universe with a built-in life cycle: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

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