My thanks is full of haste these days.
With Christmas just around the corner, I feel more like an elf than Santa. I've been so busy and past the point of exhaustion that I can barely take a moment to simply enjoy this season. Instead of being filled with joy, I've got a crick in my neck and a sharp pain in my back. My eyes are tired and my mind is mentally exhausted. At night, I lay my weary feet into bed and wish for a day of sleeping in. This has been my December.
Last week, some of our friends got together for a Christmas Cocktail.
Over a decadent meal of pork loin, garlic potatoes, parmesean-coated asparagus, and molten lava cakes, our friend JW asked everyone what they were thankful for this year besides our families and friends. Sitting quietly in my seat, I couldn't come up with a good answer. Silently, I huffed at God asking Him, "What do YOU think I should be thankful for?"
God has been challenging me lately. Or, better yet, I have been in a slightly annoyed position with God. I know God has given me so much to be thankful for - the girls' health, Raleigh having a job, our wonderfully supportive family & friends - but I don't feel very thankful. I feel tired. And defeated. I've been in this season of wanting what I don't yet have...and wondering if these wants will ever be fulfilled. Because, I've been trying to fulfill them - through hard work, discipline, and prayer - but it just isn't happening the way I thought it would.
To put it bluntly: life is hard.
Typically, glass half-full Christen has hope. She believes. She trusts that all good things will happen to those that ask. But, lately I've seen that God isn't a magician and He isn't going to grant me three wishes just because I asked for it. Instead, He chooses to prune me.
Yep, you heard me right, prune.
John 15:1-2 says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
Prune is not a pretty word. When I looked it up in the dictionary, it literally means "to cut or lop off superflous or undesired twigs." Ouch. Pruning hurts. It isn't a fun process to go through but it is necessary to get to become more fruitful. Right now, pruning feels a lot like getting beat up. Being in a season of discouragement, the only thing that gives me hope is this one simple word:
"Remain in me, and I will 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" (John 15:4).
Deep down, I know God has a plan for my life more awesome than I can imagine. I realize that the more I remain in Him, the better decisions I will make that will ultimately point me down that path. The Greek word for prune is purge which simply means "to cleanse from filth, purify." With my stubborn chin pointed accusingly in God's direction, I don't agree that my life is in need of pruning or that my wants need to be made more pure. I want my wants to come true.
But, is that truly remaining? Am I walking hand in hand with Emmanuel? Is that truly believing that God is with us even when we don't immediately get what we want? Will I remain in faith and trust in the One who gives me Life even if I never get what I want? Or, will I be dead like those branches?
I want to bear fruit.
So, I must remain.
And, give thanks.
Till next time, let your light shine!
*Pictures are by JW Godwin