(This series of devotionals spanned over a three year period of my life. I wrote out of truths that God shared with me throughout every season of this process. I love how he brought this all together and I pray that you will receive encouragement from what he allowed me to experience. Praise His Name!)
I had to say the word "no" the other day and it was so very hard. I know my voice shook the entire time and I'd like to say it was from conviction, but honestly it was out of fear. There was fear of upsetting the person I said no to, and fear of never being asked to do anything again because I'm now one of those people who says "no."
There is this burden of non-productivity when you're living in the in-between. An emptiness that we can't help but feel needs to be filled. To be useful, feel useful or appear like we're altogether fine, we say "yes" to whatever comes our way. This is one of the biggest enemies of living in the in-between.
The in-between is all about waiting patiently while the Lord does His hidden work - not to run ahead of His plans. You can read the first encouragement from my last blog post, but for now let's talk about the next step in the in-between.
Let's revisit our passage on the vine and branches.
John 15:1-2 "I am the 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."
I mentioned last time that pruning is painful, but necessary for optimal fruit bearing. If we want to be fruitful, we must have things cut away. I also mentioned that it takes up to three years of pruning just to have the potential for production! Pruning is a practice in patience. Oh, me. So is spiritual growth. This is what we're called to do while living in the in-between. God is at work in those deep places of our lives that may never see light, but are necessary to produce fruit.
Let's examine that thought while we read further advice from our author of the grapegrowingguide.com about pruning:
"In your first growing season multiple shoots will begin to grow and the vine may become bushy.
Common vineyard practice is to allow at least two to four shoots to emerge. After the leaves have fallen the shoots are then referred to as canes. One or two of these canes will be chosen to establish the vine's base trunk."
I love this! Do you see the simplicity? Only a few are chosen and those are selected with the intent of establishing the base from which all other production will stem. OH MY! I hope you get this!
Has your life taken on a life of its own and in the process become "bushy". Any gardener who knows his stuff is aware that too many shoots will only sap the vine of its usefulness. I'd ask for a raise of hands for those who are feeling "sapped", but I believe we are all in solidarity here.
Let me go back to when I said "no." I didn't want to. In fact, I said "yes" at first. I didn't even hesitate to say "yes." It was such a natural response. It wasn't until I prayed and sought God that I realized I needed to go back and say, "No, I'm sorry. I cannot do that." What I had been asked to do wasn't hard or wrong. I just wasn't the one that was suppose to do it. God had something else for me.
What do you need to say "no" to so you can say "yes" to God? It's simple really, but we know simple doesn't always equate to easy. It's a necessary discipline though, while in the in-between.
This world expects quick fixes and fast results. It's incredibly tempting to say "yes" to everything that crosses our path to prove our validity. The problem with this method is it's derived from our own strength instead of God's. If we are not careful to follow the leadership of God, our quality and quantity will be less desirable. Our Gardener knows what He's doing. I don't believe grapevines are capable of pruning themselves because they don't possess a full-picture mentality. Only the Gardener does.
We cannot forget that God defines success completely differently than the world and is doing a work that will not make sense to the mind of man. God knows what He is about in the life of His child. He knows when you need to say, "no" or "yes". He desires something more for your life.
Listen to what Jesus says in John 15:8:
"This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
We cannot take our eyes off the finish line with this one because as disciples of Jesus bringing God glory is always our objective. The in-between may seem like a strange way to do that, but I'm taking this encouragement to heart!
It's funny. No, not really. It's God. Hours after I said "no" I got a message asking me to do something that I knew I didn't need to pray about. Why? Because it was what God had already called me to do. It was what He had already determined was one of those things I'm suppose to do. I love that about Him.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
All grape growing quotes from: http://www.grapegrowingguide.com/grape-pruning.html
All scripture from NIV, ESV and NLT translations.