AUTHOR: BETH VICE
On days without sunny skies and fluffy white snow, January can feel dark—leafless trees, decay-matted flower beds, and unrelenting cold. It’s a stark contrast to the color and exuberance of Christmas. This is the month I struggle most with depression, overeating, and the desire to hibernate.
But taking time to celebrate the New Year gives us an opportunity to start over, get recharged, and prune back. We are not only stepping into a never-been-used year, but a brand new decade. The twenty-twenties may not roar, but they will earn a descriptive title. How do we want them to describe our lives?
- The lonely 20’s?
- The why-do-I-keep-doing-this-to-myself 20’s?
- The embarrassing 20’s?
- The victorious 20’s?
- The making-time-for-people 20’s?
- The bearing fruit for God’s kingdom 20’s?
I’m willing to bet we would all vote for one from the second list. However, if that is what we want, we have to start making room for our spirits to flourish. And that means cutting back.
Knowing how and when to prune in the garden is crucial for healthy plants and abundant growth. I’m already thinking about trimming our trees, blueberries, and rose bushes. But three things could hinder my getting it done.
- It’s cold in January and it rains a lot in our coastal town.
- It seems unnecessary to cut away perfectly good branches.
- I’ve been dealing with pain this year and I’m not sure how much I can work in my yard.
The same three things can hinder us from cutting away extraneous or even damaging things from our lives for our own personal growth.
This New Year—new decade—is a good time to cut back some of our—schedule, stuff, overindulgences, unhealthy relationships. But just like the cold and rain where I live, there is discomfort in pruning our personal lives. It sounds better to snuggle inside and read a good book, but when we look back at the 20’s, we will be grateful if we have obeyed the Spirit’s prompting.
It’s tempting to put it off, but God will present us with windows of opportunity, just like working between cloud bursts at the coast. Once the moment passes, it may be too late.
What is God calling you to cut back this year that will take some work or cause some discomfort?
What benefits are ahead if you do?
Sometimes it seems unnecessary
My rose bushes always look so bare when I’m done pruning. My dad, a wise and experienced gardener, taught me to cut them back to the main branches to give them room to breathe and allow for new growth. In our commitments and relationships, sports and leisure activities, everything can look so good. The question is—is it best? What main branches need to remain to give our families room to breathe, and encourage us to grow to our greatest potential? What will bring beauty and the sweet aroma of Christ; what will block the sunlight and promote disease?
Here are five main branches we must have for a healthy, productive life in Christ. I invite you to take a moment and write them down. What are your current activities under each category?
Do you see balance? This is what Jesus said to His apostles?
“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…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 ‘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’” (John 15:1-5, NIV).
The final hindrance to making room is a different kind of pruning; the cutting back of pride.
Pain gets in the way
I’ve always been pretty active and healthy, but this year I’ve started having a lot of trouble with my feet. I find this really annoying. I haven’t been able to hike, go for long walks, or work in my yard like I’m used to. I know this is not a surprise to God, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out this month and work the way I want to, or if I’ll have to stop and take care of my feet. Sometimes we want to cut too deep; work too hard; strive past warning signs and cause ourselves undo pain.
To His followers Jesus says, “I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener.” We’re not in charge. We are to remain in Him. Sometimes that’s the most difficult job of all.
Have you been pushing yourself so hard that you are causing damage to your body, your close relationships, or your witness?
How many times does Jesus say to “remain in me” in the verses above? How do we do that? What changes must take place?
I am with you in this quest—seeking God’s answers for what, when, and how to prune in my life this New Year and throughout the 20’s. I pray God’s wisdom for you as you do the same.
Beth Vice is a wife, author, speaker, mom, mother-in-law, grandma, and Jesus seeker. She loves taking care of her husband Kelly and the home they share on the Oregon coast. She teaches their Sunday morning small group and leads critique workshops at Oregon Christian Writers conferences, where she serves as the In-Person Critique Group Coordinator. Beth has six books currently available and is working on the next two—a divorce recovery book for women and a Bible study on Revelation. Beth has a heart for women; she has found new delight in leading retreats at she and Kelly’s vacation rental at Black Butte Ranch, and wherever else God might lead her. She blogs at Epiphany: http://www.bethvice.com/. Beth loves getting outside for hikes and gardening, but prefers snuggling inside with a good book or coffee with a friend, in nasty weather.