Friday, August 5, 2011

Dead Branches

“He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit…” John 15:2a

We spent a number of summers looking out our kitchen window at five trees trying to grow. Little by little the saplings grew in height and started to fill out. But there were numerous dead branches sprouting from each one that gave such an ugly look; like big antlers sticking out. The trees do look better this summer but still those ugly dead branches disheartened us. So my husband clipped or sawed off the dead branches. We worked together. Ed clipped and sawed and I held the ladder so he wouldn’t have a fall. What a huge pile of branches collected in a heap. He didn’t touch the branches that have even a sprout of tender leaves. At least there is evidence of life in them. When the job was done I marvelled at the sight. No more ugly antlers! The trees are far from looking perfect but now they look alive and full of possibilities of new growth. Those dead branches prevented growth and were not pleasing to the eyes.

God has often spoken to me about spiritual dead branches in my life. The last two places where we have lived I passed by trees with big dead branches on my daily walks. Their deadness and ugliness glared out at me. I knew exactly what the dead branches in my life were. But I was so reluctant to do anything about them. They usually had to do with fruitless relationships that were either preoccupying my thoughts, emotions or energies and disturbing my sleep at night. I’d always hope for some sign of hope that things would get better. I couldn’t bear to face the reality that the “branches” were dead – totally dead, and needed to be removed from my life. God was ready to deal with the dead branches but I was not. Finally, hesitantly and reluctantly, I worked in cooperation with the Gardener of my life and let Him remove the dead branches that were hindering a fully fruitful ministry. Ouch, it hurt A LOT. But, to my total surprise and amazement, my mind was freed up and new energies emerged. I actually survived! I have no doubt today that the dead branches in me were holding back a glorious work God wanted to birth. It was like He finally said, “That’s enough. I’m going to cut those branches off. I have an awesome work to do and I don’t want to wait any longer.” Today I’m seeing the rewards. Oh, thank you, Lord!

We long to see fruitfulness in our relationship with the Lord and in our ministry among Muslims. But, do we reflect on whether there are actually dead branches that need to be removed? Those dead branches could well be hindering and preventing a fuller fruitful ministry or the birthing of a new venture. It takes courage to let them be removed. We can trust our Gardener.

Dear heavenly Father, somebody reading this recognizes a dead branch in her life but is afraid to have it cut off. Give her courage to let go. In Jesus’ name, Amen.