The Pain of Growth
John 15:1,2 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
I was tazed once. It was horrible. The stupid thing is, I volunteered for it. At a conference where the company was promoting the product, I saw it and wondered, What does it feel like? Can I take the pain? I must know… I got my wish and found that I could not take the pain. As I crumpled to the floor, I realized my mistake. I did learn something though. I learned that I never want to be tazed again.
This need to know is amusing when it comes to tazers, but when the world is full of metaphorical tazers and electric fences, this defect presents a problem. To those of us who must touch the fence for ourselves, learning and growth can be quite painful.
Jesus alludes to this in today’s passage, not directly to electric fences, but to pain and growth. He says that as the vine, He is the source of our spiritual life. As branches, we remain in him that his life may flow into us. The father, or gardener, cuts away those things that diminish Christ’s life in us. As branches of Christ, it is our life to follow him and do his will. Everything which hinders that life is subject to the father’s pruning.
The problem is, that growth and pruning can be quite painful. Though I know my defects are destructive, it is agonizing to let go of them. Leaving active drug addiction meant radical, excruciating life changes.
Likewise, it is never easy to let go of an addiction to lust, pride, greed, anger, resentment, bitterness or status. As we are branches in Christ, those defects are branches of us. We are attached to them and the very act of amputating them implies violence. Growth is rarely without discomfort. The defects of the flesh do not go quietly. They seem to have a life of their own and they do not wish to die.
When it comes to our defects, we seem to have just a few choices. First, we can cling to them to the bitter end, suffering the consequences along the way. We all do this with some defects. The second option is to indulge in those defects until they cause enough destruction that we beg God to remove them. The third option is that we live (what should be) the normal Christian life, recognizing our defects, taking them to God and insisting that He prune them before they cause us destruction.
Like my experience with the tazer, God must often use pain to teach the slow and stubborn. I have often longed though, for the maturity to follow God without first suffering the misery of following me. What if I could let go of the need to follow self? What if I followed God not because of my destruction but just because I love him and know that I need him?
This is to be the normal Christian life, that we daily choose to abandon self and follow Christ. It is our need and love for him that should motivate us to remain in him. Everything that distracts from that must be removed, one way or another.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.