When it’s warm outside, my family likes to eat dinner on our back patio. One night near the end of this past summer, we were doing just that. I had recently developed a fascination with pruning our overgrown plants and was looking at them, planning to continue in the morning. Then one of us, I don’t remember who, joked about pruning one of them into the shape of a heart.
For some reason, I thought the joke was an excellent idea. So as soon as dinner was over, I whipped our my pruning shears and set to work on one of the bushes.
It was a pleasant task, combining my artistic eye with my pruning pleasure. (The only bad part was I stepped on a snail barefoot–eeewwww!!!)
When I was done, we had a perfectly heart-shaped bush. All my family loved it, and I was quite proud.
Every so often, I would do some touch-up work on my heart bush, keeping it perfectly in shape. The thought of it as a metaphor hit me: My heart was like the bush, with God as the gardener. If the bush had nerve endings, it probably would have been in a lot of pain when I pruned it, but I, the gardener, knew what was best for my overall plan for it–just as God knows his plan for my life, and He cuts the unnecessary things out of my life bit by bit.
Then I forgot all about my heart bush.
*Queue mournful music and a slideshow of a lonely bush*
After some months, it began to warm up outside. I could again take my guitar out into the backyard to play without loosing feeling in my fingers, toes, and nose. I re-emerged, inhaling deeply of the fresh, vibrant air.
And I saw this:
My metaphor of the tree for my heart cut me to the quick. How had it gotten so out of hand that my heart bush was no longer recognizable as a heart?
Because I simply forgot to keep watch over it. I stopped removing the excess branches bit by bit.
Sometimes as Christians, we wake up one day and realize we are far from the place of passion where we used to be. Once we were on fire for God, following Him, listening carefully to His voice. Then we find ourselves far from Him, living in sin without purpose or meaning. “How did I get here?” we ask. “What went wrong?”
I think that the turning point is when we slip into laziness. I need to read my Bible, but I’m too tired–I’ll do it tomorrow. I should pray for that person–but oh, this is my favorite song on the radio! I’ll do it later. It’s okay, though, because I’m so close to God right now, this one time won’t hurt.
Don’t get me wrong; one time probably won’t hurt. But we need to be careful when our “just this once”s start stacking up. What started as one little piece of chocolate turns into a mountain of candy and fifty pounds gained. One teanie tiny skipped assignment turns into ten turns into a failed class.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” ~1 Peter 5:8-9
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” ~Col. 4:2
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.” ~1 Peter 1:13
We are in a battle. Our enemy is looking for every opportunity to cause us to stutter, to pause, to turn slightly from the path of righteousness. He is sneaky and watchful; we need to be even more watchful. We are soldiers: we must be self-controlled and alert.
We can’t do it on our own, and we will inevitably fail sometimes. But when we realize how far we have fallen, we should pray (like in Relient-K’s song “Forget and Not Slow Down”–it’s been a while since I’ve alluded to them, right?), “If I become what [You] can’t except, resurrect the saint from within the wretch. Pour over me and wash my hands of it.”
And its’s a whole lot harder to lose the weight or to catch up in homework than it was in the other direction. It’s a whole lot harder to return to wholeheartedly following God than it was to slip away.
It’s a whole lot more painful for God to “prune” you once your heart has become unrecognizable.
But He will prune you; He will restore you into close fellowship with Him. That’s the kind of God He is–a beloved Father who died for you while you were still a sinner. Because of His great love, He’ll purify you and restore you, just as I pruned my heart bush back into heart-y perfection.
“The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.
It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O my soul, worship His holy Name!
Sing like never before, O my soul!
I’ll worship Your holy Name.”
~”Ten Thousand Reasons”