It is said that no one likes change except a wet baby, but I disagree with that statement. We embrace a lot of changes. We celebrate graduations from high school and college. We love weddings and wish for a “happy ever after” for the bride and groom. We anxiously await the birth of a baby in the family. We are thrilled to purchase a new car or, better yet, move into a new home.
All of these are major life changes, but each one is welcomed and celebrated.
But sometimes, changes can be painful. The loss of a loved one is a change that brings about grief. When a friend moves to another state, we grieve the loss of that close relationship. After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, many people mourned the loss of their home. When change is brought about by a loss, we usually grieve.
Changing our lives can be painful and cause grief as well. My niece, JoBeth MacTavish, recently posted an article on Facebook about the pain change can cause. She also acknowledges the hope that we have in Christ as he brings forth new growth as a direct result of the necessary pruning. I think she said it very well:
Lessons from the Garden
It’s no secret that I didn’t get the rich family trait of having a green thumb. My mom and grandmother can grow just about anything that can survive in Texas. So when we moved in our house years ago I was glad to see that it’s only landscaping was two rose bushes in the front yard.
This past January, I gave them a very long overdue and late pruning. I mean I really had to butcher them. They were so unhealthy. Reaching over 6’ tall, the base of the plant was nothing but dry brown sticks with massive thorns. There was no hope of spring roses at this rate.
They looked terrible by the time I was done with my task. But it had to be done if they were going to survive. Not only survive but actually produce the beautiful flowers they were created to make.
But see how they came back to life, how healthy they are now:
This transformation makes me recall the time when Jesus declared, “we will be pruned by the Father” (John 15:1-8). In fact, God has to remove what is dead in us in order for us to move forward.
Change will happen. It will sometimes hurt. It will look ugly in the process. Even the people around you won’t understand why. Some may even try to convince you that just keeping things the same is just fine.
But I’d rather be pruned by the Father now than thrown into fire later. To know God and be used by Him is an honor.
Where are you being pruned? Have you fought it? Have you praised it because you know it means God’s using you for His glory? Ask God to reveal in you today what needs to be cut out so that new growth can come.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.
5 “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. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (NIV)
The Necessary Pain of Growth
Sometimes we experience the same sense of loss and pain when changes are made in our church. We are resistant to changes even when the old way is no longer effective. We just can’t give up that program or that event. We may be attached to it for sentimental reasons, and the grief will be real. Could we apply the same passage to our churches? Could we ask the Father - the gardener—to prune away the dead branches in our church so we could bloom with bright flowers or produce healthy fruit?
UBA is ready to help churches who see the need to initiate a revitalization process or are interested in replanting. If you are interested, contact me or any of our church consultants to begin talking about this process.