A Season of Pruning || Bryan Halferty

Posted on November 3rd, by Bryan Halferty in Heart. 4 comments

A Season of Pruning || Bryan Halferty

I have no idea how to prune a tree. I’m lost with the shears and clippers, lopping off good branches and keeping the suckers. I know because we have an apple tree that has yet to produce fruit larger than a pine cone. A couple weeks ago I just chopped it down, I don’t regret it.

I get the concept though. In pruning you cut stuff off that won’t produce fruit–or will produce fruit but, in the process, keep the tree from becoming what it could be. I remember, my first year, cutting random branches off my apple tree, thinking I was an arborist (#homeownerfails).

As I’m writing this I’ve begun to think what my apple tree–if it could speak–would say.

“Halferty, you idiot. That’s a good branch.”

“Just trim that one, don’t cut it off.” 

“This one. This one… cut this one.”

Even with my easy and naive (but misguided) confidence it was intimidating to cut leafy green branches off of a seemingly strong (yet unfruitful) tree. I wanted to keep them all there, why cut what’s reaching out and growing green?

While my ratio of good cuts wasn’t quite a decent batting average the operating principle was solid. Not all green can stay. Not all growth is good.

Jesus, as the cross got closer, referred to God as a gardener, as someone who comes in with knife or shears, lopping off branches.

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 (John 15:1-2).

Over the last year–in honest–I’ve related to both this passage and my poorly pruned and ill-performing apple tree.

  • March the ministry I lead canceled a Spring Break trip for lack of sign ups. 
  • June the ministry I lead canceled a mission trip to Haiti because of an outbreak. 
  • August I canceled our second Unitive One Day for lack of sign ups.

This isn’t a list of terrible things. Admittedly it fits #firstworldproblems pretty well. But still, #thestruggleisreal. And, in honest, there is more I could add to the list.

At my worst I’ve felt like God was just lopping off whatever he wanted. At my most rational I saw the inherent problems with the failures and learned from them. At my weakest I felt vulnerable, naked and sometimes lonely. Still, for some dumb and cliché american reason, when people asked how I was I smiled and said, “GREAT!” (#sigh).

That’s not the point though. The point is that only now am I starting to feel comfortable, at rest, in the time of pruning. I’m realizing that God is not a cavalier and naive homeowner posing as a skilled arborist (decode: God is not like me). God is a skilled and gentle gardener that excitedly crafts the lives of his sons and daughters to bear fruit and become more like his son, even if it hurts–even if it makes you feel naked and exposed.

A week ago I told a friend, “I think I’m exiting this season.” And then with telling faux wisdom said, “I never want to forget what I’ve learned from God in this time of pruning. I’ve become more loving, more meek, more humble and more dependent on the Spirit.”

 

Now I’m realizing the subtle and flimsy optimism hidden in those words. When I describe this time of pruning it’s tempting to describe it as a season I’m exiting. Remain positive. It’s getting better. Chin up. But the more I walk with Jesus the more I see the silliness of assuming that seasons of pruning are always in the rearview. There are so many reasons for me to remain in this season, more space for humility, more phony gods to relinquish, more trust to rightly align. So now, right now, I’m thankful–or learning to be–for these clipped or barren branches.

 

Things That Have Helped Me… (That I Pray Are Helpful for You)

 

  • Being honest, brutally honest, with myself and four to five others.
  • Reading through the Psalms, interspersed with prayer.
  • Examining my motivations through journaling and prayer.
  • Sleeping, or just disengaging from unnecessary things.
  • Running, off the streets and in the woods.
  • Being intentional with and investing in the people that love me and that I love.

Bryan Halferty Bryan Halferty runs, reads, writes, pastors and spends copious amounts of time with his beautiful wife and two children. He studied theology at Regent College (Vancouver, BC) and currently pastors Salt, the young adult and college ministry of Mercer Creek Church. He contributes to and edits The Unitive. Connect with him at @bhalferty.
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4 Responses to “A Season of Pruning || Bryan Halferty”

  1. kindle says:

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  3. Josh says:

    Hey,

    whatever happened? I haven’t seen anything from the Unitive in over a year, loved and miss the content you guys and gals put out.

    Josh

  4. Shumirai Tsitsi Mazombe says:

    Thank you ever so much for sharing your story on pruning. Today I have been blessed by God as He goes through the topic of pruning with me. God bless you and keep writing for his glory!

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