Prune: pro͞on/ v. Trim (a tree, shrub, or brush) by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.I recently shared that fasting--whether it be from food, a hobby, a tradition, technology, or any number of possibilities--can help make us more open for, available to, and aware of God speaking into our life.
Now, it seems to be coming full circle with these 40 days leading up to Easter--the 40 days traditionally called "Lent" by some Christians. But let's not get hung up on the terminology and miss the point of this, or any, fasting.
When Jesus said that He is the vine and we are the branches, He also told about the Father--the vinedresser--who cuts away the pieces of our lives that are dead or overgrown. He does this so that we will be fruitful and grow. (Jn. 15:1-17)
When we're talking vines and branches, this all sounds fine and good. But when we start talking about our lives, it gets a little more personal. What are the pieces He considers dead or overgrown? What is He trimming away? Will it be painful? Will we have to let go?
In practice, maybe pruning looks a little like when Jesus told the rich young ruler that he needed to sell all he had. The young man walked away sad, because he loved his possessions more. His refusal to be pruned caused him to be cut away. (Lk. 18:18-30)
That's painful. We don't like this "pruning" business because it's a difficult version of Christianity to follow.
In The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne addresses our culture's temptation to downplay the cost of discipleship. Shane describes it this way:
With the most sincere hearts, we do not want to see anyone walk away from Jesus because of the discomfort of the cross, so we clip the claws on the Lion a little, we clean-up a bit the bloody Passion we are called to follow. ...And yet Jesus lets him walk away. (p. 104)This makes me wonder what price of following Christ I am choosing to ignore.
A 35-day devotional I'm reading (the "Soul Detox" reading plan in the YouVersion Bible app) is leading me to think deeper about the toxins I allow into my life.
Toxic influences (especially culturally acceptable ones)...
... halt my mind from being transformed or renewed;
... make me think more highly of myself than I ought;
... keep me from feeling part of the team or connected to the body of Christ;
... hinder me from fully using my God-given gifts;
... make me love in hypocrisy (saying but not doing);
... lose my fervent spirit to serve the Lord;
... frustrate me in tribulation, cause me to lose hope and give up on prayer;
... make me wise in my own opinion; and
... overcome me with evil.
When the Father prunes the branch, He leads us to get rid of our "culturally acceptable" toxic influences. Those things that hinder Romans 12:1-21 from being true for us (see list above).
He cleanses the filthiness from our lives. (2 Cor. 7:1)
Shane goes on to say...
We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. (p. 113)
I feel like in my current journey, I'm a poor young peasant coming to Jesus with all sorts of distractions saying, "I want to follow You. How do I do that? Tell me, and I will do it. Anything."
I feel Him responding with the specifics of my life: The technology and television and daily distractions.
The resistance I feel in response... if I allow it to be my final answer, then it's over. Devastating doesn't even begin to describe it.
And so, resistance can't--it won't--be my final answer.
I am following Jesus' call to give up a distraction I sadly have held dear. A 40-day fast, or Lent if you're comfortable with that, to hear Jesus over some of the cultural toxins so normal in my life. I'll most likely share sometime in the process or at the end--because that's what happens when I feel God moving and speaking in my life.
In the meantime, I hope you'll consider asking God if He's leading you in a fast. Maybe giving up something for a day, a week, a Lent, a lifetime? I'll venture to guess His answer is yes, that is just where He is leading you.