Thursday, July 3, 2014

Life has seasons, stages, and phases. The life cycle supports this idea. Infants become toddlers who become school age children who become teenagers who become young adults who become middle aged who become senior adults. We end one phase in order to begin another.
Some endings are natural but some are necessary, sometimes we hold on too long to something that should end.

Scripture refers to transitions that occur in our life that should also occur in our faith journey.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)
The idea is that as we grow in our faith, we leave behind childish ways. We grow up in our faith. We move forward in our faith journey. So as we mature in our faith we no longer think, speak, or act like a child. That period ends to make way for mature beliefs and practices. Are there some endings we need to make that will allow us to grow and blossom in our faith? What things might need to come to an end so that our faith can grow? Excuses for not having a devotional time? Sleeping in on Sunday morning? Doing things other than service or mission work? Ignoring outreach opportunities?
How do we know when something needs to end?
·        It is immoral, illegal, unethical, or ungodly.
·        It doesn’t pass the “smell test.”
·        It prevents you from living in your God-given purpose.
·        It keeps you “stuck.”
·        It is not likely to change. Past experience indicates a positive change is not likely.
·        It drains you instead of energizes you.
·        It gives you false hope. You keeping hoping things will improve and change but it never does.

In his book, Necessary Endings,  Dr. Henry Cloud says that endings are a necessary part of life. Dr. Cloud’s key metaphor for necessary endings comes from the world of gardening. A healthy, vibrant, blooming rosebush is beautiful, but does not come into being without immense effort. The key to a healthy rosebush: pruning.
Pruning is a process of proactive endings. It turns out that a rosebush, like many other plants, cannot reach its full potential without a systematic process of pruning. The gardener intentionally and purposefully cuts off branches and buds that fall into any of three categories:

1. Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones,
2. Sick branches that are not going to get well, and

3. Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive. (Page 15)
In our personal lives we must perform the three types of necessary endings described above if we are to flourish. Life always produces more branches than it can sustain. Pruning your life is necessary in order for us to direct limited resources, such as time, money, energy, talent, and emotions toward the things that help achieve our vision most. Often in our personal faith journey we need to leave something behind in order to move forward.  Without the ability to end things, we stay stuck and do not become who we are meant to be.

Let’s see how the gardener prunes the rosebush in order to encourage growth.
1.  The gardener assesses the rosebush to determine which buds are worthy of the plant’s limited fuel and support and then cuts the others away.We may need to consider the worth of our “buds.” Are these people, circumstances, situations that are sucking all of my fuel leaving me too dry to do the things I need to do? Are there activities that are using my limited resources, my limited energy and preventing me from pouring into the things worthy of a daughter or a king? We might need to prune.

2.   The gardener might monitor and care for the sick or diseased branches for a while. But at some point, he realizes that no matter how much water, fertilizer, or care he gives the sick branches, they will not thrive. Are there some unhealthy branches that have somehow gotten attached to you? Are there practices or people or habits that are not healthy and positive and full of life? Might they need to be pruned so that you can give life to something that will actually bloom?

3.  Dead branches force healthy ones to bend instead of grow straight. The gardener needs to cut the dead ones away. Is there a relationship or situation that is affecting the good in you? Sometimes wrong people and wrong circumstances are so diseased that they spread their sickness to other parts of our lives. They begin to kill off the good. As the dead branch inhibits the straight growth of healthy branches, so often unhealthy people cause us to bend so that we grow in an unhealthy way. Are you ready to prune the dead weeds and thorns and branches in your life?

Pruning enables rosebushes and other plants to realize their full potential.  Who wants an average rosebush when you could have a fully developed rosebush? Rosebushes are meant to be spectacular. Roses are probably considered the prize of the garden. The beauty and the fragrance of roses have been celebrated for many centuries, and they still hold a high stature in flower gardening today. Roses are not meant to be ordinary and neither are we. What might you need to end become an extraordinary Christ follower?



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