Next month I will welcome a new decade of life as I celebrate my 40th birthday. It seems so surreal that I am turning an age which I have always thought was so ancient. But, here I am at the cusp of this milestone birthday that once seemed so old and so far away. Since there’s no stopping it, I have decided to embrace the days ahead and all that comes with it.
If I had to label the adult decades of my life, I would say my twenties were wayward and desperately searching while my thirties were growing and stretching. The only commonality between these two decades is that I would not want to repeat either of them ever again. These decades represent a woman who once thought she could do life on her own terms, fell flat on her face, and has taken a million baby steps in a beautiful and wild walk of faith since. These steps, as small as they have been, have transformed me into a woman who can finally look at her next birthday, as “ancient” as it once seemed, not with dread, but rather with great expectation of what the Lord is going to do next. What are His plans for me?
Since this is a big year, the idea of seeking a Word of the New Decade came to me last fall. I wanted this word to represent what the Lord is calling me to focus on in this new season and how He desires to grow me. I also wanted Him to go ahead and plant it into my heart so that I could become familiar with it, study it, and be ready to put it into practice once the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. So, I prayed about it, fully expecting it to take days, or even weeks, to come. It was only October so there was definitely no rush! But, as soon as I said, “Amen,” the word came. It came strong. There was no, “Are you sure Lord? Is this really from You?” It was strong and it was certain. The word is:
Then, just as quickly as the word came, the verse followed:
“It is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
My first thought was exactly what you are probably thinking right now: “Am I going to have a baby? At 40??” Instant panic! That’s why I believe the Lord immediately gave me the verse so that I could reference the fruitfulness that He intends for me in the correct context – fruitfulness not of the womb but of the heart.
I embraced this new word and daydreamed about all the blessings, joys, rainbows, and unicorns that come from a fruitful life. I envisioned a life filled with the Fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – and how sweet a life like that would be. These upcoming Fruitful 40s were going to be better than I could have imagined! Bring it on!
To my dismay, the daydreaming abruptly ended once I started studying Christian fruitfulness. Yes, we are called as disciples of Jesus Christ to bear much fruit. A fruitful life is life-giving, abundant, and appealing to the senses. It is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Who doesn’t want that? However, there is a critical requirement for a fruitful life. In order to be more fruitful, we have to be okay with getting pruned.
“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
For extra emphasis, the Amplified version writes it this way:
“Every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].”
Ouch. A decade of repeated pruning? No thank you!
Suddenly, the Fruitful 40s didn’t seem so desirable. Please Lord, pick another word!
My mom has tended to a rose garden every year of my life and she goes out and clips every single bud off the bushes at the end of the season. What was once bursting with color becomes a mulched bed of thorny sticks. I know that the purpose is to make them healthier, stronger, and more abundant in the next season, but the pruning seems a bit extreme. The rose garden looks so bare…almost lifeless.
I envision the Lord, pruning shears in hand, taking a snip here, a snip there in these “Fruitful 40s”. He sees something that needs to go, something that is hindering my growth, and places the blade onto the branch. Snip.
In the Old Testament, fruitfulness is commanded by God three times – once to Adam and Eve and then again to Noah and his sons and lastly to Jacob. God tells them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” Genesis 1:22, 9:1, 35:11 This multiplication was with people. Yet, in the New Testament, right before the events started to unfold that led to his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection, Jesus gave a final charge to his disciples. He tells them among other things, “bear much fruit.” This was not a ‘multiply and fill the earth with babies’ type of fruitfulness. It was a ‘show yourselves to be my disciples’ type of fruitfulness. And, although it was spoken to the original twelve disciples, the word disciple here is mathétés – a learner, a pupil, or a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture, and therefore, it was spoken not just to them but to me and you, too.
In his book Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes of the fruitfulness in the life of the believer. He states,
“If the Holy Spirit is genuinely at work in our lives, he will be producing the kind of character traits that Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” Galatians 5:22-23. He lists several attributes and character traits that are produced by the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control”. Of course, the question is not, “Do I perfectly exemplify all of these characteristics in my life?” but rather,
The truth is, there are things that keep me from showing myself to be a disciple of Christ. You may not see them on the surface, but I know they are there, hidden from view, inside my heart. I’m sure that those closest to me – my husband, my children, and my parents – certainly see them. And, most importantly, God sees them.
The word prune is kathairó and it means to make clean by purging. I know the things that hinder my walk with the Lord and diminish my usefulness have to go; a good purging is needed. But, the cuts will hurt. I’ve already begun to experience a few and they are not fun. His attention seems to be parked on my mouth right now, and, goodness, it may take a while. But, if I am willing to trust in His plan, willing to bend to His hand, then I know these snips will only hurt temporarily. His desires for me are GOOD and therefore this decade of pruning is for my good, too.
The great pastor, Charles Spurgeon, said this of pruning:
“Pruning is the lot of all the fruitful saints. You may escape it if you are not fruitful, you will be cut off, you will not be pruned, but all the fruit-bearing saints must feel the knife. Observe Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had not those patriarchs their trials? Moses and David, Jeremiah and Daniel; who among those escaped? Though they honored their Master much, who escaped without the pruning knife? And if you come to the believers of the New Testament, surely the flame was seven times hotter with regard to them than with regard to the elder brethren. How does the Lord prune His people, then?... Our Lord tells us what it is that prunes us. “Now,” says He, in the third verse of the chapter John 15:3, “you are clean (or pruned) through the word which I have spoken unto you.” It is the word that prunes the Christian; it is the truth that purges him; the Scripture made living and powerful by the Holy Spirit, which effectually cleanses the Christian.”
The Word of God prunes us!
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12-13
His Word is sharper than any sword, sharper than any set of pruning shears, and it reveals every wayward, disobedient thought inside the heart. When I am in the Word or meditating on it, God will uncover these things to me! This exposure can bring about the repentance of sin that is required for lasting fruit-bearing transformation!
A fruitful life brings glory to God. It honors Him. And, there is nothing that I want to do more in this new decade then to walk a million more baby steps in this beautiful and wild walk of faith, throwing in a few giant steps along the way, and know that each and every one brought HIM glory. For this reason, I say, “Bring on the Fruitful 40s, pruning shears and all!”
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural, an even 50/50 split of introvert/extrovert, and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.