They [our fathers] disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who have been trained by it. —Hebrews 12:10-11 NIV

The potted petunia plants set between the pillars on our front porch were sad. Not only had I failed to pinch off the wilting, dead flowers, but I had also forgotten to water them on more than one occasion. (Ahem. Don’t judge me.) Surprisingly, a few lovely flowers remained, only they were fastened to an underbelly of deadness. The stems were brittle and lifeless. Sadly, I couldn’t prune the plants without cutting them down to a nub. Then, they looked hopeless, even dead. Still … I left them sitting there between the pillars and even watered the pathetic stubs. A week after “pruning,” I witnessed a miracle. New growth had sprouted on top of those nubs! So, I watered them again. The color, other than vibrant green, has yet to arrive but it thrills me to witness something that was dead come back to life!

Likewise, our hearts can so easily become brittle and dry with just a few pretty flowers resting on top. Admit it. You have felt this way before. In fact, this is the perfect metaphor for the past two years of my life. I have been stressed, overwhelmed, and drained, unable to concentrate on writing and, try as I might, unable to drink deeply from the Living Water God offered me every day. I was spiritually dehydrated on the inside, even though there were some pretty flowers (by the grace of God) showing on top.

Mercifully, in the same way I hacked the plants down to the top of the soil, God pruned me too. Through construction stressors, work, a case of COVID, pain from an impinged shoulder, and suffering through a bout of diverticulitis (my sympathies to anyone who has ever gone through this), I was pruned to the nub with a few scrawny branches peeking above the soil. And yet, through it all, I knew God was faithfully disciplining me because I am His child who was wandering too far away. Like the petunia plants, I feel new growth popping out of what looked like a depleted soul made up of dead stems of exhaustion and apathy with a little bit of depression in the mix. Now, I have a new excitement about being creative. God is using me in unexpected, messy ways, and, best of all, I can’t drink enough of His Living Water! There is a vibrant greenness in my heart, and I can’t wait for the color to pop like petals bursting from tightly wound buds.

To be sure, God’s ways are not my ways. I was not a good parent when it came to discipline, although I tried my best. I had a hard time watching my kids “suffer,” even when it was good for them, and fell into enabling more than once. But God, with good intentions, motivated by love, knows that disciplining me (and you) will result in “… a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11b NIV).

Perhaps that’s why there are so many agricultural images of spiritual life in the Bible. They are examples we can see and touch and witness. It is counterintuitive to cut off parts of a plant that seem to have some life. It’s only when we surrender to God’s pruning that we see those straggly vines were, in fact, depleting life. Finally, when the leaves pop and the tree straightens, lighter for the haircut, we sigh and say, “God knows best.”

Do I wish for suffering? No! But I do ask God to bring on the discipline as He sees fit. I know I am His little girl, and I know that I am loved. I also know that I can be a stinker and wander away so easily. Sometimes it’s not something I do, but rather something I don’t do, like not watering my plants. Sometimes it’s just life barreling down at 100 MPH and not knowing how to avoid the impact. Either way, when my fruit is not quite loving or kind, and maybe even a little prickly, I can ask the vinedresser to get out His shears.

Lord, I pray that you would “search me … and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV). I know this may require pruning, but I trust Your love and steady hand and desire with all my heart to bear fruit that looks like Jesus.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and
peace in believing, that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13 NJKV).

Marlene McKenna



Sweet Selah Ministries

To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

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4 Comments. Leave new

    September 12, 2022 1:08 pm

    Thank you Marlene for your honesty, and speaking from your heart. You have touched my heart. My husband cut back a dying rhododendron some years ago, and I thought he had ruined it! But since then, it has grown incredibly and every year it is beautiful. Pruning hurts at first, but the fruits are worth it. God bless you.

  • Thank you Marlene. As always beautiful writing, with a beautiful message.
    I am praying for ” new growth ” in my heart, mind and soul.


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