When I as little kid, I remember random leg pain waking me in the middle of the night. I’d start crying and my mom would come in, comfort me, and diagnose “growing pains.” She’d say, “Oh honey, those are growing pains. Sometimes it just hurts when you grow.”
Now that I’m a grown up, I still experience growing pains, but I don’t usually feel them in my leg. Growing pains manifest through financial difficulties, job changes, relational discord, raising children and cultivating my marriage. Growth produces positive change, but I can’t think of any growth that has been easy or without some level of discomfort.
I was reading John chapter 15 yesterday when I realized that Jesus addressed growing pains with His disciples. He uses the analogy of a grape vine, one I have a fresh appreciation for now that I live in the heart of wine country, and labels God the Father as the gardener, Himself as the vine, His followers as the branches and grapes as “fruit” we produce in our lives as a result of following Jesus.
Jesus tells his followers that He prunes the vines that bear fruit for the purpose of growing more fruit. I don’t know about you, but the thought of Jesus entering my life with a pair of hedge trimmers and chopping out all the garbage that’s inhibiting me from being more like Him doesn’t sound incredibly fun. It sounds kind of painful.
Jesus explains in verse 8 that when I bear fruit (exhibit attributes in my life that reflect the character of Christ) it brings God glory because it identifies me as a follower of Jesus. Jesus continues in verse 9 by telling his followers to “remain in my love.” But how do I do that?
Verse 10 says it’s simple – “Obey.” Sounds so easy, but why is it so difficult to obey, especially when it hurts? Verses 11 and 12 provide incentive to obey. When I follow through with radical obedience, it produces complete joy in my life. Doesn’t that sound inviting? Obedience also enables me to love others as Jesus loves me. What a gift to be supernaturally empowered to love others in a way that I’m not capable of on my own outside of Jesus.
God has been taking this concept of following the way of love (I Corinthians 14:1) and driving it into my thick skull over and over in some very creative ways over the last several months. He’s given me opportunities to practice obeying Him and following the way of love, even when it hurts. While I wouldn’t choose growing pains on my own, I see the benefit of Jesus’ gentle pruning in my life on an individual level and how it extends outward to my family and friends. And so I press on, empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow the way of love, growing pains and all.