Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pruning Day 2015

The first day of a new year presents an opportunity for retrospection, reevaluation and tough introspection. I do some mental pruning. 

Always a lover of firsts, beginnings and fresh starts, I am energized by the possibilities presented by assessing the negatives of the past and turning them into positives for the future. I guess that identifies me as a hopeful optimist. Even though sometimes I can present as a hopeless pessimist, I prefer to think of myself as a realist. I see the good and the bad and find each equally able to be successfully used with a goal toward progress. My version of plain old moving on. 

Therefore what is real is where I begin. And begin again. And again.

I start from laying out all the truths, even if I don’t much like them, about situations, others and myself, and then I am brutally honest in my conclusions about what needs to be changed, worked on, ignored, abandoned or admitted to, in an attempt to remove the dead wood. 

This morning, this first day of a new year, I’m looking farther back than twelve months. I am assessing my waning abilities and searching for positive conclusions. In recent years there are so many things I have already had to let go of and of those that remain, that I don’t want to let go of, I know there is less and less fruit to be gained by holding on. Regardless that I’m not ready, all the years all the skills so diligently worked for seem to loom large as one of those truths I don’t want to like. 

At the end of 1999, wanting to learn how to design websites, but being extremely right-brained, I knew I was never going to learn the mysteries of html by reading a ‘how-to for dummies’ book. Ron found an individual who, for a mere $100 a session, taught me the basics. Nine sessions later, I had learned enough to launch me into web design and over the years I continued teaching myself and refining my skills in daily practice. Five years later, I took a similar path learning how to create printed books and sailed off starry-eyed and half-cocked into the murky waters of professional publishing. 

It’s been a busy, rewarding, frustrating, infuriating, sometimes challenging, fifteen years. But I can say I learned a lot. A. Lot. And not a few things I wish I could unlearn. For one thing, I learned that any skill I have is greatly praised and appreciated so long as it is freely given. A dollar value seems to sully the perceived value of what I am able to do. I can’t complain about that even though I must admit it annoys me. A little. But because I also see the humor in this I doom myself to never being taken seriously. Ultimately, I have seen God’s hand in this–always–so I accept it, and move on. 

So, having moved on, I get that I was never meant to hit the big time; I’m too introverted to want to anyway. What I really wanted was to be free to learn, to do, to be. That I got because I didn't have to earn a living doing it. Further, I wanted to know what was true at all times about what I was learning. Turns out what is true is almost always not as pretty or delightful as what is illusory. That’s why illusion is usually the first pick over plain old truth. Good sounding untruth is way better, in the world view.

I used to naively think that truth was truth whether a nobody says it or a somebody. Apparently for a truth to be received it must be packaged well. If it isn’t then the message is lost because the focus is shifted to challenging the messenger’s credentials. 

Sometimes, when I have been the messenger, because my skills were good enough but my credentials always sub par, has done more harm than good. I think. Perhaps that’s probably why I should not be the messenger? I’m still sorting this.

One conclusion I have drawn is that just because you know something doesn’t mean you have to share it. Every experience I have had, the good, the bad, the ugly, has been an opportunity to learn something, to add depth and dimension to my soul the purpose of which, I hope, is to make me a better vessel for Christ. Thus I endeavor to receive everything, even rebuke and dismissal, as a blessing which grows me but how does that help anyone else? Again, I’m still trying to figure this out.

When I have dared to offer up what I know, if lucky I am met with nothing more than the sound of crickets. I get it though. Sometimes it’s because what I can do or have to share does not align with the trending stream of consciousness du jour. Whether in regard to something as worldly as website design, publishing or as deep as spiritual knowledge. Sometimes God is testing and putting others through a refining stage that I’ve already been through and they can’t see the end yet so resistance is the natural response. 

Sometimes people simply don’t get it because, and this pains me to confess, I might not have expressed it well. My bad–I must own that. 

Also, I have to own that I tend to fast track, to skip the taking time to ‘earn’ trust and respect stage. In regard to professional matters, I am the opposite of diplomatic; because of my isolation from church structure, in regards to spiritual matters, I am sorely lacking in religious social grace. This means, in both cases, I often skip paying the virtual dues required to be accepted into the club. I don’t know how to suck up, bribe, stroke ego or pander. Being INTJ personality type I just can’t fake it thus, not surprisingly, not once have I ever been welcomed into the ‘core’ group because I am a rebel and cannot follow structure rules. It’s never going to happen because this is the way the real world works. 

Truth is best accepted from someone who is acceptable. What I am concluding from this exercise is that I am not, nor ever have been ‘acceptable’. At this stage, in this world, I also conclude that this is not only not a bad thing but a real and true positive. A condition that is tailor made for me by the One who knows me best.

Happy New Year - may your introspections and conclusions be all positive!

For Him,

Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
John 15:2
“Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” The beloved child is chastised and the fruitful branch is pruned. Many a troubled soul in an hour of distress has fancied itself the object of God’s displeasure. But it is the fruitful branch that feels the knife. The unfruitful branch is taken away and burned. Many a saint in adversity has feared that he is perhaps a stranger to grace, forgetting that it is the bastards, not sons, who escape the Father’s discipline.

There is a purpose in the pruning, “that it may bring forth more fruit.” Not the feverish stepped-up production of this machine age but the natural, spontaneous fruitfulness of the branch that draws its life from the vine. Too much of our religious productivity is ground out by the methods of this age. The true Christian abides and abounds, and to him the Father-Husbandman’s pruning is part of he process.  ~ Oswald Chambers

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