Without realizing it, many of us see God as an evil gardener of sorts, arriving with a machete when the weeds have gotten high.
As I was pruning the philodendron in my kitchen, I realized I had pruned both above and below the nodes on neighboring branches. Hmm, time to consult Google. The reason for pruning above those little bumps called nodes is that they actually contain dormant buds. But pruning below the node, such as at random somewhere along the branch, leaves that branch vulnerable to disease or rot, since the node - not the entire stem - is capable of continued growth.
How many of us think that's exactly what God does? We think that when, or even if, He intervenes in our little lives, He starts hacking away at random with the pruning shears of suffering, causing our lives to disintegrate into less than they should have been?
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit...Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
God is compared to a lot of things in the Bible, including a loving parent who gives perfect gifts and disciplines out of love. Jesus was clear that God is also a careful and knowing gardener. He prunes in a way that produces fruit. He prunes so that the potential already there can grow and grow healthy.
For me, being a wife and mama to twins is definitely pruning me. The discipline of focusing on others spreads naturally throughout the other areas of my life in a way I doubt it would otherwise. I don't think pruning always looks like outright suffering. I think that sometimes, like in the case of having a family, it can also be a blessing. I also don't think it is always an outside circumstance that drops on us like a cartoon anvil. God knows our hearts like no one else, and He knows just where to snip to make us aware of how unhealthy we are in the deepest parts. It can be something only you and God are aware of, such as being convicted over an unforgiving attitude or of the way you spend your time.
If you are a believer, though you are forgiven and clean, you will not be whole this side of Heaven...but pruning will get you closer and help produce a meaningful life. A life abiding in Christ Jesus, and producing beauty in the lives of others that draws them closer to their Creator. The Master Gardener.