Editor’s note:  This is the first in a series of writings that will show how God has lead me up to this point in working with a new organization.  Come back for the rest of the story.

Written 29 July 2009

I had a meeting downtown this morning, so I left early to spend some time with the Lord at one of the lakes near the downtown area.  I have not been to this lake in about 4 years.  The last time I was there God was just about to take me through a deep dark valley that lasted about 2.5 years.  He was good to give me a glimpse into what those years would be like.

Four years ago as I sat on a bench at the edge of the lake, the water was dark and murky.  As I looked across the lake, I saw a tree bent under the pressure of the loaded top branches.  It was as if the Lord was showing me through this symbolism of the tree, that I would bend under the pressures of what was to come, but I would not break – my foundation was secure.  But the dark and murky waters told me that it would not be an easy time.  The lake, while fairly shallow, seemed bottomless due to the darkness and the junk that was there.

As God began what I now call the long valley, he began by pruning.  The objective of pruning is to produce strong healthy and attractive plants.  It requires good eyes to see the fine details and sharp tools to make the cuts.  God’s pruning also requires a good eye to see the debris that needs to be removed, insight into the future and sharp tools to make the cuts. 

God began by cutting away distractions in my life – hopes, dreams, ministry that I was involved in.  All these things that were distracting me from finding my joy  in Christ alone.

It was a long and hard process.

These things that were being stripped away were not “bad” things, but things that I was using to define who I was – things that I was using to give my life meaning and significance, what gave me pleasure.  Things that kept me busy but not necessarily focused on my relationship with God.  What I needed to learn was that the only thing I needed to be content was a relationship with God through His son Jesus.  I reached a point where there was nothing left to strip away and asked God, “What more can you take away?  There is nothing left.”

At that point, with the debris gone, God began to turn my focus inward and  on some issues from my childhood – things I desperately tried to forget.  But God made me face these things and work through the damage that was left.  There were times when I wanted to just curl up and stop breathing rather than face these issues.  But God was relentless in getting me to deal with these issues and the deep rooted ramifications – like eating issues/disorder that I have had most of my adult life.  Once I dealt with the root cause, the eating issues cleared up and have not been an issue since!

Having walked this path for almost 2 years, God turned the corner from pruning and cutting back to beginning to add things back into my life.  I learned through the process that holding on tightly is not pleasant – it just gets harder and more painful to let go.  I learned to hold things lightly and openly before God, my heart is more teachable and open to ideas.  God could now begin to guide me up the other side of the valley and onto the mountain.  And when He decides to bring things back into one’s life, He does it in a grand way.

I love mountains and have had some of the best times with God on Mountain tops.  He knew what would make my heart soar and He took me to the Swiss Alps to begin to plant a new vision.

The long valley of darkness turned into a valley of vision.  I was not through the valley totally, but near to the edge and ready to begin the upward climb to the next mountain.  There were still some more things to work through, but the biggest part of the valley was behind me and I could see the end.  It was a great feeling.

So returning to the same spot on the lake this morning, 4 years later was a much different experience.  As I sat on the same bench overlooking the lake, I saw a much different lake.  The water was clear and I could see the bottom of the lake.  Looking across the lake, the tree that was bent under weight of the top was not to be seen – all the trees were upright and pointing towards the heavens.  This time it seemed as if the Lord was telling me that I had made it to the other side and now is the time to begin the climb up the next mountain.  Ministry has been back in my life and He is now fine tuning the direction.  God’s pruning will never be “completed” this side of heaven, but for now, God seems to be done with the hardest part of it.  This morning on the lake, I sensed that the healing that needed to take place has happened and I am free to move forward with the vision that God began to give me in the Alps 2 years ago.

John 15:1-11 come to mind as I write this;

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. 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.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  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.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

While the pruning process is painful, the joy that one receives as a result of letting God do what is necessary is immeasurable.  I would not trade walking through that valley for anything, but I am thankful to be on the other side of the valley.