punishment?I taught myself a lesson today. I was getting ready for work, and I noticed that my daughter had not turned the lights off downstairs. This crime against our lighting bill happens all the time. I stood at the top of the stairs about to go down to take a shower trying to decide how to address the offense. It had been a fun morning with my family, so I chose the goofy method of training in this situation.

I exclaimed in my most bombastic crying voice, “ohhhh Reece, you forgot to turn the lights off downstairs again.” I proceeded to burst into the goofiest tears I could muster. My sweet little five year old is super sharp and has learned how to discern her dads sarcasm in situations like this, but this morning, she hesitated. Was my performance not clear enough? Did she think I was actually crying?

She, being the smart cookie that she is, decided to play both options. She rolled her eyes and said, “Ohhh daddyyyy, I will go turn them off.” She then hopped up from her chair and headed for the stairs that I was about to go down already.

Her performance was appropriate to the silliness of the situation, but I could see something else in her eyes. It was subtle, but I think she felt really bad for letting her daddy down.

As she got closer, I stopped her and said, “It’s okay Reece I can get it when I go down.”

She said, “No daddy, It’s okay, I can get them.”

I got ready to insist but realized I had something more important to say to my little girl. “Reece, I love you so much! I know I ask you all the time to turn off the lights and you forget a lot, but I want you to know I love you NO MATTER WHAT. Nothing you do or don’t do will ever change that!”

She gazed up at me with her searching blue eyes and then her expression brightened. She stepped into me and gave me a big hug. She then turned and went back to her breakfast.

I went down stairs and fixed the lighting situation and continued to get ready for work.

As I opened up John 15 today it only took a few lines to remind me of this little story. Jesus spoke these words to his disciples, “I am the try 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 (John 15:1, 2).” How does this relate to my little story? In these two lines,  we see two types of branches and how the Father interacts with each. It’s easy to dwell and fear being the first type of branch. The branch that doesn’t bear fruit He takes away. I don’t want to be taken away. The part that comforts me is actually the second type of branch. The second branch does bear fruit and the Father prunes it so that it will bear more fruit.

Think about what it feels like to be either of these branches. Both the branch that is taken away and the one that is pruned get cut by the Father.

Have you ever felt like God was punishing you? I have felt that way. I often feel like hard circumstances in my life are some sort of direct or indirect punishment. If I were smarter, stronger, more self-controlled, better with money, a kinder man, or whatever else, then my life would be easy and wonderful. The fact of the matter is God cuts us either way. Yes, one type of cut is designed to remove the branch. We know from all of scripture that those types of branches/people are not actually children of God. The second type of cut is designed to help us bear MORE FRUIT. Maybe the next time a hard situation comes into my life I should see it as a confirmation that God is pruning me. THIS is exactly why Paul and James say things like, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:11),” and, “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings… (1 Peter 4:13)” or, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds… (James 1:2).”

I think God does what I did with my little girl this morning. He works hard to help us grow, but each time he leans down and looks into our searching eyes and says, “Nothing you do or don’t do will make me love you less. You are mine!”

Pain. Punishment or Pruning?