Well, here we are. I’m going to be honest; it’s incredibly strange to be writing this article today: on April 13, trying to imagine where we’ll be a month from now, on May 13 — when you’re reading this.
Because right now, I’m on day 33 of quarantine in the COVID19 epicenter, New York City.
Yep, I’ve been holed up in my 500 square foot studio apartment in the heart of Manhattan, alone, for over a month. And things are…getting desperate.
NYC is unrecognizable. Truly. A city with nearly 9 million people has become a literal ghost town. Everyone is holed up in their apartment, scared, lonely, frustrated, and on the brink of developing a drinking problem.
Everything is boarded up and closed. The streets are deserted, with absolutely no traffic. And the noise and hustle-bustle notorious to “The City That Never Sleeps” has become a deafening silence. Only to be filled with the never-ceasing cry of ambulances, and the wind, whipping through the maze of streets.
Safe to say, the pulse of NYC, that makes it the greatest city on earth, has flatlined.
What Will Be
So sitting here, in the same sweatpants I’ve worn for the past three days now, it’s difficult to imagine what life will be like, one month from now.
Will we still be in lockdown? Will I still have a job? Will my loved ones be safe and healthy? Will I be safe and healthy? Will my relationships have survived? Will our country be in severe depression? Will I be using coffee filters for toilet paper?
There are so many unknowns—so many sources of uncertainty. And projecting into the future, one month from now, can either be a giant beacon of hope, or a crippling and suffocating trigger for anxiety.
Preparing for this article, as I always do, I opened to today’s Gospel reading from John 15:1-8—the vine and the branches. A verse we can all probably recite the gist of if put on the spot. Or at the very least, sing a chorus from a familiar song from the red or green hardcover songbook in the pews growing up [There’s nothing like early 90’s church music, am I right?].
There was a verse that stood out to me this morning that I’ve never noticed before. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower…and everyone that does [bear fruit] he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
He prunes so that it bears more fruit.
I’m not a gardener, but my mother has quite the green thumb. And I’m going to be honest; I’ve always been quite perplexed by the whole concept of pruning. I remember growing up; I’d be so sad and confused when my mother would cut off these robust, beautiful, blooming roses from the rose bushes in the name of pruning.
How could that possibly be beneficial? How sad to see such a magnificent flower bite the dust in such a seemingly heartless way?
My mother would always reassure me that by cutting it back, it would grow again healthier, fuller, and stronger. And she was always right.
Beyond the Four Walls
Sitting here today, staring at these same four walls, that seems to get tighter and tighter every day; I’m realizing that right now, we as believers, and we as a country, and we as a global community — are undergoing the pruning process.
We’ve been isolated from loved ones. Cut off from attending worship services. Thrown adversity — whether it’s health-related, financially related, a challenging living situation, having to homeschool kids, facing loneliness — we have all been “cut back,” so to speak.
And it’s painful.
We are all grieving. Grieving the life we once knew and lamenting the current state of things. Grieving plans, vacations, weddings, graduations, adventures we had planned.
Pruning is hard.
But with it comes incredible hope because of what God reminded us so blatantly evident in today’s Gospel. “he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
Bears More Fruit
I don’t know about you, but that prospect excites me.
It fills me with so much hope and heartening anticipation.
God is at work right now. Right this very moment. In our adversity. In our pain, and our uncertainty and fear.
He is working in us, laying the foundation for an abundant harvest one month, one year, one decade — from today.
So yeah, I could think about where we will be in one month from now through the lens of earthy pessimism. OR, I could think about where we’ll be one month from now through the eyes of God and the work He is doing in each one of us as we speak.
God’s timing is never accidental. His ways and His tactics are always on purpose. And though we may not always understand at the moment, He will always use everything for good.
I’ve been here before. I was incapable, at the moment, to understand why I had to endure a severe case of anorexia that nearly took my life — but only now, 13 years later, can I see the tremendous fruit that came from that incredibly painful pruning process.
For by enduring that season of overwhelming suffering, I gained an unshakeable faith and dependence on God. And have, by His grace, been able to use my story to help others going through similar adversity through my blog, book, and speaking engagements.
That Which He Prunes Will Bear More Fruit
It is a promise, straight from Jesus’ mouth.
It gives me incredible hope to think of the collective fruit that will come from all of our current sufferings. Just imagine, together, it could be enough to change the world.
About the author:
Caralyn is the writer and speaker behind the blog, BeautyBeyondBones. It has recently been named one of the Top Three Eating Disorder Recovery Sites on the WorldwideWeb. She’s a twenty-something actress and writer in New York City. Having battled a severe case of anorexia and Ulcerative Colitis, she now uses her story of total restoration to positively impact others, and offer Christ’s hope and encouragement for those with eating disorders, and other forms of adversity. Her book, Bloom is now available!
Thanks for pointing out that specific verse. I have always thought of pruning as only the act removing bad things in my life. Now I don’t see the negative, but the positive aspects of the pruning process. That being said, soon this world will bloom in ways we may have never thought possible! Thanks for your insightful message today.
Thank you so much Carol! You’re so right! It can definitely be a positive! Amen to that – let the blooming begin! Thanks for reading! Hugs and love xox
Thank you for sharing your story. I am reading this on May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. We just received news to start having daily public mass starting may 19. On Sunday, May 24, we can have public mass but with limited numbers. We have been patient and been growing in our faith. I have learned to be more prayerful.
Thank you Ruth! Oh that is so exciting!! This day has a very special place in my heart! My mom and I visited Fátima a couple summers ago! So awesome that you’re taking that away from this time. Stay well! Hugs and love xox
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this; you are in my prayers! Remain faithful and hopeful- I am certain you have brought faith and hope to others❤️
Thank you Monica for your prayers and kind words! That really means a lot. Know that you’re in mine too! Stay well! Hugs and love xox
The Lord and our Lady are using you beautifully thru the graces, gifts and trialls. Do you know how many times you referenced 13? Could it be because you are being called to be His 13th apostle? I think you already are!! I love your pruning for the good, and God makes good of all things. You have put the positive and possibilities back in our days currently and ahead! Thank you for being attached to His Vine and reminding us to do the same!
Hi Kari! Oh my gosh this absolutely brightened my day! Thank you! And amen to that – He will use alll things for good! We are so blessed by His goodness. Stay well friend! Hugs and love xox
Thank you, Caralyn, for this wonderful reminder and personal testimony. I’ve got my own ‘pruning’ story and I, too, am grateful for how it allows me to minister more effectively to others. God bless you for all you do and I pray that you are soon able to get out of that apartment. NYC is still struggling so I don’t know what that means for you. I pray every day for all affected by the pandemic, and that is pretty much everyone! So the includes you. Virtual hugs. Too many of us need a real human hug. One day soon, I hope.
Hi Lynda! Thank you so much for your prayers and virtual hugs! They are greatly appreciated! Know that you’re j. Mine too! Yeah NYC has been put through the ringer, but I know that God will use this all for good. So glad this resonated with you. Thank you for reading! Hugs and love xox
Beautifully written. You truly have a gift. I have faith that everything will get back to normal soon. I hope you are doing well. Stay safe.
Thank you so much J! What a kind thing to say. I have faith in that too! Stay well my friend! Hugs and love xox
Your discussion of pruning made me think of adversity, which led me to Romans 5: “…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
The plants saw your mother coming with the shears. “HEY! I just got done growing that! I waited all winter to push that out, and now you’re gonna… OUCH! That hurt!”
What if the flowers we are so proud of are really garbage in God’s eyes? Maybe they’re even blossoms of sin we adore. As pleased as we may be with ourselves, God sees the potential, cuts back the pride, and brings us back humbler and better for it.
Thanks for your article and giving me these thoughts tonight! Is it wrong to feel like I’m slighting BBB by reading and commenting on a stranger’s blog? I feel like I’m cheating… Have a blessed night!
Hey Jeff! Fancy meeting you here 🙂 hehe I love that verse from Romans – so powerful, and comforting. Oh wow what a thought about those bloom. Wow wow wow. Cuts back the pride. what a thought. definitely has happened many times in my life! hahah no not at all! i’m grateful that you read it!! not cheating at all! i love WINE!!! 🙂 hope you and your family are doing well! hugs!!!! xoxo
So very well said!
Thanks Natalie 🙂
Yes, you’re right; God is using this as a time of pruning. When we feel the loss of something treasured, or eagerly anticipated, it can help to remember that he is making space to bless us even more.
Nice article, friend! Our gardener knows what’s best, thankfully!
Thank you so much Leah! Yes He really does! What a blessing that is! Stay well! Hugs and love xox
I loved reading Carolyn’s articles it really shine a light upon the things happening in our world today. Thanks, Carolyn for such a blessed article of encouragement. God bless.
Oh Gosh, thank you so much, friend. I really appreciate your kind words! It’s a wild time to be alive, and I’m so very grateful to have The True Vine to plug into and find consistency and hope. Hugs and love xox
Great perspective Caralyn! We tend to get so caught up in our dramas in this physical world that we totally forget about these One “works out everything according to His plan. ” (Ephesians 1:11). Loved the positive view of a negative situation – pruning. With your permission, I would love to use this blog? Much grace and peace in the Lord Jesus.
Thank you so much Michael! You’re so right about that – He will use everything and anything for good. His plans for His children are good and full of blessings. Nothing is ever wasted. Absolutely! I’d be honored! Stay well! Hugs and love xox
Hi Caralyn! This is such a beautiful post with an immense amount of wisdom pouring from you. God definitely still has a plan for all of us and COVID-19 did not take Him by surprise. This could totally be used as a pruning process for us without even knowing it! Thank you so much for sharing! I can’t wait to see what else you write! Keep it up. 🙂
Hi Rachel! Oh gosh, thank you so much for your generous words. I think you’re absolutely right – this did not take Him by surprise. He will bring about good from this, someway, somehow. I appreciate you taking the time to read! Stay well, and God bless! Hugs and love xox
I enjoyed reading this. An interesting perspective.
Thank you so much Hermione! so glad you enjoyed it! Hugs and love xox
Despite my mother’s mental illness, she always had a lovely garden. She’d get lost in her garden and yes, she pruned and knew all the ins and outs of pruning. Great article Caralyn. Thank you!
Thank you Jo,, for sharing that. Gardens definitely offer a beautiful escape to enjoy God’s creation. I appreciate you taking the time to read! Hugs and love xox
What a hopeful message! Thank you!
Thank you so much Michelle! I appreciate that 🙂 Hugs and love xox
“God is at work right now. Right this very moment. In our adversity. In our pain, and our uncertainty and fear.
He is working in us, laying the foundation for an abundant harvest one month, one year, one decade — from today. “ — this and the verse you highlighted are just the bees knees! Thank you, as always, Caralyn.
Hi Peach!! THank you so much for coming over here to read this post! Yes — He’s laying the foundation! Stay well, my dear friend! Hugs and love xox
I really love this post, Caralyn. Sometimes it is hard for us to see the work God is doing in our lives during the hard times. But, that’s usually when He’s doing the hardest work in us.
Hey Rainer! Thanks for reading! You’re so right – that’s when He’s doing the hardest work in us! Stay well! Hugs and love xox
Keep bearing fruit–and showing others how to–Caralyn. There has indeed never been a better or more needful time!
Well hey again, Mitch! Gosh, thank you for stopping by over here! Amen – we need to encourage one another! Congrats again on your FILM!!! Can’t wait to check it out!! rock on! Hugs and love xox
Great article and I loved reading John 15:1-8 again. I liked how this version said “I am the vine and my Father is the grower and He prunes everyone.” It reminds me to continue to ask God to help me grown in His will. Thank you Caralyn!
So very true. He is pruning us in this season and yes it is very hard as you said in this line” Pruning is hard. ” but by His grace and mercy we will grow though it and with it. Very encouraging and uplifting message. <3 God bless and continue to use you for His glory! Blessings! 🙂
I totally love what you said about pruning, and the pain of that but also the hope.
I feel that tension.
Pain because some of the things that change make me uncomfortable, but hope in Jesus in the midst of our mess too.
Thank you dear. You make me glad.