P R E S E R V E D: God’s pruning

April 26, 2018 in Religion

By Shewanda Riley
Columnist

RileyA few years ago, I attended the University of North Texas Equity and Diversity Conference in Denton, Texas where television journalist
Soledad O’Brien was a keynote speaker. As part of her presentation, O’Brien used vivid details to share about issues of race in her professional and personal life.

One story she shared described her looking through the personal papers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was able to closely examine the words of Dr. King and study how he edited some of his most important speeches. She then added how the progression of Dr. King’s thoughts
and ideologies was evident not just in what was left in the speech but mostly by what his handwritten comments had taken out. The transformation from anger to a more reflective hope was one of the things she noticed.

She added that she learned more about him not by what was left in the speeches but by the words that he deleted. In that instance, it dawned on me that some shifts in relationships and friendships was God’s way of doing the same thing in my own life. I’d placed so much value on friendships and had spent much time saddened by the loss of a once valued friendship.

As I worked through the loss, God placed some very encouraging people around me who gave me words of support when I needed them most. But there were still times when I felt that the loss was greater than the comfort of their words. In the past, I’d said that when people leave your life, it’s because God no longer has a purpose for them in your life. But sometimes I wondered if there was another reason why God allowed those shifts to happen especially in relationships. Was it as simple as God respecting our free will and allowing us to work through our choices, consequences and circumstances?

Hearing O’Brien’s words gave me a new way of looking at others who were no longer a part of my life. Her words made me think about what I learned about myself when other relationships and friendships ended. I’d been so focused on what I’d lost that I couldn’t see that in the process of the loss, God had allowed me to become both stronger and more compassionate.

The transformation described in the words of Jesus in John 15:1-3 was what God also wanted in me: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”

Years later, I’ve built even stronger and more fulfilling friendships. Just like O’Brien could see transformation in Dr. King’s deletions, I could now look at my own life and see that deletion was a part of God’s process of transformation.

Shewanda Riley is a Dallas, Texas based author of “Love Hangover: Moving From Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends.” Email her at preservedbypurpose@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.