I was struck this week by an old dictum “If its predictable then its preventable”. It is an old saw that I heard afresh during this Easter Season. It has application in many aspects of life and across many types of community. This week I received it in terms of my own personal disciplines or lack thereof. I am a creature of habit. Some of my habits undermine my goals. Today’s Gospel reading from Morning Prayer is a reminder of our call to fruitfulness and the necessity of being pruned of bad habits.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 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. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:1-11)
We have a beautiful tree rose in our back yard. It keeps sending up suckers from its root system. I keep removing the suckers and it keeps sprouting more. It is a problem every spring. The problem with suckers is that they take growth away from the part of the plant we want to grow. We are trying to grow roses not suckers. Bad habits are like the suckers that keep coming back.
The bad habit I am acutely aware of this week is my occasional media binge. A media binge is when I stay up very late watching recorded tv shows like Hawaii Five 0 and Dr. Who. This week I stayed up very late and watched Ip Man (A Kung Foo Movie). When I stay up into the early hours of the morning I pay for it the next day. I can still function but without my usual energy or creative spark. It is like self induced jet lag. So why do it? Its fun being bad.
Why does God not prune this out of my life? Actually I think God is trying to. I’m not spiritually deaf. When I heard the old saw “If its predictable then its preventable” I knew I was being nudged by God and that it was time to prune this sucker from my life. Will it grow back? It will certainly try. It is for me what the medieval church called a “besetting sin”, the thing that keeps coming back to trip me up again. Now some may say that “what’s the big deal with an occasional media binge?” Perhaps these words from the Great Litany will provide a better framing of the issue.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.
A media binge for me is a form of self indulgence. It has to give way so that my life can become more clearly focused on my goals. I want to bear fruit for God. I need this pruning.