Last year my prayer life told me it was pruning season. After years of being in the full bloom of my outward call, it was time to re-evaluate life’s commitments. God was inviting me to a period of letting go of well-discerned commitments of the past. Many were once the luscious, vibrant signs of new growth in my life, but not anymore. There were pieces of my life, while familiar and comfortable, that were slowly being overtaken by the rapid growth of new invitations.
Pruning felt scary, because it meant cutting back and letting go. Pruning required cutting back those things that overpowered the rest of life to the point of making life feel lopsided. Pruning required trimming away the brown underbrush of my life, the pieces that I desperately tried to keep, but in reality had already died. Clinging tightly to Ignatian discernment tools and with the Spirit’s help, I prayed my way through the season of letting go.
I desperately hoped that pruning season would lead me directly into spring and summer, where there would be rapid new growth and clarity of my call. However, that season only prepared me for winter, the season of dormancy, temporary inactivity, and deep rest. Entering into this season of dormancy required special precaution.
I prepared myself for the dormant season by limiting my commitments to only the necessary ones, covering myself in extra time with my family and friends, and most importantly, giving myself permission to stop writing and producing creative material. Prayer affirmed God’s invitation to deep rest and acknowledgment of my exhaustion. Leaning into this period of dormancy was not easy. After blooming for so long, all the growth seemed to be inward, and I struggled to name the fruits of any of my work.
It is only now, after many months of dormancy, that signs of new life appear, holding their own surprises. I am now actively discerning what this new season means for me. What parts of my life are actively growing again, re-affirming my commitment to them? Where do I see new long shoots of possibility, beckoning to burst open with hope? What areas of my life were pruned away or killed off that no longer require my time, energy, or attention?
The season of pruning was needed to let go of old ways and old commitments, allowing me to give energy to the things that God is inviting me to now. The season of dormancy was necessary for restorative rest and to re-focus my growing season. I see signs of new life all around me, and I am full of hope that outward growth is occurring again. Now my task is to discern all the new life around me.
Today’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius link is The Earthen Vessel.
Thank you for this article. I have just gone through a pruning phase and have been feeling a bit out of sorts recently. Guess I too thought new life would be springing up everywhere! Never stopped to think of the dormancy phase. That calms me down. I need calming.
My fear was that I was entering a “dark night of the soul.”
Thanks for the hope.
Becky, this was a beautiful and insightful piece of writing! Thanks for sharing! Tell Chris and the kids I say hello!
Thank you Becky, we all need to look at our inner garden, and be prepared to prune accordingly…
I hope you don’t give up writing insightful observations like the one above. Like the you and Helen above, I have been going through a similar change. The pruning / dormancy analogy is a very helpful way to look at my situation.
I was recently comforted by an observation Pope Francis made in his book ,Joy Of the Gospel. He pointed out the importance of letting the Holy Spirit guide us through the dormancy stage , a stage which can be very frustrating. Sounds like is what you have been doing.
Thanks for your insights and this excellent analogy.
While I read this reflection of yours, Becky, I was surprised at how much it related to what I had to go through last year. I had to give up my catechetical ministry because of pressing demands that popped up out of nowhere, and I had realized I could not do everything, but I could do something. I hated leaving the kids I was ministering to, but I began to see that I was getting short-tempered, and long-winded, so I wasn’t doing a lot of good anymore.
“signs of new life appear, holding their own surprises” certainly cropped up, and I have new energy to live this newer life. I have offered to help only, not be responsible for the Sunday children’s liturgy, and so I am not completely without these angels in my life.
Thanks for these words. I was hoping for some way to understand my choices were moving me closer to God and not away from Him. Your reflection has answered that hope. God bless.