How to Cut Back to Bring More Life

I woke up feeling guilty. My bloated stomach and bleary eyes were sore reminders the previous nights’ foolish choices. I had topped off a full week of celebrating birthdays and visitors with a few hours of catch-up. As soon as my daughter drifted off to sleep and her room went silent I thought to myself, “I will pour myself a glass of wine to help me relax and enjoy my work.” I was pretty happy with myself and even looked forward to getting stuff done. 

The wine-drinking led to banana chips. Out of the bag. I don’t care what kind of chips they are—no chips are healthy when eaten straight from the bag. One minute, I sat down to answer emails. The next thing I knew, I was staring at the bottom of an empty bag. My wide eyes moved to my own stomach, realizing I had deposited the entire contents straight into my body. 

A tired mind mixed with alcohol is poor combination for decision-making. 

The following regretful morning, I told my husband and daughter I was going on my usual morning run. My sweet girl protested that I stay and play Frozen with her. After all, Dada couldn’t be Anna. He’s a boy. 

“I can’t now, but I’ll be back soon!” I promised her as I laced up my tennis shoes along with the mom guilt. 

But guilt is only good when it leads to God. This is the difference between feeling humiliating condemnation and motivating godly conviction: 

“Conviction is specific and endorses our value in God. Condemnation, on the other hand, tends to be vague and brings with it feelings of worthlessness. Conviction brings us to a point of wanting to get closer to God and in line with His Word, while condemnation drives us away from God and brings feelings of wanting to give up.”—Henry Wright in A More Excellent Way

Feeling heavy with shame, I prayed before I left the house. I didn’t want to give credit to my run for making me feel better. I went outside hoping for forgiveness to reach me, and saw this: a blue sky, birds chirping, a new day. 

I knew what I saw and experienced was God responding to my prayer, letting me know that I am forgiven. As I considered the past 24 hours of events and planned ways to prevent me from sinning again in that way, I jogged past a tree in my neighbor’s yard whose branches had been cut way back to make room for the road. It had started to sprout new leaves. I immediately thought of Jesus praying for us to abide in Him and how the Father prunes us for further production:

“I am the true 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

I was starting to understand. I felt guilty because my eating, drinking, and staying up late was out of control. Like the tree that grew into the street, my own life needed a trim. God wanted me to grow more abundantly and appropriately for the place in which I was planted. 

How to Make Purposeful Decisions

I felt Him ask me, “What do you need to cut back?” Since today is the first day of Lent, I thought this was a timely question. He reminded me of two principles on decision-making from our church’s pastor Matt Adair from the previous Sunday:

  1. Have a plan. I did not have a plan for my banana chips. I did not pre-portion them before I dug in.
  2. Play the long game, which means to distinguish between needs and wants. Wants are often misplaced desires that only God can fulfill. I wanted to do too much. I needed to slow down. 

I realized that I was staying up past my capacity to function well. I was putting too many things on my to-do list and needed to cut back, consult the Lord before planning my day, and trust that He would give me enough strength to accomplish the important things. 

I decided to cut off all work and screen time by 9:30PM to allow my body to rest and recharge for the next day. 

Jesus wants us to abide in Him as the branch to the vine. The Father prunes us for a purpose—to produce more life!  

What Do You Need to Cut Back to Grow More?

  1. Are you feeling convicted about something in your life? Sometimes our body can give us a hint. I could trace the my body’s symptoms back to the heart of the matter, like following the fruit back to the roots. Ask God to give you wisdom here.  
  2. Is this an area you need to let God prune? Remember to first abide in Him. We can only produce fruit when we’re connected to the vine. Be specific, and commit for a certain time, like the season of Lent. I commit to cutting off my screen time because it limits my productivity and keeps me from wasting time on social media rather than sleeping. Cutting back allows room for more life-giving activities.