THE TRIMMERS WORKING BEHIND THE SCENE

For those of us of a certain age, the names Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein define what it means to be a reporter. When they were reporters for the Washington Post, their reporting of the Watergate scandal brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon. This reporting is published as a book, All the President’s Men, that would later be adapted to an Academy Award nominated movie starring the biggest movie stars of the time: Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Woodward and Bernstein were world famous then and they are still very influential today.

But most people have never heard of Bob Bradlee. They finally did a movie about Bradlee, the Chief Editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, in 2017 – years after he passed away. But before Tom Hanks played the role in the movie, not that many people outside of the publishing industries knew the name of the guy who was the editor of the famous Woodward and Bernstein. Not surprising since most people know authors but they do not know editors.

This is a shame because editors play a very significant part in what we read. Editors are the ones who decide what will go to print. In newspapers, editor in chiefs are the ones who assign stories to the journalists. In fiction writing, editors are the people who discover all the famous authors we read today. Editors give access to authors. They are the ones who have to examine the piece before it goes to print. Sometimes, they are the ones who have to be responsible for these writings in the court of law and public opinion – even though they were not the authors.

But most importantly, editors establish focus. There are many reasons why writers hate their editors, but one of the most difficult things an editor must do is to trim the excess, kill the darlings, to make sure that the writing stays on focus. If a section does not make sense, they will cut it out. If an anecdote is funny but does not help clarify the story, they will cut it out. The editors are the first ones who look at a piece of the writing from an objective perspective and their job is to make sure that every sentence in every paragraph is focused on the story at hand. And that means trimming the fat. Cut out the extras so the real story can come out.

Nobody likes to hear that they have to take things out. That is why authors dread editors. But the great authors have great relationship with their editors. Because they know, great writing is focused writing. And to bring focus, we must be ready to cut things out. Great authors need great editors to trim it down.

And according to Jesus, a good Christian needs trimming as well…

JOHN 15.1-4 (NIV)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

THE GOOD BRANCH NEEDS TRIMMING

The first few times I read this passage, I used to think that the Gardener trims the branches with no fruit. That’s because I’m a city boy. Anyone who ever planted anything know that the branches with no fruit will be cut and burn. Farmers do not waste time with branches bearing no fruit. They do care for the ones bearing fruits though. That is why they trim them so that they will bear even more fruits.

Trimming is about focusing resources to the right places. When the gardener is too lazy to trim the vines, precious water and minerals from the ground are being used by useless branches and leaves. But after the gardener trims the vines, these resources are being focused into the branches bearing fruits. More resources for these producing branches means more fruits.

GOD TRIMS US BECAUSE HE LOVES US

Jesus is saying that God is the Gardener and we are the producing branches. And because God loves us, he wants us to bear more fruits. And to do that, he needs to trim us. He trims us so that we can refocus our lives. Because unless we refocus ourselves to the important things, eternal things, then we are wasting our resources, our time, our passion, and our energy into meaningless things.

Please note that we are not talking about sinful behaviors here. Sinful behaviors and actions are like unproductive branches. Even more, they are like sick branches. Those branches must get cut immediately. They are bad. They have no place in our lives because they are actively poisoning our lives.

But when we are talking about trimming, we are talking about getting rid of the good things so that we can refocus on the great things. There are things in your life that are not sinful. They are not inherently bad. But unless you trim these things out of your life, you cannot live the life God wants you to live.

And that means different things for every one of us. Because there are things that I need to refocus myself in that will be distractions for you. What you can do, I may be should not. Again, not because they are bad things, but unless I trim those things out of my life, I cannot refocus myself to the things that God want me to do.

REFOCUS STARTS WITH REMAINING IN GOD

So how do we know what we need to trim out of our lives? Well, this is why great editors make a lot of money. This is why certain coaches, directors, and consultants will always be in high demand. We all need our Ben Bradlees to help us trim the excess out so that we can bring focus back to our stories. So if you are not yet a Christ follower and you want to be far more productive in your professional and personal lives, I want to encourage you to find someone who can help you refocus by trimming the excess things out of your life. That is the only way you can move from good to great.

But for most of us here who are followers of Christ, I want you to remember what Jesus said next, “You have been made clean by my word. Remain in me and I will remain in you.” That is how we bear fruit. By remaining in Jesus.

God wants to remain in us. He wants to live in us so that his Spirit can guide us in our lives. The Holy Spirit wants to guide us in our decision making. He wants us to be able to separate the good things from the great things in our lives. That is why we need to focus on his voice. The more we remain in him, the more sensitive we become to his calling. When we bring back the focus to God’s voice, we can learn to tune out the excess and focus on the important things. Remain in God and he will remain in us. Allow him to trim things out of our lives and he will leave you to do great things in your lives.