As the rain let up and the sun returned, Jesus led me around the cabin where we entered a gated path with a sign over it that read:
“LET ME SING FOR MY BELOVED MY LOVE SONG CONCERNING HIS VINEYARD.” -Isaiah 5:1
The path weaved to and fro through what must be the Father’s gardens. We passed by rows and rows of every kind of flower, fruit and vegetable imaginable. Bubbling ponds with croaking frogs. Bird baths with splashing fowl. Friendly cartoon-sized bumblebees and dragon flies hovered over the splash of Eden I beheld. Finally we reached our destination.
“Welcome to my Father’s vineyard, “Jesus said, handing me some work gloves and a hand pruner.
“Jeremy, I have brought you to the Father’s Cabin to restore your soul. You are running on empty and beginning to languish in the heat of life’s concerns. Look carefully at the Father’s Vineyard.”
I looked up and down the rows of grapevines and noticed a sharp contrast. To my right was a row of healthy vines taller than me all filled with grapes soon ready to be picked. To my left was a row of short, twisted vines languishing with only a few small grapes.
“It is Our desire to see your life bear much fruit. But remember I am the vine, you are a branch and my Father is the gardener. If you stay connected to me you will bear much fruit. If you get disconnected from me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers (John 15:5-6). You have been trying to get by on your own strength and resources lately. You must stay connected to me; I am the source of life.”
“What’s wrong with these other vines on my left, Jesus?” I asked.
“Oh, you are standing on the property line. These belong to the Father and those over there are in the neighbor’s vineyard and he refuses to prune.”
“Pruning? It makes that big a difference?” I asked.
“Yes, the Good Gardener cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:2).
“I can imagine its a painful process for the branch,” I said.
Jesus continued, “Pruning a branch involves ripping out any diseased parts, getting rid of bugs and even cutting away seemingly healthy but unwanted shoots so that the branch can grow stronger in the direction that the vinedresser desires. From the branch’s perspective, being pruned can be uncomfortable, if not painful, and at times also appear to make no sense. But “every branch” (John 15:2) should trust that the vinedresser knows what He is doing and be grateful for His care and attention.”
Hmmm. I thought, trying to relate to the branch.
“The time for concern is when the vinedresser stops pruning, as that means usually means the vinedresser is about to “take away” that branch because it ‘does not bear fruit’ (John 15:2).
The neighbor next door means well,” Jesus added. “But he’s bought into the popular lie that just letting things grow naturally is best, and he thinks any Gardener who would willfully put a branch through such a painful pruning process is cruel. If this is how he cares for his vines, imagine how he’s raised his kids? Can you imagine their lack of disciplining and boundaries? Probably spoiled rotten, I’d guess.”
I thought for a moment about my own life and the lives of people I know. Those who were flourishing typically had undergone seasons of “pruning” that were uncomfortable — even painful — at the time but in the end made them stronger. Then I thought of those who were just floating through life with no discipline and avoiding anything that might cause them momentary discomfort, and they seemed to be weaker and ill-equipped for life’s challenges.
As I looked at the healthy vines and the withering vines and pondered Jesus’ words, I remembered a quote from William Nicholson’s famous play Shadowlands. It’s the story of well-known Christian author C.S. Lewis and the horribly painful loss of his wife to cancer. The quote seemed to be consistent with Jesus’ uncomfortable lesson:
“We are like blocks of stone, out of which the sculptor carves the forms of men. The blows of his chisel, which hurt us so much, are what make us perfect.”
1. Have you ever been through a pruning process? Are you being pruned at this very moment? How?
2. How connected to the Vine of Christ are you these days? How do you personally stay connected to Christ (prayer, reading scripture, etc.)?
Dear Heavenly Gardener, I am reminded that I am just a fragile branch in the grand scheme of things. I am as dependent on you for a healthy life as plants are dependent on the gardener. Today I invite you to prune away all the bad in my life but please be gentle and go slowly. I don’t want to wither away in the hot sun. I am a block of beautiful potential in your hands, please chisel my life into something magnificent. But be gentle. Amen.