All would have been just fine if I hadn’t had another great idea for a new project. This idea focused on the problem that we didn’t have a backyard for entertaining. I decided that the area way down behind our detached garage would be a lovely place for a deck, if it wasn’t overrun by brush, weeds, and vines. So many vines!
Perhaps when you think of vines, you picture something thin and delicate. We occasionally have these little wisps on our property, which seem to reach out into midair as they grow. They twist and curl, looking for an anchor point. Well, that’s not the battle we were facing in the backyard. Think Tarzan!
And so we took up the fight and enlisted some teenage boys to help as we endeavored to remove these vines. We used a chainsaw on some of them, and I have a knee that still reminds me that I twisted it trying to pull one of them from 50-ft in the air. (If athletic, strong teenage boys couldn’t get them down, what made me think I could do it?!) We have even welcomed near gale-force winds when they were predicted, hoping to bring down stragglers which are still swinging high up in the trees. I was recently tripping over and hauling off the debris from the last windstorm, and so my mind has returned once again to the vines.
All of this might sound exhausting to you, but I love to be outside. It’s always so good for my soul (twisted knee aside!), and thinking about vines and branches is a fruitful exercise, even while battling them in the flesh. Consider the words of Jesus in John 15:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
This image of Christ as a vine is vivid as I am battling the vines in my own backyard. We could be tempted to think of a thin, wispy vine when we read these verses. But what I have seen in my backyard has been a reminder that in our union with Christ, we are connected to the strongest of vines. We are not carried off and dragged away; we remain connected to the only vine that offers life. And being connected to this vine means that our Father, the gardener, is pruning us and causing us to bear more and more fruit. This fruit is not a result of our own efforts, because apart from him we can do nothing.
Perhaps you’re wondering today if you have the strength to press on in the Christian life. Be encouraged! If you are in Christ, you are a branch connected to the vine that is Christ. You are not apart from him but in him. The pruning might be painful, but the fruit will come, and the Father will be glorified.