In the last allegory that we will examine in this series, we find ourselves once again meditating on one of the fundamental truths of our lives; the primary and most important relationship that we must maintain as disciples is with Jesus Christ.
I am the the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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.
The image of the vine is sufficiently vivid as to fire our imagination. We receive the life giving nourishment only as we remain connected to that vine. To be separated is to die. It is the vine that has roots deep into the earth, drawing everything it needs from the creation. Some of the branches will make the most effective use of their junction with the vine and bear glorious fruit. Other will only see the connection in the most cursory terms, not drawing on it and simply surviving.
Dead wood is ruthlessly culled by the gardener. It harbors rot and danger to the healthy plant. Pruning of the live branches is nothing to be feared. Without this practice, energy can go into developing the branch’s wood rather than into bearing fruit. Cutting back the branch reorients its growth into the important task of bearing fruit, painful at first but beneficial in the end. Sometimes the branch that appears to have received the harshest cutback can produce the greatest fruit.
I came upon this downed Pine tree this weekend while hiking. At about 11,000 feet, the growing season is short and the conditions are hard. The soil in which the seed had to germinate was composed mainly of crushed granite and rocks that had yet to decompose; not exactly fertile ground for growth. And still, this tree had managed to attain a height of 35 or 40 feet until it expired and was toppled by the wind or some other natural force. As its shallow root system was exposed, the rock that was lodged within it also came to light. If you look closely at the roots, rather than moving off into an alternate direction when they came in contact with the impediment, the roots grew right around the boulder, conforming to it and making the unfertile, unsupportive rock a part of the tree itself. An already fragile life was made even more challenging.
When I saw this I was immediately aware of a message greater than the natural anomaly. For many Christians, the stone represents a sin – past or present – that inhibits our growth in holiness. Failing to confess a sin and releasing it to the Holy Spirit can allow it to be subsumed into our lives forcing us to grow around it. The danger of not pushing away from it is obvious. We are unable to develop a strong connection to the vine with this impediment in place. The connection that is made is weakened by this foreign body until one day, when forces buffet our faith and damage our link to the vine.
If there is a stone polluting your otherwise fertile ground, dig it up and discard it to the border fence. The roots of your faith will be stronger, deeper, and will find ever deeper and cleaner sources of living water without having to invest their growth energy in pushing around the rocks.