Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Joys of Gardening

“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 bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit…abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15

Our great God, The Vinedresser, is always busy tending and nurturing His olive tree. His process requires the utmost patience, moment-by-moment attention and a careful hand. If you’ve ever split the roots of a plant or pruned a plant so as to cause it to grow then you know the meticulous effort and painstaking work involved in the process. Thank God He loves us enough to wound us to make us more fruitful.

Had you asked me at eighteen I probably would’ve told you that I thought Jesus’ words in John 15 likely referred to the harvest of lost souls and the tireless effort of those involved in it. Little did I know. From somewhere and somehow I came to believe that God was primarily concerned with my production of ‘fruit’ in the form of teaching others who would teach others. It took a little while for me to realize that I was gravely mistaken and on a serious road to burnout. Not only that, but I was completely missing the point about what it means to be deeply loved by my creator. As I struggled in those early years -- learning to walk –- the belief that I wasn’t producing enough ‘fruit’ was overwhelming. As the great vinedresser tended and nurtured me, I discovered His true vision: the growth of the ‘fruit’ of His spirit made manifest in my life. And as we should all know, the fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience and the like. (Gal 5) This, of course, meant a significant shift in my expectation of myself and of others. I began to understand God’s plan for me in the context of a loving creator and Father instead of a distant taskmaster whom I feared. I believe this process completely natural; Solomon told us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I love the idea that God desires more peace, more joy, and love from us. These are remarkable things to attain to that, in great irony, make us better and more effective proclaimers of the gospel. Healthy fruit is aromatic and pleasing to the eye – just ask Eve.

This, of course, is not to say that God is snipping, clipping, and awaiting only a celebration to be born from our hearts, though this has definitely occurred in me at times (and is highly recommended); He is also very concerned with the less popular matters of faithfulness and self-control. Painfully, this is where the great vinedresser tends to draw upon more stringent measures to inspire us.

Romans 11 is a rich passage that uses the Vinedresser imagery to describe God’s tending of Israel by breaking off the natural branches of the root of His olive tree (unbelieving Israel). This seems like a drastic and destructive thing for our Gardener God to do but is explained as the mechanism that would bring ‘riches for the world,’ allow for the gentiles to be grafted into the rich root of His olive tree and ultimately inspire natural Israel’s jealously and ultimate repentance. I think this is a beautiful picture of God’s courage and wisdom to do what is necessary to save as many lives as possible and even enrich His cultivated olive tree with a bunch of wild olives like us. For the last 2000 years this olive tree/mustard tree kingdom has been growing aggressively and pressing against the gates of Hades. Thanks be to God!

When I have faced significant trials that test my resolve and bring me to frustration, I am reminded of God’s severity and willingness to do whatever is necessary to prune me for His purpose. I am learning to view this severity as His great love for me—though it’s always hard. And if YOU have ever born fruit, He WILL prune you again and again. “…and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.” If you are a fruit-bearing branch of “The Vine,” Jesus Christ, then you’ve been blessed to experience this at The Vinedresser's hand. “…abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.” As he clips and prunes – sometimes severely – we are forced deeper into the vine for sustenance and the restorative power of Jesus. We reach into his Heart for the strength and character to be be reborn with new growth, stronger tendrils, heartier leaves, and healthier, more delectable fruit.

As the Lord loves you severely into His holiness, may you consider it pure joy and be fruitful again and again bearing ‘fruit that will last,’ ‘much fruit,’ and so prove to be His disciples.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Rom 11:33

Nathan D. Myers (Aim Alum, Russia 95)

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