The Branches

“He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. And he trims and cleans every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit…I am the vine, and you are the branches….If any do not remain in me, they are like a branch that is thrown away and then dies. People pick up dead branches, throw them into the fire, and burn them.”—John 15:2, 5, 6 For the past few days, I've been sharing from John 15, one of my all-time favorite passages. These verses have been foundational for me personally and is one of my heart passions for mothers. When we fail to practice what Jesus commands us to do in these verses, I truly believe we miss out on the real life that Jesus has come to bring (John 10:10). Without this life, it is impossible to be the testimony and witness for Him that we are meant to be, whether to our spouses, children or a watching world. I mean, we could probably fake it, and trust me, I've tried it. But it comes at great expense and frustration. I keep trying and trying to do it on my own, but without abiding in the Vine, I eventually burn out.

So what have we covered so far? We first talked about Jesus, the Vine, the one from whom all life stems—--physical and spiritual. The Father is the Gardener, the one who lovingly wields the shears in order to help coax out the greatest harvest possible. Alone, the Father and the Son, along with the Holy Spirit, are complete. They have always been together and they have no need for any other.

And yet, they never desired to leave it at that. And so, enter the branches. In this case, these branches are true branches, as opposed to ones that have been grafted on from another plant. And while the branches are connected intimately to the vine, it is the Gardener that trains and prunes and cleans the branches to yield the harvest these branches were intended for.

In this passage, there are several types of branches. There are branches that are “cut off”. Instead of looking at it as hacking off mercilessly, Bruce Wilkerson suggests in his book, Secrets of the Vine, that it is better translated “to raise, elevate, or lift up." I prefer this picture because it suggests that God does not just mercilessly hack us off if we are not producing any fruit. Rather, He stoops to pick us up off the ground, to lift us up, and perhaps tie us to a trellis so that we can receive the air and sunlight we may need in order to produce. From my understanding, this seems like a more consistent picture of the God I am coming to know.

There are also branches that show potential and are bearing some fruit. To these, He actually prunes and trims them so that they can produce even more fruit (see the previous post on this verse). And then there are, in verse 6, branches that are on the way to death—--perhaps connected to the vine, but no longer drawing its life from the vine. As a result, they are withering and eventually are let go of or cast away because of its deadness.

But perhaps there is another type of branch that may not be mentioned here—--the leafy branch. These are the branches that are growing beautiful big leaves, but very little fruit. I know there have been seasons in my life when this describes me.  There is a lot of living going on…but it is not necessarily the growth that the Gardener desires.

This past week, has been one of those weeks. With the end of the school year coming, it just gets a little crazy, you know what I mean? Things are coming to a close and wrapping up, while there are summer plans to arrange and plan for. I confess I am feeling a tad bit fried right now. (After I post this, I'm going to bed!) I find that when I start feeling this way, which usually is evidenced by curt responses with an edgy tone to my voice, that is a sure hint that I am in need of some help from the Lord. I need Him to lift me up and restore me back into fellowship with Him.

Being busy does not always mean fruitful. And conversely, fruitful doesn’t always mean busy. Fruitful living is about being all that the Gardener intended, doing just what He has in mind for us, to the fullest capacity. And sometimes the only way to that type of life is through pruning. In order for the branch to expend its energy in the best, most beneficial way, the gardener needs to take out all other competitors, so that it can focus on doing what it is meant to do, produce fruit--—not leaves.

And so, I have a feeling that I will need to submit myself to some pruning this week. Maybe it will be unrealistic expectations. Maybe it will actually be things I really don't need to be doing. But because I am in the hands of the Master, I can know it will be for my good and to bring me into that fruitful life He desires for me.