The gnarled oak toppled overnight, stressed by the torrential rain and wind that suddenly became too much. Wide-eyed children gasped as we drove by in the morning light, wondering aloud how something so mighty could be grounded with a bit of wind. While the outside had been unremarkable enough that I never previously noticed this specific tree, there was something wrong in the root system. The undernourished tree was left not only without leaves and fruit but was completely dead. Even an oak, if uprooted, can topple. Growing things branch out with glossy fruit and colorful leaves, but only if they have a source that is the catalyst for life. Without the source, they are nothing.
I love how God uses things we are familiar with to illustrate to us who he is. Jesus’s final “I Am” statement moves beyond just who He is in relationship, to our need for a savior, to how He is the source of our life until we are with him in eternity. Without him, we are powerless.
“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 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.”
In a world where it is easy to curate the exterior, we are still powerless when we are unconnected from Christ. It is necessary for us to abide, to dwell. We have the opportunity to live in Christ every moment so that we can produce all the good things we hope will come from our lives.
Dwelling is in the quiet, unseen, slow, and unproductive moments that result in a life bent towards relationship with God. When we turn more quickly in prayer, begin a rhythm of regular spiritual practices, or simply pour our heart out. More than the exterior postures, we begin to abide when our hearts feel desperate for the vine and submit to the loss of every other thing.
I am encouraged that Jesus didn’t just talk about what our lives produce; wedged in between this beautiful organic metaphor is a truth my heart needs to remember whenever I take stock of what is growing in my life.
“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you.” John 15:3
He whispers “you are mine.
I have made all things new.
You don’t have to strive, you can just settle in; listen and be loved.”
My life is in a digging up and pruning season. In the midst of looking outwardly, as if the fruit could point me on to the next faith step, I am drawn in again to the vine. I feel a bit raw, cut down to the nub like the rose bushes I pruned last week. Though they look ugly against the frozen mud, the only way forward for their health and flourishing is to be cut back. It feels terrifyingly severe. Even beautiful and healthy growth is at stake in the roses and my heart. Places, where God has previously produced amazing fruit, are not the source of my life. He alone is.
Holly Hawes Writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. She is 30-something and has been married to Josh since 2010. She is Mom to a teenager by adoption, a child she’ll meet in heaven and often “bonus kids” via foster care. She loves creativity, the PNW, books, flowers, and sharing Jesus with hearts that need him.