John 15:1-4 (the message)
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.”
I remember when I was a child there was a banner hanging in one of our Sunday School rooms with this verse and a vine with grapes on it. (Rachel do you remember? Smile) I had no idea what grapes had to do with Jesus. And really, I can’t say I have ever heard an abundance of teaching on it, but for me what Jesus is saying in these verses is everything. Everything.
A few years ago, God spoke clearly to my heart while I was in the shower one day. It was in the beginning of a great season of healing and growth for me. I was learning, somewhat painfully, what a people pleaser I was. God was showing me how I needed approval and validation from people to feel “okay” about myself. Even with my own parents. I felt such unease if I didn’t have total approval. So, one day He impressed upon my heart…I am the True Vine, I am The Source of your existence and worth. I knew in that moment I no longer needed to look even to my parents to convince me of my value. I knew in my heart God was setting me free to look past even the most intimate human connections in my life to Him, my True Vine. It’s a journey I am still on but that day, that scripture, changed me.
Over the past couple of years, when God gave me more responsibility and influence with people, this scripture again took on new life for me. My heart’s desire was to see “grapes” or healthy fruit grow in my own home and in my circle of influence. By healthy fruit I mean love, joy, peace, patience, self-control. Harmony. Unity. Purpose. I knew deep within, however, that the fruit producing must be cultivated in my home before God could extend it to my leadership and influence with others. The hard and brilliant truth is this…we really are only as spiritually mature and deep as we are in our homes. See, I caught this itch a few years ago to be real. Stop projecting and pretending. It was wearing me out and not getting me anywhere. Low and behold the “getting real” flipped me around and turned me inside out. Smile. So, I learned in my family as well as in leadership I would produce nothing unless I was intimately joined to The Vine…to Jesus. Looking back I see now how first I had to learn my worth comes only from God. And then I had to learn I could only join my true self to the True Vine. He is only interested in the real me…not the person I think I should be, not the person I sleep next to, not the person I call my BFF and not even the person who gave birth to me. I am filled and healed and changed as I come before Jesus just as I am. As I surrendered the real me I discovered the meaning of that grapevine banner from childhood. When I connect with Jesus, make His presence my home, His life in me begins to produce more and better fruit than I could in a trillion years come up with in all my striving.
Over the past few days, as He leads me back to John 15, my heart is challenged and touched again. I have been asking God to show me what He wants me to see each day, beginning with me. As in I know how easy it is to pray “change them” prayers rather than “change me” prayers. Still, when He shows you stuff it kind of hurts a little. Oh, yes that would be the pruning part. I looked pruning up in the dictionary this morning and was struck by the words “unwanted” and “superfluous matter.” When you make your home in Jesus, when you live daily joined to the True Vine, you can expect some pruning. Some cutting away of unwanted and superfluous matter. Why? So you can produce more fruit. To make room for new growth. It’s hard to look at the unwanted stuff in my motives, attitudes and ways of thinking. Oh when I finally let Him start clipping at me yesterday I cried a bit. It was humbling. Mostly because I love Him so much and knew some attitudes in my heart were displeasing. But then I read how every branch that is grape-bearing is pruned so it will bear even more fruit. And my heart is glad.
I close my eyes tight and say cut away My True Vine. Take what is unwanted and extra in my life so I can see the green of Your promises and provision bloom in all that I am.