If you haven’t been in an old vineyard, you can’t grasp what Jesus meant when He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” As a Canadian prairie dweller, I’ve always thought of vines as whip-like plant tendrils that creep up walls and trellises. But the vine Jesus was talking about is more like a tree trunk than a twig.
“The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit,” Jesus says. The vineyard in this photo has not been pruned yet. You can see leafless branches sticking up from the vine. Every winter, pruners remove the branches that produced last summer’s crop and pile them between the rows of vines to be gathered up and chipped. In ancient times they were burned.
The branch that is not attached to the grapevine (trunk) cannot produce a single cluster of grapes. It can’t produce a single leaf. It can’t grow. It dies. “Apart from Me you can do nothing,” Jesus said. I know all about that process — I spent 10 years in spiritual dryness. I was like a branch that had broken off in a windstorm and hangs on by a thread; still attached but not able to receive enough life-giving nutrients to flourish.
How is it possible that this withered branch (my life) is now able to grow, leaf out, and set fruit? Because I was still attached to the vine. However tenuous that connection, it was enough that God was able to get through to Me. He called me up — literally — and through the voice of another invited me to follow Him. Thinking I was nuts, I said yes. And that first yes was the beginning of the regrowth project that now sustains my speaking and writing.
Yes by yes, year by year, that thread-sized connection has grown stronger. During my dry years the only way I knew how to “remain” in Him was to stay connected to church even though I felt like a hypocrite and seldom got anything from it. Now, I “remain” in Him by daily Bible study and prayer, by attending a midweek study group, by regular church attendance, by serving others in acts of kindness, by looking for people who are hungry to find hope and telling them about hope in Christ, by writing and by speaking and whatever else He asks me to say yes to.
You may feel so spiritually disconnected that it feels like your branch has been cut off and left on the vineyard floor to wither and die. But if you once followed Jesus by placing your faith and life in His hands, He has formed a connection that you cannot break. It can be damaged, but it cannot be killed.
Through whatever tiny thread that continues to hold your branch to His vine, God is calling you to follow Him. The only hope for you to find the dream that He has for your life and start living it is for that joint to be strengthened. Every time you “say yes” your spiritual connection gets a little stronger. In the next few blogs I will explain how God calls us to say yes to the simple, immediate, and possible. And yes by yes, with Him, we achieve the impossible.