My dad decided to experiment with his homegrown apples one year. He let them sit out on the counter under the window for several weeks until they shriveled up, dry, wrinkled and hollow. “Why’d you do that Daddy?” I asked him during a visit. “I wanted to see what would happen,” was his simple answer. He was an avid gardener and liked to study his produce. While he studied the physical, I would one day consider the spiritual impact of this experiment.
I wasn’t a Christian yet at the time of this visit, but years later after God lassoed and secured my heart and I had begun to read the Bible, I was intrigued when I came upon the Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.. I was eager to grow in this fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I prayed for God to help me increase in these qualities, but not too much at a time.
While I was hopeful and looking forward to growing according to God’s promises, at the same time, I was fearful. I remembered my Dad’s shriveled apples. Would I one day grow old and be a dried up hollow fruit of a person? I added to my prayers, God please help me grow at such a pace as to not peak and shrivel up too soon. I believed it was actually inevitable to peak in fruitfulness and productivity in this lifetime.
God patiently received my childlike prayers while I continued reading my Bible. It took me several years to get through it all and more years still to begin to make connections between the passages. Then one day, I was overjoyed to come upon John 15:1-5. All of my fears of shriveling up were put to rest by the words of Jesus, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
So many thoughts began to flood my brain. My Dad’s apples had shriveled only because they had been removed from the tree, and I will only shrivel up if I am removed from the vine. But, ooo, branches cut off, ouch, branches pruned, this actually sounds painful. However, if God is my gardener, I think I can trust in Him. I’m sure He will do a better job than I would do myself. I finally wrestled, reasoned and then concluded, with relief, that I don’t have to pace myself or ask God to pace me anymore. Instead, all I have to do is stay connected to Jesus, the vine. This, although it would take effort and discipline, I believed I could do.
My level of connectedness has surely varied throughout the different seasons of my life since this childlike phase of growth as a Christian. And I can definitely look back and see the times where God was cutting off dead branches and pruning less fruitful ones; there was emotional pain involved along the way. In the moment I didn’t always see or understand what God was doing or why. But, oh boy, am I glad God took those branches out of my life. They really needed to go. On my own, I don’t even want to consider who or what I would be today without the presence of God forming and shaping me. I know this process is not yet even complete and will still continue throughout my lifetime. Yes, I will endure still more pruning, but in God’s perfect timing. I’m so thankful for my Daddy’s fruitful curiosity, I’m eternally grateful for what Jesus endured to be my vine, and finally I praise my heavenly Father for His patient, wise and loving care of me.