June 11, 2019

I always wondered about those women.  You know, the ones who had it all together. 

The ones who showed up to church on time, who had a smile on their face and a perfectly organized purse on their arm.

I wondered about the ones who brought their Bibles to church, actually did their Bible study, and (gasp) prayed out loud during prayer time. 

I figured they had to be another species of human because of the super powers I observed in them.  Oh, how I wanted those super powers.  Oh, how I wanted to have my act together. 

What I didn’t realize at the time was that those women I admired didn’t have super powers.  They were simply exhibiting the fruit God was producing in their lives.

The Bible tells us that if we are connected to the Lord like a branch is to a vine, then His power flows through us.  As His power flows through us, we produce fruit.  Instead of grapes or berries, our fruit looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, goodness, and faithfulness.

What I was observing was the fruit God, the Master Gardener, was producing in those women.  But how could I get some fruit? 

First I had to be connected to the vine.  I could check that box.  I knew I was connected, but my little branch was just a baby branch.  It was just starting to grow even though I had been a follower of Christ for 10 years. 

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the vine and if we have submitted our lives to follow Him, then we are branches that are connected to Him.  Branches that will grow. 

So, how do you get a branch to grow?  Feed it.  Water it.  Make sure it gets sunlight.  Protect it from bugs and disease.  Prune it.  Train it to grow along the garden supports. 

OK.  I had to work on that.  Feeding and watering that branch required reading the Bible.  God’s instruction manual and love letter to us.  It’s what He uses to grow us. 

It was then that I discovered something interesting.  More is not better.  Just like overwatering and overfeeding a baby plant is not good, choking down tons of Bible verses is not good either.

Reading the Bible just to say you read it does nothing for your growth.  It’s like dumping a bucket of water on top of the soil.  Most of it runs off.  I had to learn to take it slowly.  To be still and let God use His drip irrigation system to get nutrients to my soul so it could be absorbed.  Daily time spent praying and reading a small section of the Bible was just right for my baby branch. 

Next, I had to work on my branch getting plenty of sunlight and protecting it from bugs and disease.  I knew I needed help from other people.  But not just any people.  People in a church who loved and cared for me.  Who taught me from the Bible and encouraged me as my branch grew and pointed out when fruit started to form.    Mentors who alerted me to improper attitudes and actions in my life so I could make sure those bugs and diseases of the heart could be eradicated quickly. 

I was really excited to see, that after some time, my branch was showing some fruit.  Yup, I had arrived at the fruiting stage.  That must have meant I had it all together, right?  Um, no. 

There were two important things I had overlooked, probably because they seemed unpleasant.  Maybe they were just for certain kinds of branches, but not mine.  Right?  Um, no.

Pruning and growth training are important aspects in all gardens.  Pruning is needed during certain seasons to get rid of unproductive and unhealthy growth.  Not all growth on a branch is good.  Some growth saps energy away from the fruiting part and needs to be cut off.  Some growth rubs against the branch and needs to be cut off so it doesn’t cause harm. 

Spiritual pruning, I have to admit, has not been fun.  Not fun, but oh so rewarding.  God, the Master Gardener, knows the right seasons to get rid of unproductive and unhealthy things in my life.  He has cut away things that sap my energy and that could have caused me harm.

 Most of the things He cut away seemed perfectly good to me at the time, but now I can see how harmful they were. However, some things that He cut away don’t make sense to me.  But because I know He is a good Father and gardener, I trust that He is doing it for my good.  And I know that some things He has cut away are good things – just not good for me at that certain season. 

Training a branch to grow along a support is an important aspect to fruiting.  Fruiting branches simply grow better and stay out of harm’s way when grown along a sturdy support.  The hardest part about that training is that the branch is tugged away from the direction it naturally wants to grow. 

Being the stubborn person that I am, that training has been a longer process that it probably needed to be.  Thankfully, my Heavenly Father is patient and faithful and He doesn’t give up on me and let me grow all willy-nilly.  His purpose and plans for my life require me to grow on the supports He has put into place for me to be healthy and productive.

For me, those supports look a lot like schedules, a planner, and healthy habits.  My branching growth tends to be all over the place so God has given me structure to keep me growing in the right direction.  As I have learned to use these supportive structures, I have more growth than ever before. 

Now, I’m still working on the showing up on time and the organized purse thing, but I pray people see the fruit God is growing on my little branch that is connected to The Vine. 

God, thank you that I can be connected to your son, The True Vine. Thank you for not leaving me as I was, but putting in the work to grow me into the branch you have planned for me to be. I’m sorry for being a stubborn branch but thank you for not giving up on me. Continue to grow fruit from me as I stay connected to Jesus. God, you are amazing and I love you.

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