“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.” John 15:1-3 ESV
My husband and I have both been blessed with amazing dads. Unfortunately, we get to see our extended families less because everyone else now lives in different states than us because of moving here to southern Idaho. We probably get to see Chris’s dad the most frequent because he comes through town on his way to take care of his aging mom who lives in Missoula, MT a few times a year. We all love it when he comes through for a night, but unfortunately Chris usually works the night shift at the hospital while his dad is here so it is up to me and the kids to entertain Papa.
One such evening when Gary was here, Chris was at work, and the kids were tucked into bed, Gary and I had a great conversation about John 15 that will probably forever change the way I view that particular passage of scripture. You see, not only is my father-in-law an amazing woodworker and musician, he also spent numerous years in the wine industry. He sold wine and tried to educate those of us novices trying to buy wine (without a clue for me!) at our local grocery store. Gary has amazing knowledge about wines, wineries, and the process of making wines.
In our conversation, Gary was unpacking the section of scripture in John 15 where Jesus is speaking and He calls Himself the true vine and God the father the vinedresser. Gary told me that there are still “vinedressers” used in today’s process of growing grapes for wine–they are called vintners. It is the job of the vintner to take care of the overall process of making wine. They oversee every step–including the harvest of grapes and the health of the vines from which those grapes come.
Apparently, the vintner comes through and prunes each grape vine–sometimes up to 75% or more of the potential harvest. (I don’t know about you, but that seemed counter productive to me, “Hey, I want to grow grapes so I’m going to cut off 3/4 of them!”) What the vintner knows (and apparently I don’t!) and why they do this is huge to understanding how and why God calls Himself a vinedresser/vintner in our lives. The vintner knows that if all of the grapes are left to ripen on the vine the ultimate health and longevity of the vine itself is in jeopardy. If a large amount of fruit is left on the vine to ripen it can suck so much energy from the vine that it won’t produce any fruit the following year. Or, even worse, if all the fruit is left to ripen on the vine it can even pull so much energy from the vine that it ultimately kills the vine itself.
I don’t know why, but before this conversation I always thought Jesus was talking about salvation–those who didn’t believe would be pruned off of the vine and those who did believe would be pruned back to produce more fruit. But now I know that this was the wrong way to look at this passage. Verse three says, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” Now that I read this, I think what Jesus is saying is not about ultimate salvation because we’re already “clean.” What I think He is truly talking about is different parts of us that need to be pruned–hobbies, ministries, daily life–that we can pour our time and energy into, but not everything bears fruit.
God, in His foreknowledge of how He made me, knows how I best work. He knows what He has put inside of my body, head, heart, and experiences for me to use for His glory. God doesn’t want me doing everything that comes my way. In fact, God doesn’t want me doing every good thing that comes my way. God wants me to only do the things that He knows He has created me to do. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” ~Eph. 2:10 NIV (emphasis my own).
I know now that this is another look at how the body of Christ really works together. Not all of us were called to be the eyes of the body. Nor were we all created to be the spleen. Some of us are hidden, some are readily seen. But all of us together doing our own part and job make up the body of Christ in action. No one person can do all the jobs. We each have to walk in step with the Lord to know what good work He has set up for us to walk in each day. Sometimes this concept is hard. I have said it before on this blog, but I’ll say again that I hate it when I have to tell others no. I don’t love conflict; I don’t love letting people down. But, ultimately God has not asked me to wear myself out pleasing everyone but Him. No where in the bible does it call anyone to run until they drop dead with exhaustion–on the contrary God calls all of us to observe a day of rest each week. (More on that at a later time!)
What I’m getting at and what I’m saying is that we need to keep learning, growing, and pushing into the Word of God because we will find guidance for our hobbies, time, and lives that is worth something to God (yes, even our board gaming habit is worth something to God)! I teach my boys some of the catechisms (questions and answers of theological significance to the foundations of our faith) and I think they have stuck with me more than them. One of the first questions is, “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, why are we here?! And the answer is, “To glorify God.” What do I love to do that can be used in some way by God to glorify His name? Can I fish with a buddy who doesn’t know God and could use a good friend? Can I start a board game night in my house and break bread with friends who need love and encouragement? Can I use a musical talent to bless others inside or outside the church walls? Only you and God know what He has placed inside of you and He knows best how to bring it out of you to glorify–bring honor and praise–to His name.
I don’t know about you, but I am more and more willing to allow God to prune things out of my life because I’m tired of being tired. I’m worn out and done with doing everything I think I should, could, would, and need to do. I simply need to be Leah–the Leah God created me to be. And by simply walking with Him and allowing Him to work in and through my life, I will learn that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)
Dear Lord, thanks for showing us the process of the vintner. Thank You for not leaving me to do everything on my own. Thank You for pruning my life even though it is at times painful, because I really want to bear good fruit for You. I pray, Lord, that I grow closer to You so that I get better at knowing what good works You have set before me every day. Please help me to let go of any false guilt in not doing what You didn’t not intend for me to do. Please help me to heed any real guilt you are allowing me to feel to motivate me into something I wouldn’t normally choose for myself. Amen