By Ruth Susan Bullard
My great-grandmother transplanted a few vines on her property as a young woman and allowed them to flourish in her lifetime. Those beautiful bunches of red-concord grapes produced some wine and much canned preservatives throughout the generations. Yet, for me, it was an early visual aide to help understand the Fruit of the Spirit; Galatians Ch. 5 in relation to John Ch. 15; The True Vine.
I was familiar enough with this type of setting to have John Ch. 15 resonate in a metaphorical display as I got to see firsthand the expected growth pattern for a new babe in Christ and their progression to healthy adulthood as a comparison to a thriving vineyard. Even in my youth, during times of classroom teaching on this Scripture passage, I often reflected back to my grandmother’s vines. I know the effort and care it takes to prune, graft and tie down a row to help yield its worth come harvest time.
In the initial verses of this chapter there is a distinction between the Father and the Son. “I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman.” It’s clear that the Father is in charge. Without the nurture and care of its caretaker/gardener, a vineyard will not bear much nor adequate fruit. In addition, there’s a difference between the Vine and the branches too. John 15:4 “…the branch cannot bear fruit of itself; except it abide in the vine;…”. I’d like to remind myself that the vine is similar to the root system of a plant as referenced in other passages such as found in Romans 11:16-18. Verse 16 shares that the (healthy) plant with its root, branch will yield its own kind (fruit) and the branch cannot brag of itself since it gets a life source from the root. There’s a disciplined training underway here that will eventually result in the evidence of abiding in the True Vine by expressing the Fruit of the Spirit of Gal. Ch. 5:22-23; “…love, joy, peace, forbearance, gentleness and self-control…”.
In early spring, a newly grafted vine looks like it must be suffering. The entire plant appears to be in a very uncomfortable state. That’s why being grafted in and tied down needs the skill of the caretaker. It takes some delicate pruning with those shears to snip just enough to get rid of the dead twigs and foliage and a gentle touch to bend the branches without snapping off a vital part. Wire and a bit of tape may be used, as well, to transplant a new shoot to another area of the vine to get better sustenance to aide in its early growth. It’s a little wet around those wounds as they’re checked regularly for that callous knob to form at the incision sight to ensure its heath. Aww, but no matter how it looks, it’s clean now with no obstacles and room to stretch out in a new way and possibly a different direction too. Actually, it’s an exciting time filled with much hope for the future harvest.
As the months pass, and with a few steps back to view the entire miniature vineyard, it’s obvious to see the branch and the vine are now all intertwined. It’s unified as ONE. The source of the vitality and its strength is hard to find because it’s difficult to tell where the branch or the vine begins and/or ends, and only then can it truly bear much fruit. John Ch. 15:16 “…that ye should go and bring forth fruit…”. Some days we’re better at siphoning from the Vine the needed supply to keep us well fed while pushing the nutrients further for our growth to the tips of our very extremities. Then suddenly, a blossom or two appears or three shoots grow from OUR branch that may stay or need to be snipped and placed elsewhere for its maximum growth. It’s just a matter of time, because fruit doesn’t lie. Matt. 7:16-20 “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” It’s a confident security in the Caretaker and His plan. Now that’s exciting!
Some of the fondest seasons of my life were during the times that I could spend early mornings with my Lord among the few vines that we had left. Sadly, that generation is long gone now, and with it, the vines too. I’ve learned some hard things there. Nevertheless, I love to reminisce of our former walks there and to ponder with great anticipation for His next steps. As a grafted branch, the training seems too intense at times, the pruning somewhat painful but all of it is very necessary to produce what the Creator designed the Plant for,… fruit! Psalm 1:1-3.
The Fruit Bearer
Early in the morning before the first light, I peek through my window and view such a moonlit sight. The field just beyond my pane displays rows of young and mighty soldiers naïve of their soon journey through pain. They’re neat and tidy now – proud as trimmed vines should be. Although, not really knowing of the trials that await them as a disciplined vineyard they shall be! This army cast out as far as the eye can see reminds me of these,…
Springtime, when it’s filled with youthful energy! Then the roars of summer’s heartache suffering sore. Nor any sooner shall come harvest time, “my favorite zest-time,” filled with days of hot cups of tea while enjoying the vineyard’s nice cool breeze. Winter is time for rest. Yes, much deserved rest indeed.
Yet, here I gaze out beyond my windowpane. I consider the days to be. If one weary troubled vine, I see, should struggle with such uncertainty, would grieve me enough to dress and head-out to care for the vines every morning before the first light.
Ruth Susan Bullard