The Vine and the Gardener

I wanted to write this month about new life, about rebirth. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s Carol’s birthday this week. And life is something to be celebrated, not just once a year, but every day. It’s when we wait to say how much someone means to us that we risk the possibility of waiting too long.

Yet, as I was doing my research for this devotional, I was reflect on the winery that I enjoy working at. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s powerful imagery here that I’m still dwelling on, hoping it will shape itself into some kind of coherent teaching lesson or article. Who knows?

Many of us are familiar with John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Less familiar, perhaps, are the verses that lead up to it. In it, Jesus talks about the work of the gardener, before the vine can bear fruit. I know from firsthand experience that when a new vine is planted, it goes through many difficulties that must feel unnatural to it.

The first 3 years, as it tries to bear fruit, the vintner comes along and cuts off the fruit before it can ripen.

The vine must think it unusually cruel. Yet, the vintner knows that to create a vine that is wind-resistant and drought-resistant, it needs to put forth all of its energy into thickening the trunk and deepening the roots.

To allow it to expend its energy on bearing fruit means that ultimately the vine is at greater risk to future hardships.

And, in the future, when the vine is finally allowed to bear fruit, the vintner comes along and cuts off many of the branches that aren’t bearing fruit. In that way, now all the energy can go into creating the best fruit possible.

John 15 starts in this way, with Jesus telling disciples at the close of the Last Supper,

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, as I also 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.

He essentially forewarns them that they would be tempted to shrink from their apostleship when they met with hardships. The pain of pruning in the form of the ill will of the world would seem harsh and unfair to them.

He assured them that as long as they remained in him and he in them, they would be fruitful.

The gardener, Father God, would care for them, according to their need and maturity. In the early years, yes, he’d focus on building strength, stamina and the other characteristics they needed to bear good fruit. But when they finally become of fruit-bearing age, he would cut away everything else, allowing them to do what he’d been nurturing them to do.

There’s a lesson for us in that…

Not just as Christians, but as writers.

When we start writing, it can seem to be such a struggle at times to get started, to write well, to edit ourselves, to take criticism and make something better, to put our work out there and face rejection over and over and over again.

Yet, when the time comes…

When we’ve been nurtured and grown in the ways that God can use us best, each according to our own gifts and talents, then he lets us loose and strips away the fluff that had distracted and dissuaded us before.

As writers, we need to do the same. We need to be “the gardener” for our own works. As we write, are we seeking to improve; to become better at what we do? And as we focus on honing our craft, are we open to the time when we’re now ready to take the training wheels off, and fully take flight?

Learn to strip away the fluff. Be real and authentic in what you write, even if it’s fiction, seek to write the best fiction possible. Create characters that the reader simply wants to get to know better, and wants to spend more time with.

Ultimately, use the fruit that you bear to showcase the work of the master gardener, and give thanks for all that he has done.

About Tara

Tara R. Alemany is a best-selling author and speaker. Her books include "The Plan that Launched a Thousand Books," "The Character-Based Leader," "My Love to You Always," "Celebrating 365 Days of Gratitude," and her latest title "The Best is Yet to Come."

In her spare time, Tara is a recognized thought leader who runs Aleweb Social Marketing, does her best to raise her two teenagers, and serves on two Boards of Directors. She is also Chaplain of her local Word Weavers chapter, and is a black belt in Tang Soo Do.

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