One of my most pleasant childhood memories is lying on the bench beneath Grandma’s grape arbor on a hot summer day and munching on fresh grapes. Years later, when I was moving to a vineyard in Italy, I envisioned many comfy benches to lie on. To my shock, we arrived to what looked like barren fields. Only the tiniest stubbly heads appeared above the roots. It was explained to me that the vines were cut back to the ground each year after the harvest to increase their yield. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but it was a fruitful field.
When the growing season began, I was amazed at how quickly the roots gave birth to new vines beneath the warm Tuscan sun. Their tendrils reached out quickly through the fields, and where there had been barren earth, suddenly there was lush new growth and green grapes that would produce wonderful wine.
As I remember Tuscany, John 15 comes to mind: “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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”1
I am a very poor gardener because I hate to prune my plants. I let my rose bushes grow to ungainly heights. I shoo away every tree trimmer who comes to the door wanting to trim our trees. I let my perennials grow wild. I like the runaway growth of living things and don’t like to be the judge of what to cut.
But it is pretty clear in John 15 that God knows about vine trimming. If we don’t bear fruit, He cuts. When we do bear fruit, He prunes. Either way, He takes action.
There are times the rug gets ripped out from under us, and He’s all we have left to stand on. The unexpected knocks us for a loop; tragedy, illness, betrayal or failure give us a sucker punch, and we feel all of those beautiful leafy branches being ripped away, until all that is left is a stubbly, chopped-up root in some seemingly barren ground.
But then, the time is right. The sun shines down. Rain falls. We realize that we have all we need in Him, and the miracle of new life and growth begins.