My husband and I have a large potted plant named Marjorie. Trust me, I know how crazy that sounds. But we don’t have a dog, and we’re not in our baby-phase yet, so that leaves us caring for vegetation.
Neither of us are great at keeping plants alive — I am atrocious, actually, and my husband does his best. So each summer we drive Marjorie up to Minneapolis, where my father-in-law revitalizes her. We then return her to Nashville and she slowly dies throughout the rest of the year.
I couldn’t help but think of Marjorie when I read John 15 this week. In it, Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. 3 You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you.4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit” (v. 1-5a).
Jesus is the vine, we’re rooted in him, and God is the one caring for us all. When we’re attached to the vine we receive the nourishment, refreshment, and protection that we need, and the further we detach from the vine, the less we produce.
It strikes me that Jesus didn’t, in this particular text, mention the seasons and how they impact vines, branches, and us. Looking back on my spiritual journey, I can identify certain ebbs and flows in the amount of connectedness I felt to the vine. Some phases of my spiritual life have actually mirrored Marjorie’s: I had a spike in how energized, connected, and faithful I felt, which was often followed a few months later by a phase of spiritual chill, dehydration, or exhaustion.
I have experienced those feelings of “belonging to the vine” after positive and uplifting events, such as conferences, camps, and retreats, in which I am able to focus on my relationships with God, others, and myself. I have also entered into phases of deep closeness with God in the midst of trial and anxiety. I obviously prefer the former rather than the latter, but regardless, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly God revitalizes me when I draw close.
Last week my husband attempted to water Marjorie, and realized that she had become derascinated — she basically un-vined herself. We now face the task of re-potting her. I can think back on phases of my spiritual life when I had essentially felt derascinated. The beauty of the John 15 text, though, is that it reminds us that “my Father is the vineyard keeper.” Regardless of how unrooted we become, how unsure and distant and far away we feel, God grafts us back in, reconnects us, and nourishes us back to life. So remain near, and know that the closer you stay, the deeper your roots will grow, and the more fruit you will produce.