Don: Do you remember your very first job? My very first job as a dishwasher was not that glorious. I have both wonderful and brutal memories of it.
It’s interesting if we look at scriptures in Genesis, the very first job that we, as humans had collectively, were gardeners. We took care of the trees, we watched the animals. There’s something about our early connection in and around a garden with trees. There’s something about the nature of how trees grow, what nourishes them. What does it mean to cultivate something in an organic and beautiful, healthy way? Trees are both wild and fruitful. And yet there’s a way that we are to be in relationship with those wild and fruitful things.
The first house that I owned, I lived in the East Valley, and I was pretty excited to be a homeowner, and the front yard had horrible non-landscaping. I talked to a friend of mine who picked out a tree for me, put some grass down, and gave me instructions. Dig a nice deep well around this tree and water it every seven to 10 days.
As I began to dig this well, the soil was really hard and really exhausting. So I gave up pretty quickly and decided I would water it a little more often. And so about a year later, he came back over to my house and looked over at the tree. I was pretty happy with the tree. It had grown! It had gotten established, and he took me over to, and he goes, Wooster, what have you done to this tree? And I told him, “Dan, I’ve taken good care of the tree. I water it a couple of times a week. I mean, I’ve really paid attention to this tree.”
And he goes, “you have been watering it twice a week. Why would you do that?
And I say, “because I care about the tree, and I want it to grow.”
And he says, “have you noticed where these roots are? They’re all on the surface because roots go to where the water is. Your constant and shallow watering has drawn the roots up to the surface. This tree might’ve grown, but it’s not well established. I asked you to dig a well and water it so that that water would slowly drip down deeper, and the roots would follow it. You’ve kind of done a disservice by putting so much on the surface that these roots haven’t gone deeper.”
This is the same concept that we’ve been talking about in our lives and activities; they’ve gotten narrower. Some of our normal activities have kept us spread out from each other. Things that used to take a lot of our time, attention, and went in multiple directions have really been edited down.
Let’s talk about that surface kind-of-rootedness that keeps us busy and active – not that those things in and of themselves are bad, but they’re pretty surface-y. They go in a lot of different directions.
I wanna know…have we missed something in being so extended on the surface but maybe not drawn as deep in terms of our system? Renee, what do you think about that?
Renee: Well, it makes me think about this last year that we’ve had. It was unprecedented. A tornado came through in our area in Arizona, and we had a tree that was completely taken out by the winds and storm. When we woke up the next day, it was such an astonishing picture of a tree being pulled out from the ground that I couldn’t orient myself to understand what had happened.
But obviously, the tree didn’t have deep enough roots for it to withstand the storm. I think that anytime we come into our own storm, we realize that our roots are not as deep as we thought they were.
There’s a verse that we were looking at in John 15:1. Jesus is making this statement. He said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit. But while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”
I think that that identification of Jesus claiming to be the real vine, not the fake vine, not the wannabe vine, not the looks like a vine, but the real source of the vine, is something that has life in it. It can impart that life into what’s attached to it. And Jesus said, I’m that true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
The other word that’s used there says that my Father is the husbandmen. Meaning, my Father is the husband of the vine. He cares for it, tends to it, and loves it in a way that’s about developing its potential. It’s interesting that out of that love, he cuts off every branch that bears no fruit. While every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes. Which is also cutting.
You ask yourself, “well, if you’re a branch that bears fruit, shouldn’t you get a trophy? Or a sticker or a high five? A branch that bears fruit still gets cut back. Where do you put that in your life and experience, Renee?
Renee: Well, I think that’s an interesting part. The word in there that’s interesting to me is “cares.” That the branches he cares for he prunes and vice versa. So He is actually caring for us. When something is pruned, we mostly think about the bareness of it: what is being taken away?
I feel like right now, I’m very aware of what is being taken away from me. But what this is talking about is the care of the husbandman. Right? That’s care. That’s cultivation. It’s awareness of the directions we might go in with our branches. Like what you were saying, Don, that the roots go out too wide, that we don’t get to actually enjoy the true vine. And if we’re not enjoying the thing that God has given us to be true, that is of goodness, then we’ve gotten too far out in the wrong way.
But if He’s trimming, I think I’m mostly worried about what he’s going to take away or what I won’t get to do. We are used to a limitless place. A place where we think that we can do all things, be all things, be all people to all places. We’re also told that we can do all things and that it doesn’t cost us personally.
It’s kind of interesting too because I think about the experience of being pruned. Maybe you’re not being cut off, but you’re certainly being cut back.
I think about all the summers we’ve spent in Santa Barbara and going over the Hill to see wine country. The fruit is hanging, and the crush is coming up, and so those grapes in the vineyard look glorious. Just those grapes make the whole presentation. It’s majestic, inspiring, and beautiful. And I remember one year, we were at a Young Life event, it was wintertime. We drove back to the wine country to see those beautiful, fruitful vines were carved back to just a dead looking post. There was no fruitful summer presentation. Instead, the grounds, in all it’s beauty and inspiration was gone and it looked so restricted.
It looked as though maybe everything had died. I remember that we stopped and talked to some folks that were tending to the vines. It made me think that the vinedresser, out of a sense of real love, commitment, and cultivation, had come back to his vines.
What we know about pruning is that when you prune back branches, you actually stimulate the capacity for a plant or a vine to be more productive and more fruitful. When it’s going out in all directions, some of those branches are unproductive. It dissipates and loses its ability to bear the fruit, the best fruit. Why is that?
Because it’s so spread out and over-producing buds, which makes the quality of the fruit dissipate. When you cut some off, it’s being cultivated, and the growth is being directed. It also lets airing, blocks any infestations or disease and also shapes it into a structure that can be most healthy and fruitful. So the Vine Dresser can bring all these benefits in the long run, but the pruning process is still cutting back.
Renee: so what happens if the wild vine just goes wild and you don’t ever trim back?
If there’s no pruning or cultivation, it goes everywhere. It’s entangled.
Don: if you leave a vine undressed, it will grow over and on top of itself. It will send shoots everywhere. The shape of the vine and its ability to receive sunlight on the fruit will be diminished. It also opens up for other infestations of animals and insects that can get in underneath and do damage. The overall fruitfulness of a wild vine will continue to diminish. It will mostly be leaves and thickets with very little fruit if it’s not cultivated.
So there’s a real art in dressing a vine. There’s real meaning. There’s real purpose in that pruning that’s about the fruitfulness of the vine itself.
I remember our first year being married and going to a winery. We were talking to one of the tour guides, and they had planted some recent vineyards that were going to be their estate wines. They had a general watering system for their general harvest grapes, but they had individual watering bubblers on each of these estate vines.
I remember asking the tour guide about these bubblers, “is this to make sure that these estate grapes get lots of water? Or is that why they have an individual bubbler?” And he goes, “actually the vinedresser knows exactly how to keep these vines appropriately distressed.”
I remember it stuck in my brain because the Vine Dresser knows how to keep the vines appropriately distressed. He says, “these vines are thirsty. They don’t have a ton of water to absorb, so there’s a higher sugar content making these grapes sweeter. You get the sweetest fruit from the thirstiest vines.
You and I were in a really thirsty place the first year of marriage, sorting through a whole bunch of things. I was a thirsty vine. You were thirsty vine. And it struck me: God must be producing something sweet because he’s keeping us appropriately thirsty. It was just a little deposit. It was just a little grace. We were there to sample and to have a date, but I think there’s truth in there.
I don’t think it’s a mistake that God identifies himself as the True Vine and His Father as the Vine Dresser. He is inviting us to abide in the vine so that our lives would have this full fruit – that we would have a life in us and a life that goes beyond us.
Renee: when you think about the Husbandmen, the Vine Dresser, He is the one who cultivates the true vine. He brings us back to the True Vine. In our life, I think about how many times that I didn’t enjoy being pruned, but it was actually the grace of God that brought us back to what’s central and necessary.
Who do we trust? Who do we believe? What can we rely on? What can we do? We’re not God. We’re not in charge.
I think during the pruning process, a lot of foundational things get relayed inside of us. When we come back to the True Vine, to the central place of being appropriately distressed and thirsty, we find out what’s really true in our life. Right?
Don: I broke a little bit that the day at the vineyard because I was asking myself, why am I thirsty? What is being pruned? I realized I’m being pruned because God was not present in any attentive way in me. I believed that God did not care for me, or I was not valuable. The weight and belief that I was thirsty and being pruned because of some defect in me or some disinterest in God weighed very heavy on me.
The Vine Dresser is intentionally pruning us all the way back to just the core for some future. I think he’s keeping us thirsty because he’s creating something sweet in us. It’s only a little handle to hold on to.
Renee: I love the idea that the vinedresser is the one who’s shaping us, and it’s not us. It’s not us accomplishing or striving to become more, but it’s the vinedresser in us returning to the True Vine. He’s the one who’s shaping what is necessary for our life and bringing us back.
So as we finish this, we have a couple of questions that we would love for you to talk about.
What is God pruning in your life? Are you aware of what he is trimming? It’d be a good question to ask yourself and have a conversation with each other in.
And then the second question is, what messages do you have about your thirst? What messages do you have about God caring for you right now?
We all carry messages inside of us about our thirst and being pruned. Do you know what those messages are that you’re carrying?
We’d love for you to ask those two questions and have a good conversation on that. Be aware that we have the True Vine available to us. We have a Vine Dresser who is caring for us, cultivating, looking at, shaping us into a place where the most fruit will come, where we have the sweetest fruit in this season.
Thank you for joining us. We love that we get to be with you! See you next time.