"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 and I will 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. I am the vine; you are the branches, if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
I'm not a hoarder but I'm closely related by blood to a serious, card-carrying pack rat. Though she is long gone now, her influence remains, and if I'm not careful, I will find myself continuing the tradition. As I get older, and maybe a little wiser I've actually moved away from the tendency to keep something "just in case". Maybe wisdom has nothing to do with it; maybe I'm just a lot less tolerant of all the stuff that must be stored, dusted, walked around, moved out of the way, etc. For the last several years I've kept a box in my office at home that is the keeper of the junk. When the box is full it is taken out of my house and to someone -Goodwill, Chipola Family Ministries - that can use it.
It feels good to purge and share. Somehow, though, no matter how much we get rid of, there's always more. A lot more! It never fails, that when I get back home from taking away the box, I walk in the house and see something else that I don't need. Sigh. Will it ever end? Probably not. I have a lot of stuff. We all do, don't we?
I thought about this as I was reading the verses about Jesus being the vine and me being a branch. I thought about it because there is such a sharp contrast sometimes between the condition of my home - and heart - and the orderliness of a well-tended vineyard. Look at the picture at the top of this post. The vines are planted in straight rows with the branches carefully tied up off the ground. The grass between the rows is kept cut down and neatly trimmed giving the tenders of the vines ample room to reach every part of the plant to prune and tend it. Fruit is easily visible and easy to harvest at the right time. Dead or dying branches are easily cut-off and discarded which keeps the rest of the vine healthy and productive.
If you haven't read Secrets of the Vine, by Bruce Wilkinson you really should sometime. Jesus used the example of the vineyard in his teaching because it was simple and something that the people understood. This book brings the whole process to life for those of us without experience tending a vineyard. It's amazing to see the parallels to the Christian life.
Just like I'm constantly taking things out of my home that are no longer needed - sometimes have never been needed - I think that Jesus wants to be constantly at work in my heart and life, taking things out, trimming out the dead and useless things that I somehow let into my heart. For me it's a holistic kind of thing: the more orderly my personal space at home, the less I have to struggle to hear God speak to me about the really personal space of my heart.
I'm not saying that you can't hear God speak to you if your house is a mess. I am saying that God is a God of order, not chaos. We are made in his image. If the condition of your home is a constant source of distraction, frustration and anxiety for you, those feelings may keep you from listening like you need to because you feel the chaos there.
Think about it. What do you have in your home that you haven't used or worn in a year, 6 months, ever? What do you have in your home that is so buried under other things that you haven't even seen it since you moved in - 10 years ago? Would you be better at writing a note of encouragement to someone if you could find your note cards, and a pen that worked, and a clean surface to write on? Would it be easier to cook a quick meal for someone at the last minute if your pantry was organized and well-stocked? Would it be easier to have someone over for dinner to welcome them to the neighborhood or your Sunday School class if your dining room table wasn't stacked with stuff that had no place to go, and your couch wasn't piled with laundry?
Don't you wish there was a verse that said something like: "Thou shalt not get personal about thy neighbors' stuff?"
Oh wait, here's one more...
Would it be easier to have a regular family time if your calendar were not so full of other commitments?
Okay, I'm done here.
My point is, part of tending a grapevine to keep it fruitful is cutting out the dead stuff. It's just there taking up space and diverting nutrients and leaving the vine open to attack by disease and pests. Jesus does the pruning of our lives and hearts. The other point of this is that we are holistic beings. It's very hard to have order in one part of our lives and live with chaos in another.
We can all stand to simplify our lives a little. There is nothing wrong with not having every moment of every day planned and full. Where is the time to just "be still and know that I am God?"
Ask God to show you how you can simplify your life. Ask him to show you the things that get in the way of your focus on him. God has plans for all of us. I don't want to miss an opportunity because my life was too full of other 'good' things.
This is not about feeling guilty because we're busy. It's about making sure that the things that keep us busy do not keep us from the things that God has for us that make life abundant and meaningful. Let the vine-dresser do a little pruning in your life during this season of Lent. Don't be afraid of it, welcome it and embrace it. You know that you can trust him to take out what is not healthy for you and replace it with something excellent.
What's going in your burn pile?
I have prayed for you today.