John 15 begins: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” It continues the metaphor by describing us as branches. We are either connected to the vine and are fruitful (our behavior follows Jesus’ command for us to love others as He loved us) or we wither and are cut from the vine.
This passage made me think about the annual cycle for fruit-bearing trees. We had a grapefruit tree when we lived in Gainesville, FL, so I watched its cycle over several seasons. In the spring, small fragrant blooms appeared (they smelled exactly like Fruit Loops to me). Eventually, small dark green fruit appeared that eventually grew into impossibly large grapefruits. Our spindly little tree’s branches could barely support their weight (this is a great picture of what God will do through us if we simply focus on obedience and get out of the way). After this growing season, though, the fruit disappeared and, by winter, the tree looked dead for all intents and purposes.
I knew this was simply part of the tree’s yearly growth cycle. I knew that the following season the tree trunk would be larger, the branches would spread further, and more fruit would appear. I wonder, however, if the tree was frustrated? Did the tree think that its fruit bearing days were over? Did it feel like its usefulness had been exhausted each winter?
Are you in a time when you do not see fruit on your branches? Maybe God is simply strengthening you for tremendous growth in the next season. On the other hand, maybe you need to let some things go to focus on those activities that will be fruitful. If you are following Jesus, then you are in a growth cycle whether your current circumstances suggest spring or winter. As John 15:2 tells us, the gardener is continually working on each branch.
…every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.