Just recently, I hosted a dinner party at my house. Although I'm not huge on traditional decorations for Christmas like lights and a tree and all the other bells and whistles (I don't decorate at all, really), I did decide on the traditional, seasonal Poinsettia for the centerpiece on the dinner table since we were in the Christmas season. It was the perfect finishing touch. It added that special spunk to the table's décor.
Some days prior to the dinner as I was getting everything in place, I sat the Poinsettia on the table for the first time. I noticed that there was an open space on one side of the plant that looked like it could use one or two more flowers and a few more leaves to make it look more full. It wasn't as plush as I thought it could've been. So I began to gingerly fluff and gently pull and reposition some of the blossoms and leaves with hopes of filling the gap. There wasn't much I could do, of course, because the plant had already grown as it should and it was potted for its final presentation. It was as it would be. If I wanted to do any rearranging to fill a gap, I'd need to repot the plant, and THAT wasn't happening! To anything even remotely close to gardening, even as simple as repotting a plant, I say, "No, thanks. I'm good."
Besides, the gap wasn't so bad that the plant looked unhealthy. It wasn't enough to make me completely toss the plant as the centerpiece option. It was just enough that it bothered me, though, so I just kept fluffing and pulling. And as I was pulling one of the tender branches toward that open space, with hopes of it staying right where I positioned it, I heard a small snap. The branch had broken.
"Ugh," I thought. "Good job, I. Now it's REALLY gonna have an opening." Without even thinking, and still a bit crazed with wanting to have a full, plush plant, rather than tossing the branch that I KNEW wouldn't survive because it had been disconnected from its life source, I took the branch with its beautiful red blossom and green leaves and stuck it down into the soil, right where I thought it would be perfect. And it WAS perfect! It was finally full and plush!
And it looked good for a couple days...until the inevitable happened.
At that moment when I heard the branch snap, I could hear John 15:1 & 15:4-8 playing over and over in my heart as I placed that detached branch into the soil. I knew the branch, its blossom and its leaves would die. I knew they wouldn't survive because they couldn't. It was impossible. The branch had been detached from its main life-giving source. Over and over and over I heard Jesus' words...
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 4 Remain in me, as I also 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. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fine and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
I began to assess my own life. The Lord was certainly speaking to ME. I did a personal examination of my connection to The Vine. I asked myself, and I ask you, "Are you connected? How connected are you? Are you as connected as you once were? Is your branch barely hanging on? Does your branch have any fruit, blossoms, and/or leaves that people can see and KNOW that you are Christ's disciple? Or are you disconnected? Are you merely stuck down in the soil near the vine, attempting to suck up its nutrients but suffering and withering because you're not fully attached? Are you trying to plant yourself near the vine to try and look like the other branches and look like you're connected?"
I had to remind myself like I've had to literally EVERY DAY for over a year, that no matter how frustrated I may be with the foolishness I've seen in the past few years in the church and with the body of believers, I MUST stay connected to HIM. I can be as frustrated and as turned off with the church as I want, but I cannot disconnect from The Vine. HE is my life-giving source, and just like The Word says in John, if I remain in Him, I will bear much fruit, but if I don't remain in Him, I'll be like a branch that's thrown away and withers. I can't plant myself near the vine and hide behind the other branches in my church or in my family and expect to live. And it doesn't matter how long I plant myself near the vine. If I'm not fully connected, I won't bear fruit, and I WILL wither and die (spiritually).
My heart's greatest desire is to represent Christ like he should be represented. He is love and He's intentional with His love. He is giving. He is truth. He is selfless. He is forgiving. And when I decided to connect to His Vine, I decided that I wanted to feed on His nutrients and grow to look just like Him. Fruit is representative of the tree (vine) from whence it came. Who/What are you connected to? What does your fruit look like? Are you connected to THE Vine?