The Vine and the Branches. Ow.

I was reading the book of John this morning, and I came across John 15:1-2. I’ve read this before, but something about it struck me more distinctly this time. These are the words of Jesus:

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.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of pain in life. I’m one of many people who get hung up on the idealistic thought that life should/could/would (if…) be pain-free, at least relatively. And yet day after day, week after week, there’s something that pains me, something that makes me get upset or emotional, some crap that tears me down.

Then, when I read that passage, I see that Jesus says we’ve got two paths in life:

  1. Get cut off
  2. Get pruned

There is no third choice. Does that strike anyone? It sure strikes me. I keep having to relearn this over and over and over again, but the message is basically this: No matter what happens, everywhere you go and everything you do will bring you pain. That pain is either going to be the clipping shears cutting you off from the Vine, or pruning you down.

I should pray for pruning. He’ll do it, and it’ll hurt, but it’s a lot better than what happens in verse 6. And something tells me that eventually, the pruning is seen more as a gift and less as the painful, regrettable thing it might initially sound like. I mean, hey, I’ll be bearing juicy, succulent, beautiful fruit! What do I care if I’m missing a few leaves?

8 thoughts on “The Vine and the Branches. Ow.

  1. You should read the book Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. (This is the book Jars of Clay based their sophomore album Much Afraid on.) It chronicles the pains that Much-Afraid deals with as she strives to journey with the Shepherd to the High Places. There are so many beautiful passages that really relate to these thoughts you’ve been having lately. There is this one particular exerpt that I’ll post later when I can see the book! It’s so cool.

  2. This is a good reminder for the “success gospel” types, or even those that think life should be fair, but it’d also be better to remind you that if you’re being pruned or have been, it means you have some good clear, and joyful growing to do. God molds us into who he wants us to be: some of them are painful, but many more can and should be joyful.

    I know what you’re saying, I’m just saying that there are two sides of this to keep in mind! Learn from the pain, and feel the joy as well.

  3. Oh, I’ve got no problems feeling the joy. Trust me. I take every bit I can have, and I relish it.

    It’s more that I was struggling with the idea that if I could somehow do X, Y, and Z, that life would somehow become fair, or at least mostly-painless. I sometimes feel that I’m owed a mostly painless life. Not a life that is resplendent in wonderful things and personal glory (although I can’t honestly say I would hate that) but just a life that doesn’t suck at least twice a week. You know?

    It turns out life doesn’t owe me any amount of ease, and the difficulties I’m having are probably put in place by God Himself for my betterment.

    So my pain and my joy are the exact same thing. They’ve blended together into one kind of emotion. It still hurts, but it’s a healthy, cleansing kind of pain. Like the cleaning of a wound.

    No, I’m not ultra-depressed. This entry makes it sound like I’m spiraling downward into some kind of permanent slumpy moping rut. (Whatever that is.) But I’m not. It’s just that I’m seeing my imperfections very clearly. 🙂

  4. Wow. You make it sound like your in some terrible third-world country with some incurable disease and everyone you love is dead and a hurricane is about to strike and your cat ran away and….

    I think you have a pretty darn good life! And you have so many creative outlets that are open to you. What more could you really ask for?

    Reminds me of the song Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. There’s a lyric that goes:

    When everything feels like the movies
    And you bleed just to know you’re alive

    Sometimes the pain makes life more rich, more real…it helps you to feel. Or it reminds you that you are capable of feeling.

  5. Interesting. I go through my times of just taking things around me for granted, but when I really think about it, I usually feel blessed. I don’t feel like I deserve anything, and God has given me so much: security, a great family and friends, etc. I’m ofen in awe of it and wonder why it’s been given to me. I honestly don’t feel like I deserve it.

    I must have less self-esteem than you do. 😉

  6. Actually, Neal, I think your reaction shows more maturity. Being thankful is the right way to react, but instead I sometimes get stuck with “Why can’t this be better?”

    I’m workin’ on it. 🙂

  7. These comments are reminding me of The Matrix where the original version had been perfect but humans wouldn’t accept it. That movie is pulled into way too many things, but did make a lot of people do a lot of thinking about stuff like this.

  8. Jesus told us what we could expect from this world in the last verse of the next chapter (Jn. 16:33). He says that he told us “these things” so we could have peace….but in Him. Then He reminds us what we can expect from this world…what’s “normal” according to the One who made it…”trouble” is normal. But then He brings it home and tells us to “take heart” in this broken world…because He’s “overcome” it.

    Larry Crabb in his wonderful book “Inside Out” observes that “something is wrong with everything.” That book meant a great deal to me in a dark night in my soul. I recommend it. The book rightly beckons us to the One who lovingly trims our branch (for God’s glory and wonderfully, our good too – Romans 8:28) and who overcomes this dark, twised place. Anything less than Him will disappoint us.


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