On my recent travels to Vancouver, I was in awe of the tremendous amount of greenery. Being from Arizona, we just don't see the same tall expanse of trees, thick undergrowth, and velvety carpets of green moss everywhere. On one particular path we explored, something caught my eye. It was a simple vine of ivy, trailing up along the steep walls of a sheer face of stone. As far up as I looked, nothing else seemed to have any root - just this small ivy vine. Yet, it was green, firmly rooted and heading upward!
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples. (John 15: 5-8 The Message)
What amazed me most was the ability of this little vine to find "connection" in the side of this sheer rock. Yet, in the tiniest of crags, this little vine took root. Looking around on other parts of the trail, I observed many such vines, fully engulfing these "barren" stone faces, until they became lush green blankets of leafy growth. This little vine has the same potential - because it obtained a footing - in this footing, it took root, and in the manner of all "vining" species, it is headed UP!
Now, let's examine our scripture. Jesus says he is the Vine - we are his branches. We are "connected" to him - maybe it is only by taking root in the crag of a very rocky place at first, but we take root. In the connection, we are given the opportunity to take on full growth! The relation is intimate and organic. Intimate because we experience the closeness of his breath as he breathes new life into our lives. Organic because there is a connection to that which gives life!
This little vine will do well, unless it is dislodged from its connection. We do well unless something disturbs our connection. There are many sources of "disturbance" which influence our connection. Regardless of the source of disturbance, we must guard carefully the connection we have with Christ.
I don't want us to lose sight of where this vine is growing. It is stemming from a small crack in a very hard place. Think about this for a moment. Where does most of the growth in our lives come? Is it not from the hard and cold places in life? You bet! In the most unlikely places, growth has the greatest potential.
Look again at the vine. It is headed upward. I could have chosen to trail downward on this sheer surface. Yet, it chose the upward direction for its growth. Why is this? I think it chose to turn toward the sun! Now, if our connection is made in Christ, we begin to take root, wouldn't it be a shame if we chose some other direction than being headed toward the Son?
Jesus reminds us of the importance of making ourselves "at home" in him. This little ivy was definitely "at home" on the side of this sheer rock. Even though the place of barrenness seemed to be without life, there was something of hope expressed to me in this little vine. It gave me hope of always being "at home" when I remained connected, was facing the Son, and was committed to my growth.
I don't know what "hard place" you may find yourself in. I don't know how "barren" your life may feel at this moment. The sheer face of this rock was quite cool to the touch. This is often the case with the hard places in our lives - they are cold, hard, and just don't appear to be very promising. Yet...in determining to focus upward, we can realize our greatest potential for growth. In time, the small crag in the hard place can become the greatest "footing" for our connection to the source of all life!
So, hold on! Cling tight to the one who gives life! The barrenness will not overcome you - - you shall overcome it, in the care of the Master of all hard places! May God bring good things from this hard place!