I’ve shared before about the lessons I’ve learned about discipleship from being an amateur vinedresser. This year I got another lesson, and a very timely one.
Our vines seemed to be doing well this year, almost flourishing (except on the side that is regrowing, but even that was doing well enough.) I noticed that some vines were intertwining among the forsythia that grows nearby, even extending through the pine that stands over by the road. The vine was reaching almost two stories up the branches! I’d known that the vines had grown wild around the property before we moved in, and figured that some roots had sprouted. I thought little about the rogue vines – I had no intention of trying to cultivate them.
When the clusters ripened on the tended vines, I was a bit surprised at how modest our harvest was. The grapes were all good, with little lost to mold or other damage, there were just fewer clusters than I’d expected. Even last year we’d been able to get three jam batches out of fewer vines; this year we just made two. It was good jam, there just wasn’t as much as I’d been expecting.
It was when I was doing one of the last lawn mowings of the season that I almost tripped (literally) on the issue with the scant yield: a rather sizable stem shooting from the roots of my cultivated vines over into the base of the forsythia. I’m accustomed to roots and low-running stems around the base of the vines, but this seemed like a much longer stem. I examined the stem, and thought about how relatively few grapes I’d harvested, and considered how bountiful and flourishing those rogue vines were, and then went for my axe.
My vines had sprouted a fruitless offshoot that had gone mad all summer. It wasn’t the wild growth that was the problem, it was the fact that the wild growth had taken place at the expense of the crop. Those vines are cultivated and tended to produce fruit, not to grow as many leaves and stems as possible in the neighboring hedge. Water and nutrients that had been supposed to grow grapes had instead been wasted on useless growth. Of course, the vine can hardly be blamed – plants grow wherever and however they can – but I certainly learned a lesson, and will be much more vigilant about excess growth in the future.
But the incident made me mindful of Isaiah 5 – the song of the vineyard. The Master of the vineyard is no rookie like I am. He knows how to expertly watch and trim vines so there is no rogue growth. But we humans are not like vines – we have free will. If we choose to, we can send the “shoots” of our imagination, our resources, or effort off into fruitless realms, neglecting the fruit of good deeds and moral effort that is expected of us. So, as I splintered the stem that had been feeding the wild vine growth, I wondered how much of my life is like that – parts of me sprouting off to do what I want to do, even thinking I’m doing well because Look At All My Leaves!, but totally missing what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Where is the fruit of charity that the Father expects when He comes for His harvest? Will it be bountiful because I was diligent, or scant because I was distracted doing other things that I found more immediately rewarding?
I spotted the rogue vine today, withering among the forsythia branches. I had no sympathy for it – it had been worse than useless. But I also thought of John 15:2, and wondered what kind of branch I was, and would be judged to be.