Now that August is here, I thought it might be interesting to give you a pictorial overview of the dramatic transformation of the oak tree in my front yard, courtesy of a devastating winter storm.
I estimate that the tree was about 60 feet tall last summer. (Take a look at the first picture below and see if you think that’s accurate.) This is a ‘Before’ view of the tree, captured last summer by Google Maps. My tree is the one in the very center of the picture:
And here’s the tree today:
It’s amazing how healthy it looks. When I see it I think about the obvious value of pruning plants and trees; but beyond that, I think about Jesus’ words in John 15, which are to me at the same time both sobering and encouraging:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
It seems from this passage that the same sort of dramatic (and painful) transformation my tree endured last winter has to take place in our lives, if they’re to be fruitful. Two things are necessary. We have to be connected to the vine, which is Jesus, and we have to be pruned. It also seems that the only alternative is to be thrown away, like any old severed branch, and burned.
It’s important for us, even as Christians, to remember that we’re branches, and nothing more. We have no life apart from the vine, and therefore nothing to offer anyone apart from Christ.
And for all of us, followers of Christ or not, there is a sobering lesson here. Connected to Jesus, we live and bear fruit; disconnected, we die, like the broken branches of my oak tree, and end up being thrown into the fire.