“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.” John 15:1-2 The Message
Many times I have heard explanations of these scriptures about the gardener and the vine. Yet, it has only been recently that I read an explanation given by Tess Afshar in her book HARVEST OF RUBIES that really spoke to my widow heart. The following is what she wrote:
“The vine needs to suffer. Going down into the earth, fighting to survive among the stones among the lime rock – this is what gives it it’s aroma. It’s taste. It’s unique character. These grapes will create a wine few other vineyards can compare with not because their life was easy, but because they had to struggle to survive.
Pain is part of this life. No one can escape suffering. Not the vine nor we as humans, as you well know, my lady. But what if we are like the vine and that affliction only makes us better?’
Consider, my lady, I am the gardener and know what the vine needs in order to thrive. You only see the stripping, but I cut the vine in order to restore it. I take away from it to enrich it. You hold in your hand a withering branch and that’s all you see now, but I know that I have given the vine a more abundant life.”
Two things stole my breath as Bardia taught me the riddle of the vine. First, that suffering improved the character of the vine’s fruit. Perfect ease and comfort would only ruin it. If my life were anything akin to the vine, then these calamities I bore need not ruin me. They could very well be my redemption.
Second, come the right season, Bardia, the expert gardener, Bardia, the tender caretaker, Bardia, the one on whom these plants depended on to survive, slashed and hacked into the vine. He added to its suffering. He stripped it until, from my vantage point at least, there was hardly any life left. Yet the vine needed this implacable care. Bardia had claimed that he cut the vine in order to restore it; he took away from it to enrich it.
I knew that he was selective in what he called the vine’s suffering. He would not allow pests to brutalize the plants, for example, or let weeds anywhere near them. He knew what to destroy, what to improve, and what to protect.
If Israel was God’s vineyard, was I not one of His little vines? Was He the Bardia of my soul? Did He shield me from what would destroy me? Was He stripping me now on purpose only to give me a more abundant life? Would I one day bear fruit worthy of a king’s table?
This was the life I wanted and God had taken it from me. I did not want more abundant fruit. I just wanted what I’d had before.
Now I am not saying that God took my husband away from me to give me a more abundant life. After 3 years of trying to figure out why Bob died at age 58, I have concluded that before God created him, He knew the number of Bob’s days. The length of his life was foreordained and there was nothing that either of us could have done to change that.
But, what I got from what Tessa wrote was that God has used Bob’s death to strip my vine down to the barest part slashing and hacking away all of the things in my life that needed to be cut away. He’s still in the stripping process and it is painful, but I look forward with hope to the restoration that He is doing in my life.