Up Close and Personal
A couple of weeks ago, my Bible study leader invited me to Los Olivos to see the Saarloos and Sons Vineyard up close. We walked along the vineyard for a mere three seconds before vinedresser Larry Saarloos drew our attention to a vine that was not producing fruit to its full potential. The vineyard sprawls across rolling hills, extends over acres and acres, and yet he knew it intimately. He immediately honed in on what I would have never noticed. This particular vine was lush and fruitful on one half, but completely bare on the other. “Sometimes, you look at someone’s life,” he said, “and you say, ‘wow, look at all that fruit!’ But it’s not the whole story. When you look over here, you can see how empty and unproductive their life really is.”
Larry knows every vine because, in a single season, he passes through each row 27 times. Each of those 27 pass-throughs required him to examine the branches closely and make decisions about what the vine needs, always with the goal of quality fruit at the forefront. This half-fruitful vine had already been pruned last year with the hope it would start producing again. But after another fruitless season, Larry will now have to decide if he will give the bare branch another chance, cut it off, or completely remove the vine. Removing a vine is always the last choice, he told me. If more can be done to care for a vine, he will do it. The time and care each vine requires is not a sacrifice he takes lightly and removing an unproductive vine is a big loss.
The amount of care each and every branch receives is impactful. Larry pulls the weeds that threaten to take nutrients from the soil. He plants barley in between the vines to add nutrients to the soil. He covers the vines with nets to protect the fruit from the birds. He prunes lower quality fruit that takes energy away from the best fruit. He’ll shock the vine with more water or less water, depending on the desired outcome…just to name a few of the things he does for optimal fruit.
For Jesus to equate His Father to a vinedresser and us to branches in John 15 means, in part, that God is intimately acquainted with every detail of our lives. He notices what we do not. He sees the hidden things inside of us that aren’t producing fruit, but he doesn’t just notice them. He doesn’t just point them out and tell us to do something about it. He tends, he prunes, he feeds. He is constantly caring and working to bring new life and new growth in us. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. His pruning may be painful, but it is never haphazard or pointless. It’s always done for our benefit, so we can yield optimal fruit.
As experienced and careful as Larry is, the decisions he makes do not come with a guarantee. The process does not always yield the desired outcome. With God, however, pruning is precise. He knows exactly what He’s doing. Abiding in him always yields quality fruit. The time and care He gives us is unmatched. The sacrifice he gave us, unprecedented.
Another thing that impacted me was how dependent the branches are on the vine and the vinedresser. Without a constant connection to the vine and continuing care from the vinedresser, branches become dead wood, completely void of any life or ability to bear fruit. So it is with us. Just as fruit is grown only if a branch remains on the vine, you and I bear fruit when we remain dependent on and in constant communion with Jesus. Our character is a direct result of our connection. “All our sap and safety is from Christ. The bud of a good desire, the blossom of a good resolution, and the fruit of a good action, all come from him” (Trapp).
I reflect on that half-fruitful vine and wonder what areas of my life remain fruitless. Where am I resisting God’s pruning, refraining from acting on God’s prompting, reluctant to accept God’s promises? Where am I not abiding? How about you? Is there an area of your life you need to reconnect to the true vine? Is there something you’re holding back from the vinedresser? Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
Lord, it is time. Let the great summer go. Lay your long shadows on the sundials, and over harvest bounty let the winds and rains blow. Command the last fruits to be ripe; grant them a southern hour. Urge them to completion, and with life and power. -Saarloos and Sons, saarloosandsons.com