21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah;
be glad and rejoice.
Surely the Lord has done great things!
22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
23 Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
both autumn and spring rains, as before.
It’s autumn in the mountains and football season is here. Although life can be consuming any month, autumn is extra full for our family. This week the weather has begun to cool and the rains that were steadily present have tapered. Our box garden which yielded vegetables without much tending all summer has died off. From afar it seemed clear the weeds had taken over our cucumber vines and choked them until they were brown weeks ago.
I set aside time to weed and close the boxes down for the season and drew near to the vines for the first time in probably a month. It was then I realized that what appeared dead from afar had been desperately trying to still produce life.
Peppers and cucumbers sat on the vines still full of color although shriveled. The cucumbers had stopped short of growing long. The outside flesh even staying yellow on some of the fruit.
As I pulled the vines out I was shocked to see several vegetables, the largest amount I’d seen at one time since the planting of the garden in May. “Ugh! We really missed out on some great veggies!” was my constant thought as I pulled and pulled.
And then I heard it. The thought that was not mine but I needed to hear. What you thought was dead I still had life in. Although you stopped tending to the garden there was still growth that occurred and more that would have come with some attention.
There had been just enough rain to nourish the vines, but they still needed attention and tending. The roots of these vines were deep and extended far. It was a beautiful visual of a long-lived relationship with God.
I was once again reminded that deep roots can draw nourishment for an extended time, but eventually, the wilderness will overcome them if they are not fed.
The thing about the wilderness is that it isn’t meant to last forever. The prophet Joel reminded the Israelites of this. God sent rains in the autumn and spring to help with the growth of food, and he does the same for our growth as well. The challenge comes in recognizing when something that looks dead on the outside still has the potential to bear fruit. Sometimes this means stepping out on faith and fighting to grow. It means remembering that God delights in our desire to grow and produce fruit and He will not stifle that which glorifies him, even when it feels as if he is silent.
Part of growing in the wilderness is learning to tend to the garden and not expect all of the nourishment to fall on us from God. We must dig deeper and seek knowledge for ourselves. Our roots will deepen the more we grow in partnership with God.
In John 15 Jesus reminds us that he is the true vine. That God our father tends to us as a gardener pruning so that we may flourish. God always sees where a vine can still produce fruit. He doesn’t look from afar and decide something is dead. God prunes with precision and with care. He will not make the same mistake as I did. God will not see a vine that was still producing and regret not tending to it.
My lesson in the wilderness on vines is to never view them from a distance. Decisions on what still has life and needs nurturing vs. that which is dead and needs pruning must be done with the eye and care of a gardener, not from a place of fear or silence.
5 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.