Yesterday’s sermon had me squirming in the pew, so I drove out to the local vineyard after church. (It’s not what you think.) I didn’t even change my clothes. I just grabbed my camera, my phone, my laptop, my bible, my pen, my purse, my keys, and my bottled water and jumped in the car.
I was missing the point.
Yesterday’s sermon was about abiding in Jesus, and H talked about the part in the bible where Jesus says he’s the vine and we are the branches. Then, H walked us through the part in the bible where Jesus says that if I haven’t been abiding in Him, it doesn’t matter if I do good things and stay out of trouble and tell people how much God loves them. Without Jesus at the root of it all, I’m just blowing hot air and it is all pointless. Whatever I do that doesn’t have its root in Jesus? Well, it may look good, and sound pretty, and make people feel special, but it will have no lasting impact. And what good is temporary?
When I got home from church, after hearing that message, I needed a word picture. I needed to know what it looks like to abide in Jesus, because I don’t want to do temporary. That’s when I remembered the vineyard, packed up all my technology, and started driving. Clearly, I reasoned, God wanted me to abide at the vineyard and He would meet me there and share deep insights with me and I should record them right away to report back to you on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Immediately.
At the vineyard, I got the wifi password from the guy at the front desk, opened my laptop, and readied my iPhone for photos that I could instantly share in my Twitter stream so that you wouldn’t miss out on anything. But there was no connection. No matter how I tried, I could not get connected to the internet, and my iPhone refused to take any photos. In retrospect, I am quite sure God must have been shaking His holy head.
So, there I sat. Totally disconnected. And that, I think, was the point.
Sitting there at the vineyard, I leaned back in the white plastic chair and gazed up at the sky. Slowly, I packed up all my technology and put it back in the trunk of my car. Then, with my camera in one hand, and the hem of my maxi dress in the other hand, I wandered the pathways that wound through rows upon rows of grapevines.
I leaned in between the leaves and stared at the small, pink grapes forming on fragile stems. Sunlight warmed my shoulders and my sandals pressed down the soil. I got up close and saw the vine is rugged and strong. The gnarled and twisted vine made me cry and I took a step back, even though I wanted to reach out and touch it. I could see small branches being grafted in and trained to stay close to the vine. And I kept asking, “What are you saying, God? What’s next?”
I noticed tendrils that reached for the sun – away from the vine. They were beautiful. And fruitless.
I know what God says about being fruitless and I gazed at one of those beautiful, wayward tendrils and said, “I wonder what’s going to happen to you?” The answer was at my feet where dry, brown, fruitless tendrils lay that had been cut from the vine. Dead.
Seeing those dead, wayward branches on the ground at my feet while birds sang concertos and the breeze ran its fingers through my hair and the sun beamed brightly overhead in a spectacular sky? It was heavy. “What are you saying, God? What’s next?” I asked.
If God speaks in words, I think it’s a whisper. It’s not that booming voice Charlton Heston heard.
It was the whisper that got through to me. It was that whisper that made me realize there probably isn’t anything more important than staying close to God. Not my family. Not my paycheck. Not my health. Not even this blog post. Not any blog post.
When I go off searching for God just so that I’ll have something to write about here, I think I must be a bit like that wayward tendril that looks really good with its green leaf against the turquoise of a Nebraska sky on a Sunday afternoon. It might be beautiful, but it’s fruitless.
I don’t want fruitless.
God, I don’t want fruitless.
You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. ~John 15:16 (MSG)