Monday, August 6, 2012

Bad Vines

Several years ago, my husband, Jim, planted a grape vine at our house. It was one he had found on his family farm and he thought it was an old variety. We didn’t expect much from it the first couple of years, because it had to get itself established. Jim did what he could to help it along.

We both got excited the first year we saw it bloom, but it didn’t produce anything that year. We were patient, however. For several years we watched the vine hint that it might produce grapes, but while the vine was lush and healthy and growing, no fruit ever showed up. Jim finally wrote it off, but we left it where it was planted.

It grows outside a window where I read and journal. I watch the birds land on it, and I’ve watched it grow all over a boxwood beneath the window, all over the window itself, and into the maple tree that might as well be called “bird central,” because it is the favorite spot for birds to land before and after getting seeds from our bird feeder. Just this past weekend, it reached a new milestone—it has managed to attach its tendrils to a limb from the flowering cherry tree planted in a corner of the yard.

I noticed this on a windy day, because I saw the limb unable to move when the wind blew. The vine, although much smaller than the limb it was attached to, had such a grip on the limb that I wondered if the vine would break the limb in a strong wind, damaging the tree but not harming the vine at all. As I watched the tree with its constricted movement, I thought about the lesson this vine was teaching me.

We took on the vine and tried to help it along, thinking it would be good for us when it bore fruit. How often have I gotten involved in some habit or activity or venture thinking it would be good for me or for my family? It may have been truly a good and beneficial thing for someone else or under different circumstances, but it fails to bear fruit for me. Instead of enhancing my life, it drains my life. Like the fruitless grape vine, it continues to spread its influence into my life, and I keep hoping things will change. When they fail to change, I may find it easier simply to let things continue rather than to make the change that will be life-giving for me because the change will be painful. Like this vine that we allowed to continue to grow, the activity or habit continues to spread its influence over me. My time may be so consumed by this venture or activity that I never stop to consider if it is drawing me nearer to God or pushing me away from God.

I would not have seen how the vine had spread if I had not been paying attention to it while watching the wind blow. The Holy Spirit, the wind of God, cannot move me if I have let the vine that is taking over my life continue its work. I have to pay attention to my relationship with God. I have to examine all that I am involved in to see if it is drawing me nearer to God, or, if, like my cherry tree, I am unable to move freely when the Spirit blows. I am unlikely to fall off a cliff away from God, instead, I drift away, inch by inch, as the tendrils of the fruitless vine overtake my heart.

If my life is unexamined, I won’t realize what is happening. Truthful examination won’t be pleasant, because when I really begin to look closely at my heart, I will discover that there are bad vines there. The only solution for the vine in our yard will be to cut it down. The same is true of the fruitless vines in my heart. It won’t be easy, and like plants often do, they will continue to try and put out new shoots. I will have to remain vigilant to put to death vines that have grown for many years but vigilance is necessary for me to grow toward God.

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