The Vineyard Revisited: Reflections on Growth

I just returned from two weeks in Southern California visiting my daughter and family.  During that time, I celebrated another birthday...and to my delight Beth took me to "my vineyard" for lunch at the lovely restaurant there. On the way to the Temecula vineyard area, I was amazed to see how the former ruthlessly pruned vines were now covered with lush green leaves.  You may remember those stark vines in a former post. That was just a little over 3 months ago!

I wondered about the fruit though, because I do know that usually harvest season is in the fall.  So after lunch, we went to see if we could find "my vine".  Beth lifted some leaves, and we saw a bunch of beautifully formed green (not ripe) grapes.

That has set my mind and heart thinking about growth and maturity and waiting on God, the Master Vinedresser who knows the process from the beginning to end.  He has promised,

He who began a good work in you will perfect it till the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

So often, I'm impatient with myself and others wanting instant maturity or expecting "fruitfulness" before its time.  I think of Moses as a young man in Egypt.  The book of Acts says that he knew about his call to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and actually tried to do so before God's time.

When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.  And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian.  He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. Acts 7:23-25 ESV

God still had work to do in Moses life to bring him to the end of himself.  Then he would be ready for the mature "fruit" of being God's instrument of deliverance.

It's the same way with us.  God the Father, our Gardener, promises that as we abide in Christ His True Vine we will produce fruit in increasing measure:

...fruit,...more fruit,... much fruit. John 15:2,5.

He has us in His process!  The Father does whatever is necessary to bring our lives to fruition.

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he lifts up [alternate translation], and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2

Our job is not perfection, but abiding.  But rather we are impatient and really...immature.  We want to experience mature fruit before God's time.

It reminds me of when we were kids in the 1950's.

My family lived on the edge of a desert in Tucson, Arizona in a new housing area consisting of cinder block duplexes, but little else.  Not much grew out there.  But one thing that did grow was melon.  The way I know that is when we kids would eat watermelon, we would spit our seeds to one side of our front porch.  After a time, a watermelon vine would grow carrying a beautiful new melon.  Would we wait till the melon ripened to open it up?  Oh no!  We would impatiently and prematurely crack open that baby, only to see white hard flesh where juicy sweet redness should be.  What a disappointment!

And maybe that's why we are disappointed with our own lives and the lives of our children and others close to us.  There's an interesting verse in the New Testament addressed to fathers, but it could very well be addressed to mothers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.  Just substitute alternate relationships for the underlined words:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. Col 3:21

How do we exasperate and frustrate our children and others?  By unrealistic expectations of perfection?  By building walls instead of choosing love in difficult situations with others?  By giving up and not counting on God's working?

In reality, full maturity will will not be reached on this earth.  Rather it will come when we meet Christ face-to-face.  So in the meantime, dear brothers & sisters, let us abide in Him, keep on growing, and extend to each other (and to ourselves) God's grace:

And now, little children, abide in him... Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1John 2:28; 3:2

But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2Peter 3:18