“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
The Perfect Gardener
I am a terrible gardener. I love the idea of growing beautiful flowers in our yard and fresh herbs on our patio, but anytime I attempt it, it pretty much always ends in tragedy. Plant tragedy. Flowers eaten by bugs because I didn’t use the right spray. Herbs that turn into flower bushes because I didn’t cut them back in time—or at all. And inevitably, the sad, forgotten potted plant that has wilted and died because of neglect. This is what I do. Every. Time.
But God. God is the only truly PERFECT gardener. In the spiritual sense yes, but also in a very literal sense as well! God created the plants we see, he created the IDEA of vines, branches, trees, leaves, fruit, flowers—He created the plants that cover our world because they reflect HIS nature!
God is a perfect gardener. His design is so immaculate, so detailed that we are only just beginning to truly understand all the beauty hidden inside what is visible to the naked eye. Even at the tiniest molecular level, under the strongest microscope, plants are wonderfully and intentionally designed with a system and structure to allow them to thrive. And we are designed with that same wonderful intentionality—not by chance, not merely hoping that we’d be able to make it. No, we were designed to live lives fully and abundantly as we abide in our Savior.
I think it is so amazing that Jesus chose to use a vine and its branches as the picture of how our relationship with Him was designed to be. He used arguably the most common creation in our world, living plants, as the picture of how we are to abide in Christ. This is something that I really love about Jesus. The way He teaches us about His nature and His love for us in such natural ways. Plants are everywhere! Everywhere we go, there are thousands upon thousands of sweet reminders in the grass, the trees, the branches above us. God uses the simple everyday parts of our world to show us such amazing things about who He is.
I think about God creating all the plants in the beginning, and I imagine His joy creating the first vines—knowing full well the imagery that was contained in such a common plant. The wonderful entangling of branches and leaves with the vines as they climbed up the first trees in the first garden ever made. He was creating picture after picture of His love for us. Picture after picture in His creation that showed His nature, His glory, and His goodness!
Then, years later, Jesus explained the vine and the branches to the disciples for the first time. He opened their eyes to what had been plainly seen but never truly understood until He opened their eyes! In the verses in John 15, Jesus showed, in a new way, how much we need to be drawing from Him. Our spiritual health, the fruit we are producing, and the growth we need is all completely reliant on HIM as our source. We are the branches drawing all we need from the Vine, Jesus. And His creation is a constant and beautiful reminder of this.
The Gardener’s Desire
We can clearly see God’s design for us to be intimately connected to Him in this passage. Isn’t it wonderful that God created us in a way that REQUIRES us to come to Him, to be dependent on Him? He knows how desperately we need Him, and He offers Himself as our strength, and gives us His Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we accept that things are the way they are simply because we do not know any different. But Jesus could have done things differently—He chose to create you and me because that was what He wanted to do! And He created us specifically in a way that causes us to thrive and grow when we are closest to Him. God designed us in this way because it PLEASES Him. HE wants to be near to US! WE need Him, yes! The branches cannot live without the vine. And yet, HE desires to be close to US. He wants us to be near to Him!
We know that God’s nature is in us: just as we desire intimacy, love, relationship—these things come from HIM! God desires that we would abide closely in Him and spend time with Him. Knowing this has radically changed the way I view my time with Him.
As a mom, I always want to spend real time with my kids—I want them to tell me about their day, to laugh with them, and to help them when they’re struggling. But when THEY express a desire for time with ME? That’s when I drop everything. If I know one of my children is waiting for me somewhere—I hurry to get there!
Knowing that my Savior stands at the door of my heart, longing to come in and make His home with me! This changes my whole attitude toward intimacy. It isn’t my need for Him ONLY (though my need is inexpressibly great), it is HIS desire to abide with me that humbles my spirit and causes me to rush to meet Him.
So, Jesus gave us this picture: a vine and its branches. He is the vine, and we are the branches. May we remember what a good gardener He is, and may we see this wonderful picture in the common world around us. And I pray that we are drawn to closer intimacy with Christ as we remember how greatly He loves us. May we never forget all He has done to make it possible for us to come boldly to Him, welcome Him into our lives and hearts, and abide in His love.