There was no real reason to notice it that day — the strong, stately pine with a lone branch suspended over the narrow side street. It was familiar area I travel almost weekly, yet I was “seeing” this sight for the first time.
Something about the way that bough shot straight out, forming a canopy over the road, supported by nothing but the trunk that wore it so gracefully, caught my attention. “What on earth would seem remarkable about a pine branch here in the middle of Mississippi?” you might wonder. Large, stately pines are just about everywhere you could look in our area.
I’m sure a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have appreciated this one nearly so much. But then, a few weeks ago I would have probably laughed at the idea that a near-record snowfall was about to hit our little piece of the South, with a crushing load that would leave most every roadway littered with pine boughs.
The branch I noticed that day had held on when others hadn’t. Its strength had a chance to speak to me in a special way.
THE STRENGTH IS NOT ITS OWN
A tree’s limbs are only as strong as their connection to the trunk. The branches grow there in the beginning because life-giving sap is able to move within the channels at their core. As long as this process continues unhindered, they are likely to remain intact. It doesn’t always work that way, of course. An almost imperceptible flaw can develop from some insult to the tree — a high wind that loosens some fibers or insects that burrow deep to make their home. Over time this process can progressively work against that branch, leaving it vulnerable to fall in an event that others might withstand.
Jesus used this analogy in the spiritual realm: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5. He taught His followers about the life He was soon going to place within them, when He would fill those who obeyed Him with the Holy Ghost. Oh the joys of becoming connected to the Vine! The power He would pour out on the Day of Pentecost — which Peter told the crowd was “to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as our Lord shall call,” (Acts 2:39) — would turn the world upside down. But Jesus was showing them ahead of time that what He would place within them was not going to remain a strong, vibrant force unless they fought for it. It was a connection that would have to be maintained for them to remain alive and productive in Him.
He went on to say, “ If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned,” (John 15:6).
Beside our house, a beautiful cedar which had seemed to be growing a safe distance away when we built there, now has branches that stretch over that part of the roof. As it sits on the side where the power line comes in to the house, the power company recently trimmed up limbs closest to the line to avoid a catastrophe. During our snow event, branches that had seemed a safe distance above broke under the weight fell onto the line. It could gone very badly, pulling the line completely out of the house. The tree will likely have to come down, as it has now become a hazard.
The same boughs that had blessed us with shade and beauty became a liability very quickly once they were disconnected from the trunk. Likewise, our disconnection from the Source of strength and joy affects so much more than our own lives.
Eve in the Garden discovered that what seemed to be a simple choice she was free to make on her own affected her husband, the children she would have, and all generations to come. All she could share with them of the Garden of God was her memories of being there and the shame of what caused them to lose it.
A disconnection that produces a fall inevitably brings someone else down as well. Others look to us, whether or not we are aware of how much we matter.
IT’S A FULL TIME JOB
Staying connected requires fighting our tendency to drift, to pull away from the Source of life. It requires a diligence to push ourselves to fervently pray every day. We must read the Word of God with a goal of examining ourselves in the light of the Scriptures — exposing any area where some slight damage to our connection may be forming — rather than simply justifying ourselves that we are “close enough” to what it teaches. Faithfulness to the house of God where the Word is preached in power and anointing can never be neglected, for even in our best efforts, we will not always be as honest with ourselves as is required to stay connected on our own.
It is indeed not a comfortable thing to walk with God. We serve Him in a fleshly body with a carnal nature. “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). These words of desperation were spoken by the man who wrote most of the New Testament. Can we conclude he was only able to accomplish what he did because he saw his fight for spiritual health as it truly was? He told the Corinthians, “…I die daily,” (I Cor. 15:31), and “…I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection…,” (I Cor. 9:27). He knew how to stay connected, and the vital importance of regularly experiencing the power of God that Peter described as “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” (1 Peter 1:8).
CHECK YOUR CONNECTION
Where are you with being connected to the Vine? Have you established the connection Jesus promised His followers? Are you checking your connection consistently? Do you understand the fight of pressing toward the mark?
Dangerous disconnection often starts with satisfaction in where we are with God. Reaching for Him, calling on Him, seeking Him daily is truly the way to keep the life flowing from Him through us, to refresh, revive, and strengthen our hearts and lives.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on becoming, and staying, connected to the Vine. Feel free to leave a comment below.
Start to Finish: Starting a Walk with God That Can Finish Strong — some observations from my fight to stay connected over the past thirty years — is due to be published soon. I look forward to sharing these insights with you when the process is complete in a few weeks. Look for it on Amazon, or find a link here on my site.
In the meantime, let’s stay connected!