“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”- Hebrews 13:14
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The only thing constant is change.” But have you ever wondered why that’s true? I mean, why can’t something- anything stay the same…at least for a little while. Just enough to catch our breath. But it doesn’t. I don’t think this chaos is random like we’re simply molecules slamming together in an atom. I think the reason is our whole life is a change…we were destined to be in a distant land possibly in a whole different dimension. There- abounding love and grace and light and life and laughter and fulfillment was available to us with our Father. But, our will and rebellion caused us to reject this place. So, we must endure a time in these temporary surroundings where the very ground we walk on is not divinely meant for us and where no thing is constant and true fulfillment is fleeting and can never be fully known. The ‘good news’ of course is that our Father still loves us. So much so that He provided a way that this temporary home is exactly that- temporary. He did this through the beautiful and horrific act of sacrificing His Son to make an immutable bridge of love from our inconsistent dwelling to our permanent, eternal abode. But He’s given us many ways to share in a bit of ‘heaven on earth.’ He has shown and revealed to us the best ways to deal with the force of change and pain throughout time and He continues to do so each and every day. God has revealed some of these things to me through the garden plot at my house.
So…at my home, I have a small vineyard that was planted by the previous owner. He was an Executive Chef and a skilled wine maker. The vineyard is only about 25′ x 45′. It’s a stepped, square layout, however, so it has 5 rows of vines. The yield from a full crop in this configuration can yield several gallons of wine and dozens of bushels of edible grapes in a single season.
I have yet to enjoy a full harvest yet, however.
We moved here 2 years ago, after a harvest had just taken place. The ensuing winter was particularly harsh and it looked as though several of the vines were frozen. Because of this, the next year, I wanted to allow the vineyard to produce on it’s own without pruning, so I could learn what I had and what the extent of the damage from the cold winter had been. I was correct that the roots of the entire middle row had been killed. But-to our delight- we still had a bountiful harvest! It produced at least 4 or 5 bushels of grapes.
This past winter, I made sure to rake in and mulch some leaves on the vine roots to protect them before the freezes came. I also read and studied how to prune the vines properly and set about the task when the vines were most dormant. Due to the length of the vines, this was labor intensive- but I found it simple as I got the hang of it.
This spring, the vines fruited beyond belief! It had to be twice what had come up last year! I was so excited that I began to promise wine and jam to all of our neighbors. I began to figure out how to budget for what we might need to purchase in order to handle all of the crop for our own, private little ‘Food and Wine’ festival we would enjoy this fall…
…but my great harvest did not come. Almost all of the grapes withered and died.
You see- last summer (a year ago)- we had a very wet season. I didn’t water at all and the harvest still came and it was good. But this year, we had a very dry summer. And after the spring rains stopped (even though they were abundant), I didn’t know I needed to keep watering the vines. I went about trying to save my harvest once I saw the shriveling and here is what I observed:
– Once a grape or cluster of grapes begins to wither, there is no amount of watering that can bring them back. They will shrivel into dust as the vine has already cut them off.
– However, if even one grape in the cluster remains healthy- if you water it, it will mature and be able to be harvested.
So, my daily chore this summer was trying to decide where to water and where not to do so. I had to figure out what section of what vine still needed irrigating based primarily on the amount of healthy fruit it was producing. This was arduous and took time and study of the little vineyard. Some large sections of the vine only had one remaining grape with a potential of harvest. Do I still water it?
In another section- one of the vines that was damaged by the first winter but not killed began to, surprisingly, grow prolifically! I watered this vine daily even though it bore no fruit this year because I know the future is bright for it’s eventual yield. I’m particularly excited about this one- because it’s different from the other vines and I look forward to the new variety this will bring to the vineyard.
So- this year’s harvest is a bit disappointing. However, I am immensely encouraged that having now been taught to protect my roots, prune my vines vigorously but properly, and water my vines the moment I see the spring rains have stopped, I know that I know that I know…next year’s harvest is going to be the greatest this little house has ever seen and all of our friends and neighbors will be blessed.
From all of this experience, God has taught me much, and I have compiled them into 6 principles. I will share them one at a time over the next several posts:
- Your roots need to be protected.
What do you value? What are you created to do? What is it that God put you on earth to accomplish? Do you know? As God’s children, we need to deeply know and understand what God has placed us in this world to do.
- We need to know it so well that we have it written down.
People who do not aim at all do not miss targets- even the person who misses still aims at something. The people who don’t aim at all have never even made the attempt (even though they may think they have). Many of us seem to think that because we keep ourselves busy, that we’re heading toward a goal. In reality, we are probably more like an archer that walks up to his post and starts dancing and jumping and stays really active but never lets a single arrow fly. But when we die, do we want to hear God say “Well done good and faithful servant” or, merely, “Much done…?”
Instead, we need to take aim on what God has for us by writing down, specifically, the objective and mission God has given us for our lives. This may have more to do with family, or career, or ministry, or relationships, or whatever God reveals to you, specifically.
- It is unique to you- but it is not about you.
One great paradox in our walk with Christ is that we may recognize our call to live for others, but in order to do so and do it very well, many of us need to do something we’ve never thought of before. We need to commit to a deliberate season to think and pray and take actions that help us learn all we can about ourselves. During this time, we can take personality and gifting profiles; speak with our pastor or person we trust about what they see in us; seek out prophetic ministries; attend a small group; “try” different ways to serve both inside and outside the church and, more than anything, pray and listen to God, our Father, Himself.
Once you get a good knowledge-confirmed by others- of the gifts God has given you and a more solid understanding of your skills and dreams, you can create that bold statement about what you believe God put you here to accomplish and get to work on serving Him and others in the way He has asked of you. It has to be something that only someone gifted like you can do but focused on what God specifically desires.
- Our mission isn’t so much just about others, in general, but primarily about those who come after us.
The knowledge of who you are and what your calling is, as well as all of the resulting growth afterwards, forms the foundation of the legacy you will pass on to those to whom you are called to reveal Jesus. In this way, this goes much further than yet another “Purpose Driven Life” principle. My vine will wither and die one day and so, too, will yours. Even the vines that belong to those we influence and love as a part of our calling will one day no longer bloom. But these roots won’t. The values and the mission upon which you have based your life will live on- vine to vine- forever. They form the foundation of a vineyard that lasts eternally.
- The roots need the protection of consistent and constant reminder of this mission from followers of Christ who love you.
We need to share our mission statement with those whom we care about and whose walk in Christ we respect. If we don’t cover ourselves consistently in the prayer and care of others while being willing to do the same, our roots are at great risk of being frozen through. After basking in the warm summer sun as God reveals to us our gifting and purpose and mission- we must know the winter is coming. There will come a day when we will lose sight of who we are and we will need to recall what we began with and the wonderful way God has made us. The encouragement and love of those who believe in you will be necessary to cultivate and hang on to when resistance comes.