I have seen a lot of things in my years. I felt the breeze that comes when you’re walking near a glacier. I witnessed the inexplicable beauty of a deep lake so blue you can hardly believe that color exists on its own. I experienced the shock of answered prayer, prayer so ostentatious and a God rejoicing that we trusted Him so big. I watched the life of a child not believed to become much more than the “failure to thrive” state in which he was found emerge as a vibrant, excited, busy little boy who blew away every prognosis his adoptive parents were given.
These eyes have seen a lot. But one thing they have not seen: fruit emerge out of nowhere. Never have I walked in the kitchen and found bananas just chilling on the counter where there had been no bananas before. Never have I talked to a grocer whose produce section just showed up in the store. And never have I experienced an immature piece of fruit grow to fruition and thrive on its own once apart from its source plant.
Physical fruit comes from something. It cannot exist on its own. It cannot grow on its own. The very life of that piece of fruit you so enjoy with your breakfast comes only from being drawn from a greater life source. The banana cannot draw water from the ground nor can it change light into energy. It must rely on another for those functions to happen.
In the life lived in Christ, you are not the fruit. And you are not the vine. You are the middle man. Your experience is that of a branch. Life as a branch is life as a conduit. Just like fruit, a branch cannot live on it’s own. Without the vine, the source, a branch is just a big, dead stick. And even when attached to the vine, a branch without fruit is still just a big, purposeless stick.
Vibrant fruit can only come from a vibrant conduit. Jesus called Himself the vine and calls us the branches. Our life lived in Christ is designed from the get-go to be conduits for fruit. Though nothing is impossible for Jesus, He chose to be the vine and not the branch. The vine itself also does not produce fruit. Could He? Yes. Does He? Sure–but He chooses to involve us in the process. He chooses to give us the life-altering experience of feeling His power course through our veins while something that is impossible for us to conceive on our own emerges from the very tip of our big, woody, clumsy hands. Life as a branch requires tight, complete attachment to the vine.
And life as a brach requires giving up every bit of power given to us. The branch keeps just enough energy, enough water, enough light to live–but it does not live simply for that. It lives so that it can pass along the power and water and energy to the fruit. Life as a conduit, life as a branch, means focusing on producing that which the Vine has chosen to produce. Life as a branch means giving it all up–letting the power flow, letting the light do its work, and letting the fruit get plucked.
We don’t get to hold on to the fruit we produce. It is there for consumption. And for two reasons, we wouldn’t want to. Fruit is there for the enjoyment. Do you want plastic fruit that needs to be dusted on a coffee table? Or do you want a crunchy apple to be enjoyed with a cracker and cheese? Or that banana blended with those tasty berries? Or strawberries wrapped up in a crepe? Or the cheesecake with just a touch of lemon zest? Plastic fruit cannot do any of those things. Only real, actual fruit can be enjoyed in the way it was designed.
Secondly, if a branch hangs on to all its fruit, it will break. The branch of an apple tree is not designed to hold its lifetime in fruit. And if it tries, it will splinter and break away from the trunk, the source. Apart from the source, the branch can produce nothing. An apple tree lived in my backyard growing up. And when we failed to pick the fruit, the branch dropped apples in the yard. For the branch knew, in the plant-y way that branches know things, that if it didn’t drop the fruit, the branch itself would die.
The branch doesn’t care whether we eat the apple as is, bake a pie with it, or use it for target practice. The branch doesn’t care. The branch exists to stay attached to the vine and produce the fruit. The branch doesn’t try to control where the fruit goes–or frankly, what fruit is produced. The branch’s purpose is to stay attached. Everything else is beyond the branch’s control, and therefore beyond the branch’s purpose.
Be a healthy branch. Stay firmly attached to vine, the Source of our life and very being: Jesus Christ. Keep only enough of His power and Spirit to remain healthy, and make yourself a smooth conduit for that power and Spirit to produce fruit through you. Then let it go. Let the fruit be what it is. Let the fruit be used however it is used. Focus on attachment and being a conduit. Life of a branch may not bring any glory or prestige. But life as a branch was never meant to. The healthiest branches are such because of their strong bond to the Source. The Source is the point. The Source provides the power. Stay attached, and you will find that the attachment alone becomes the point. You will easily let go of the fruit because your eyes will be fixed on the Source: Jesus Christ.