Are You Willing?

dry-creek-zin-vines

P. Bunny Wilson [1] tells the story of an old, wise grape branch. He was respected among the other branches. His sweet fruit was legendary. One day a new bud was planted in the row beside the old branch.

The new bud was too star-struck to say anything to the old branch for a long time. One day though, he worked up the daring to compliment the old branch, talk about his savored reputation, and what it must be like to be admired by the gardener and his customers. Finally, in a gush of unseasoned youth, the new bud blurted out, “I want to be sweet and wise just like you when I grow up! Tell me what I need to do. I’ll do whatever you say.”

The old branch looked down sweetly at the young bud and in his weighty, wise voice simply replied, “Be willing.”

The advice was less than disappointing. “That doesn’t even make sense,” he thought. He cynically stared at the old branch for moment and then turned away disenchanted.

The young bud grew. He enjoyed the sun and sounds of vineyard life. Eventually he became a promising young branch with sturdy stems and tight tendrils.

One morning the vines’ bustling chatter was stopped by the presence of the gardener. The young branch strained to look down the row as the gardener stooped at the first branch. As the farmer moved toward the branch everyone heard her say, “No, please, I don’t understand.” Suddenly all that was left was the nub.

The young branch turned to the old branch and quietly announced, “The gardener must not have liked that branch.” The old branch replied, “No, the gardener loves that branch.” The young branch responded, “Oh, he loved that branch, but her fruit wasn’t sweet.” The old branch answered, “It was sweet.” The young branch nervously said, “She must have done something wrong then.” The old branch finally said calmly, “This isn’t punishment. This is pruning.”

The young branch protested, “It’s easy for you to be calm. You have the sweetest fruit in the vineyard. Pruning is no concern to you.”

“I want to be pruned.” The old branch continued, “I have a fungus on my underside. No one can see it. But I know it’s there. And the gardener knows. So when he comes by I won’t shrink away. I will straighten up and allow him to do his work.”

Just then the gardener stopped at the old branch. The young branch saw him willingly rest himself in the gardner’s hand. Then the young branch closed his eyes and heard the snip. When he opened them, he saw the nub and the old branch on the ground.

The gardener turned to the young branch. Taking courage he looked at the gardner’s face and said, “I’m willing.”

__________

I had the experience recently of being placed in a small group, tasked with telling our life story and talk about the people who impacted us most. One in my group told how an older man came to his house each morning for eight years to read and pray with him. He pruned those eight years into two maxims that the older man had instilled. The first was, “Don’t be a doubter. Be a believer.” The second, “Be willing to be made willing.”

You have been given the promise that Jesus wants to produce fruit in and through your life. He wants to yield more fruit. He wants to grow much fruit through you. He wants to grow lasting fruit. You have also been told the means for him to do this is to prune.

There are branches to your life that need to be chopped. Not because Jesus doesn’t love you. Not because the fruit is sour. Not because it’s something bad necessarily. You may not even know what it is. You don’t have to. You just need to be willing for the gardener to do his work.

You may have recently been pruned. Perhaps you are being pruned right now and you didn’t know that’s what it was. Can you willingly rest yourself in the gardner’s hand? If you can’t, at least say, “I am willing to be made willing.”

1. Pruning is Not Punishment
2. The Pruning Knife from the Mystery of the True Vine by Andrew Murray
3. I Chose You to Bear Fruit

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