I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.
-Jesus (John 15:1-2)
I've been thinking a lot about releasing the need for control this week. The natural world often mimics the spirit, and I find that the autumn season always teaches me something about life with Jesus.
With fall in the mid-atlantic comes the great falling of the leaves. As comedian Jim Gaffigan puts it, people just love watching the leaves and celebrating their last moments before they FALL TO THEIR DEATH. Now you’ll never be able think about the October the same way again!
Don’t worry, it gets worse. The word “fall” sounds more passive than the reality is. When you look into the science of it, you find out that the leaves are actually "pushed off” the branches. It's even more brutal than Gaffigan suggests! There's a hormone in deciduous trees that tell them it's time to release. Thick cells quickly form a bumpy line on the place where the stem of the leaf connects with the branch, and the leaf is literally pushed off the tree.
The thing is, leaves are how a tree survives! As the fall occurs, the tree appears to release the exact thing it needs to live. And it enters a season of trusting.
How often do we cling to things that we've told ourselves we need, even if they aren't bringing life anymore? How rarely do we truly trust the spirit of Jesus to bring contentment and healing when all we can see is an empty branch?
But here's what we know. The great release of our trees-- all those little deaths-- actually enable them to survive for the long haul. And it happens time and time again. What can we learn?
The world around is a reminder that we can trust Jesus to continue to bring us cycles of new life, rather than trying to manufacture them on our own. We can trust that in the moments of releasing control.... in the moments of pruning.... even in the moments of death.... that we can walk in peace and trust, because Jesus is here, and Jesus came to bring life. Over and over again.
Jesus speaks of the Father as a wise gardener who cuts off things in us that are unnecessary, and trims things that need more time before they are ready to grow. Releasing is a spiritual tool for health.
Sometimes that means wasteful time, toxic habits, relational dynamics, and things that pull us from an awareness of God. But it can also mean releasing our need to control outcomes, and our temptation to cling onto past seasons. Because it's just so hard to feel barren and trust Jesus' promise of future life.
Jesus talks about dying. He says that when we learn to die to our own egos, priorities, and need for control, we can finally take hold of God’s heart. And that, like a dying seed, brings life many times larger than we can imagine.
It’s beautiful. Like the seasonal leaves.
Maybe the cooler breeze of the next few days will encourage you to consider what God is inviting you to release. That’s between you and God. But rest assured that when we learn how to live with the simple focus of loving Jesus and the people around us, letting other details fall as they need, our lives become a breathtaking glimpse of God’s beauty.
Jesus, help me know what to release today.