While the official first day of fall is still a week away, here in Michigan the autumn temperatures blew in a few days ago on the heels of some pretty wild storm. There was torrential rain that caused flooding and there was lightening and high winds that knocked out electricity and downed trees. Thankfully, the worst my family suffered was a brief loss of power and a few branches knocked down. The picture above is the “backyard” of our condo. We have a big old beautiful cottonwood tree that sits on the bank of the creek right off our deck. The tree survived the storms, but as you can see it did lose some major branches.
This particular storm hit at night, so it was difficult to see in the dark exactly what was going on back there in the midst of it all. This picture is what I found the following morning, a large branch had broken off of the cottonwood tree. If you look closely you can see that the tree is full of bright green leaves, but the broken off branch has already withered to a pale green and brown.
When I saw this withered branch lying on the ground, my spirit immediately went to the familiar passage in John 15. It’s probably familiar to you, too. It’s the one where Jesus teaches the disciples about the vine and the branches. My mind immediately went to the words Jesus spoke in verse 5. This one I have committed to memory… “I am the vine and you are the branch. If I remain in you, and you remain in me, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing”.
There it was, lying on the ground in front of me, in my own backyard. A fresh picture of that old familiar passage. It hit me new again. It hit me deeply. The Message version of the bible says it this way: “Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is DEADWOOD…”
That’s exactly what that broken off cottonwood branch had become… deadwood. And it sure didn’t take long, did it? Just overnight and already it was withered. It was already useless. It was already dead. I think that’s an important lesson for you and for me. As soon as we separate ourselves from God the dying process begins. It won’t take long before our spiritual pulse is no longer there and our death is pronounced. This is what I know… unless we live in him we are not really alive. I’ve been there and I have done that and it stinks. I don’t ever want to go back there. I only want to remain in Him.
I want to remain in him where there is love, joy and peace. I want to remain in Him where my heart beats with patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control! That’s where there is connection and intimacy with God. And where there is connection with God, there is no deadwood… there is only life. Thriving… beautiful… abundant life.
It’s true what they say… a picture speaks a thousand words.
1. The dead branches on a tree
2. A useless or burdensome person