“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
I trudged up the winding path to the cliffs on a beautiful October morning. The storm clouds had lifted, and clear skies with a gentle breeze brought pungent scents of the sea. The bright fall leaves drifting down only increased my despondency, though. Everything seemed dead and dying, falling to the earth.
As the days grew shorter and darkness increased, my depression had deepened. My heart felt empty, an aching void. Will I ever heal?
So many dear ones had been cut from my life in the last three years. My husband, both my parents, a favorite cousin, my best friend — even my dog had died. A season of grief shrouded the world in gray that seemed unending.
As I reached the crest of the cliffs, I followed the path weaving along the rugged Oregon coastline. I prayed for strength as I watched the waves crashing into the rocks below, mist spraying high. I felt more like the shifting sands than the sturdy rocks defying the wild waves.
One thing in my life that had been an anchor during this difficult time was my work with young people and families. Now my job was in jeopardy, the future even more cloudy, dark, and uncertain.
Heaven seemed silent as I retraced my steps toward the cabin in Quiet Water, where my friends and I had come for a weekend retreat. Something blue along the shrubbery caught my eye. Drawing near, I saw a pile of hydrangea blooms that someone had pruned and dumped. I picked up one, gently cradling the bloom in my hands. The beautiful blue petals dripped with dew and glistened in the bright sunlight.
But noticing the tinges of brown on the lower petals, I thought, I’m like this flower, cut off, old and dying.
Then I heard in my heart, “No, I am the Vine, and you are a living branch. You are not cut off; you have been pruned.”
Tears filled my eyes with these tender words. I thought of what Jesus said in John 15:2: “Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” Pruning hurts, but I reflected on that promise — to produce more fruit in me. Gathering up two blooms, I felt a quiver of new hope flutter in my heart.
As I neared the cabin, I noticed a pine tree with several knots on its branches. On one of these knots grew a tiny pinecone. I marveled. Fruit had sprung forth from the very spot the tree had been wounded and scarred by an attacking insect. I added the small branch to my hydrangea bouquet and prayed that new fruit would also spring from me.
Two messages had come: I was not forgotten. And regardless of how bleak and severe the winter, spring always comes and with it, the promise of new fruit, as Galatians 5:22 says: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. . . .”