It is harvesting season in Croatia. Over the past several weeks I have been helping pick grapes, zucchini, tomatoes, blackberries, figs, and cabbage. I have spent hours juicing, canning, and freezing preparing this seasons fruit for the winter. I have learned that caring for fruit, even after it is ripe, is quite a task. People meticulously hang sheets and nets to catch falling fruit to prevent bruising, then spend time cleaning and cutting out bad spots, then spend countless hours making jams, sauces and compotes to have over the winter. Harvesting and preparing fruit takes an extraordinary amount of time and attention.
All throughout the Bible, farming illustrations are used to describe spiritual concepts to help us learn. Unfortunately as someone who grew up in the city, I was not able to appreciate the depth of care it takes to tend to plants and animals. After living through this season being actively involved in the preparation and work that it takes, I am able to appreciate the time and effort God puts into us.
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."John 15:1-2
The language here reminds me so much of a caring gardener. It takes a lot of time an effort to prune branches, but He does it out of love! Because of John 15 I saw how much effort it takes to produce fruit, but after living through this season I began to also think of the effort required once the fruit is grown. Once the fruit is grown it must be carefully watched to be picked at the perfect time, then carefully cleaned, and then prepared to eat or be made into something else.
Even Believers must be discipled. Although they may be ripe, the process doesn’t end there. It takes time for mature Believers to become the person God is asking them to be. It is a life-long process which requires community and dedication. As a youth leader, this fact challenges me to pay even closer attention to the people I am ministering to. I have a responsibility to carefully guide them to help them reach what God is calling them to do. As we continue to grow in our relationship with the Lord it is important to encourage other believers that we have not reached the end! God will continue working, challenging, and forming us into something new out of His great love for us! We are just along for the process! So we should to submit to His guidance and trust that someday we will be completed (just like my canning for the winter)!