I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1-2
It’s been a little maddening to keep up with the daily changes that Covid-19 has brought to medicine. As soon as I think I’ve got things figured out, a new email comes out telling me how I must change my workflow – again. Never before in my medical career have we had to adapt so quickly, radically altering the way we’ve always done things. No one likes this continual change, and everyone agrees that we just want things to go back to normal.
No matter what I want though, I cannot wish this virus away. It’s here and I must deal with that reality. I could simply refuse to change, but that too, would have painful consequences. It doesn’t really matter what I prefer, I must adapt if I desire to continue caring for patients. If I refused to change, I’d soon be obsolete. Transformation may be uncomfortable, but if I want to continue being a productive physician, I must accept it as part of my life.
In today’s passage, Jesus taught that the Christian life is also one of continual transformation. Using the metaphor of a plant, he said that he is the vine, and we are the branches. If we follow Christ, then the father – or the vinedresser – prunes each of us in order to make us more fruitful.
The problem of course, is that pruning is often unpleasant to the one being pruned. Pruning a branch involves cutting away the unnecessary, so that it may grow and thrive. We generally don’t like change though. Often, even if we’re miserable, we would rather continue doing things the way we’ve always done them. Even in our addictions, we’d prefer to simply continue living enslaved, because we know the process of finding freedom will likely involve a lot of discomfort.
It’s unpleasant when God slashes away at our prejudice, pride, greed, gluttony, lust, and selfishness. Those things unfortunately, are attached to us, and when God cuts them out, it hurts. If we truly follow Christ though, then, as uncomfortable as it may be, our lives must be marked by continual change and growth, as we become who God made us to be.