The Lord always amazes me with His timely teachings. This summer I’ve been writing an inductive study on The Gospel According to John to be taught in the fall. In the midst of writing the lesson on John 15, the Lord gave me a real life illustration of the fruit of the vine.
I’m no gardner, really. Just a dabbler that has managed to keep more plants alive than dead. Last year, my husband and I decided enough of working for a “pretty” yard. It was time for our backyard to start working for us!
We pulled out the flax and planted a Meyer lemon bush in its place. We pulled out more bushes and planted two blueberry bushes. I scattered thyme and tarragon among the flowers. We’ve been enjoying the fruit of our labor and it’s delicious!
This season I branched out (no pun intended!). One of the vegetables I scattered among our flowering shrubs was a Zucchini squash plant. Yes, “a” plant. That’s important to note. I planted one, not several.
It quickly grew and was flourishing. The plant grew beautiful, large yellow flowers and zucchini fruit began to appear. It was exciting to watch! Every morning, with coffee cup in hand, I would walk through the garden to observe the progress of the fruit. After a few weeks, I noticed the first fruit of the zucchini plant grew a few inches and then withered, died and fell off. Hmmm…was this a trend?
For the next few weeks I observed more fruit grow to several inches, die and fall of the plant. Yikes! What was up?! What’s a gal to do? Google, of course! I consulted several gardening sites and blogs and narrowed down the cause of the failing fruit to one possibility. Our zucchini plant appeared to have little or no bees and insect activity to pollinate the flowering fruit. Our lone zucchini plant was in need of artificial insemination.
The gardening blogger suggested two manual techniques, since the insects and bugs in our garden appeared to be otherwise occupied with more luscious flowering plants. First, I would need to identify the “male” and “female” flowers. Then, I would need to take a Q-tip and transfer the pollen from the “male” stamen to the stamen of the “female” flower. The blogger also suggested using the “male” stamen itself to transfer the pollen. As weird as it seamed, I actually got excited. This could be a remedy for the early demise of the immature fruit!
I dutifully waited until the cool of next morning when the blooms were wide open and the morning dew covered the plant’s broad leaves. I identified the “male” flower (one stamen with no fruit attached to the flower) and the “female” flower (multipart stamen with a baby zucchini attached to the base of the flower). The gardening blogger suggested using either a Q-tip or the actual stamen from the “male” flower. I thought, “If a Q-tip is good, an actual stamen is even better!” and chose to pluck the “male” stamen from the flower and use it to pollinate the “female” flowers. My husband, ever the jokester, held his iPhone over the plant blaring a Barry White song. And then we waited to see what would happen.
After several days, the pollinated fruit did not die and drop off the plant! It began to grow bigger and bigger and now resembles the mature zucchini for sale in the farmer’s market. Hooray! But my elation was short lived…
As a looked at the lone plant, I realized there were several other flowering fruit and no “male” flower to provide pollen. Yikes! What had I done? By using the only “male” flower stamen for the first round of artificial pollination, I had unwittingly removed the only source of pollen for future fruit. My fruit would not last! There was no source of pollen to continue the fruiting process. It was a sad day in our home.
I began to piece together the example the Lord had given me as I studied John 15:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
Apart from a source of pollination, our lone zucchini plant could do nothing. It looked beautiful and healthy with broad green leaves sheltering the fruit from the heat of the sun. It began to grow fruit – fruit that would not grow to maturity without pollination. Without a pollination source, the young fruit quickly withered and died and fell off the plant. It’s not a perfect analogy to Jesus’ teaching, but it does offer insight and application.
If I am not abiding in the love Jesus Christ (John 15:9-10) – I will yield sickly fruit that withers and dies. The fruit will not be of the Lord, it will be of my own efforts. At best, I’m an artificial life force. My self-generated fruit will not last because apart from Jesus, I can do nothing. But if I am abiding in the love of Christ, I will yield “much fruit” – healthy fruit that will last to the glory of God!