“It is utterly, unbelievably simple. Receive Jesus with a heart-grasp, and you will find, like the flower, a spring of eternal life, entirely distinct from your own, set working deep down in your inmost being.” Parables of the Christ-life
A spring of eternal life. . . set working deep down in my inmost being. What could be more desirable to a thirsty heart than an endless spring of life in ones inmost being – regardless of the parched or tired circumstances of ones outward existence? But “utterly, unbelievably simple” as Lilias indicates in her Parables of the Christ-life? Can that be possible? And, if so, how?!
It was Jesus, really, who put this idea into personal terms the night before His crucifixion. Addressing His disciples, in the Upper Room, he drew for them a beautiful word-picture of that relationship. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him he will bear much fruit.” But how, one might ask, can one that is a “branch” become one with the “Vine?”
There is a graphic picture for those of us who live in Central Florida – home of the citrus industry – and, if I may insert a little commercial: Florida Natural! Not long after moving to Lake Wakes, citrus growers informed me that our orange crop is created from orange limbs grafted into native lemon root stock. The union requires a severance of a limb from the desired orange tree. A gash must be made in the lemon root stock at which point the orange branch is inserted. The success of the grafting is secured when the sap from the original root stock is able to flow unimpeded, into the orange branch.
“How does a branch that is not a branch become one?” Lilias asks in The Sevenfold Secret. “By grafting. It must be severed from the plant on which it grew, and the severed surface is brought to a wounded place in the vine’s stem, and bound there, heart to heart, and from the wounded place in the stem the sap flows out and seals the branch into union, and then it finds its way into the channels of the graft, and soon it needs no outward bonds to bind it there: it has become one with the vine.”
And so it is with the new life in Christ. We must be grafted into the Vine that is Jesus. There is both a negative and positive aspect to such a union. Just as the old branch must be severed completely from its original source of life, we too must experience the “severance” from our “old life” through confession and repentance. But after the cutting off of that life – however sharp and abrupt it may seem – we are ready for the grafting into the new life. We are bound to the vine – heart to heart – at the place where Jesus was wounded for us.
And this is just the beginning! As the sap flows freely from the vine to the branch, the Spirit of God flows freely into our hearts – through no effort of our own. Unless, of course, we clog or impede the flow by sin or indifference. It is utterly, unbelievably simple. “Receive Jesus with a heart-grasp and you will find, like the flower, a spring of eternal life, entirely distinct from your own, set working deep down in your inmost being.”
The union is established, yes, but it is the beginning of new relationship and like any relationship requires nurture. Jesus, concluded His teaching, with a comforting implication of this new union: “I no longer call you servants. . . instead I have called you friends.. . ” Yes, we are joined in Christ but now we have the unique privilege of abiding with Him – an ongoing process of knowing Him, of becoming more completely what He intended us to be: full persons. Whole.
I conclude where I began – with citrus – and a cautionary tale. For many years, after moving to Florida, I longed for – expressing loudly my longing – a tangerine tree. It seemed to me the perfect fruit: sweet and accessible, the soft skin easily removed for instant enjoyment. One day, to my great joy, I discovered in a corner of our front lawn – yes, you guessed it – a tiny tangerine tree rich with the promise of future delights planted secretly (in the night?) by a good friend (and listener!) who was also in the citrus business. I watched it grow into a large symmetrical tree with glossy green leaves. It looked beautiful.
One day, several years later, said grower, queried about my tree as he had many time before. “No fruit yet? Something’s wrong with this tree.” Then he threatened, “I’m going to smother the ground with fertilizer. If this doesn’t work I’m cutting it down.”
I pled with him. I love this tree. It is beautiful. It provides shade and climbing for the children. He looked at me as if I were out of my mind: “That’s all right for you to say. But I’m a citrus farmer. As far as I’m concerned, if it doesn’t bear fruit its not doing its job. I’m cutting it down.”
A happy ending to this story. It did bear fruit – for years and years. And it taught me a lesson. Citrus tree or branch, it exists to bear fruit: “the power and sweetness of the vine flow into the branch that has lost its own life to find it in the new life which flows on till leaves and flowers and fruit appear. “
Our true shelter and dwelling place is in Jesus – the eternal spring of life – who works within our inmost being. As we abide in that shelter, it becomes our true home, all the fibers of our heart locked in together with it, as the grafted branches abide in the vine, drawing from it the new life.
Painting: Color Plate from Between the Desert & the Sea