“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
Crunched together in my Dad’s 6-by-30-foot garden plot on the side of his house is a tangled farm of 25 eager tomato vines, grown from seed, vying for attention, stretching for space and sunlight.
Most exciting is the new growth of tomato flowers with buds emerging, plumping up into tiny green tomatoes, the “before” side of the eagerly awaited fruit (destined for fresh pasta sauce and caprese salads, of course).
I say “eagerly awaited” because I am not so patient when I go over to visit and mosey in the garden. I worry we will lose the tomatoes before they become ripe. I fret about the green bugs that are inching around — they might sink their teeth into a tomato, ruining it! Will the harsh sun dry them up?
So I attempt (far too often) to pull the tomatoes off just a bit before they’re fully ripe. What’s the harm?? They can ripen on the counter in the house, safe from bugs or sun, can’t they?
Dad always reminds me with a smirk, when he sees me sneaking toward the next orangey-red, almost-ripe tomato, “Erin, don’t pick that off. Let it stay on the vine just a little longer. It’s almost ready. We’ll get the best-tasting fruit if you leave them alone to finish growing.”
And so, I wait, and we enjoy the sweetest homemade sauce almost every weekend because I heed good counsel.
Spiritually speaking, we hit points in our daily walk where we have the option to “stay on the vine” — stay connected to Christ and maintain our hope of salvation — or we can hop off earlier to take the reins ourselves and hope for the best.
Throughout the scriptures, there are many opportunities to find “staying on the vine” moments from the saints of old. The two most prominent for me are Joseph of Egypt and Abraham.
Abraham’s “staying on the vine” moment was so pivotal it changed the entire world’s genealogies. Abraham was promised a son in his “ripe” old age, who would become a legacy of many generations, as many as the stars in the sky and the sands of the sea.
Abraham gets off to a shaky start, but he finally has a son with his wife, Sarah. Isaac at last! The blessing is here! All is well in the world…until God asks Abraham for his “first fruits,” to sacrifice his firstborn son from his beloved Sarah.
“And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father…behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:7-8)
This was Abraham’s “staying on the vine” moment. God offered no promise to Abraham that his son would live. All Abraham knew was that Isaac was promised to him, and if he trusted God’s promises, then God’s will would be done one way or another. He could have chosen to save his son, but he obeyed to the point that an angel had to stop Abraham from going through with sacrificing his son! (Genesis 22:12)
The angel says, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me”.
More than just a type and shadow of God offering his firstborn son to mankind, God blesses Abraham with multiple promises: he lives a long life; his seed is extended through “all the nations of the earth” (v.17-18), and his lineage is so blessed it even continues, generation after generation, leading all the way to the birth of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:7 states that those who are of the faith (us included) are considered the children of Abraham. What a legacy from that one single “staying on the vine” moment of complete faith, clinging to righteousness and trusting in God come what may.
Joseph of Egypt
Joseph of Egypt has quite a few “staying on the vine” moments throughout his rollercoaster life. As much as we want to emulate this wonderful, spiritual example of faith, Joseph’s life was pretty miserable-sounding for a lot of years. I don’t know if I could’ve made it through those very personal trials. What if I put myself in Joseph’s shoes?
What if I had siblings who hated me enough to kill me, who threw me in a pit and then sold me into slavery? Perhaps things got better when I gained favor for a few years working in a strange rich man’s household, but then I was tempted to commit adultery and literally fled for my life to avoid that sin. I did good, didn’t I? But then I was wrongly imprisoned. After many years (subject to the forgetful memory of one of Pharaoh’s butlers no less) I finally got out of prison, interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams of plentiful harvest and the following famine, saving my entire family, yes, even including my brothers who threw me in the pit in the first place!
Joseph had a lot of opportunities to be bitter and hop off the vine. It’s possible through many of those years he might’ve been very alone in his faith, one of the few (or only) members of Pharaoh’s household who believed in the God of Israel, yet he clings to his faith for decades despite it all. How did Joseph get through it?
I believe Joseph got through mostly because he not only trusted God, but he also decided to not take what happened to him personally or blame God for his troubles. He understood that God was still constant through all of his life, despite the highs and lows, famine or plenty.
There’s always at least one pivotal moment when we have to make a decision one way or the other, hopefully to remain with the vine that is Jesus Christ. Esther’s “staying on the vine” moment is summed up in the five words, “If I perish, I perish.” Mary’s “staying on the vine” moment was trusting the angel who visited her, sharing the seemingly impossible news that she was going to give birth to the son of God (Luke 1:26-55). Nephi stayed on the vine time and time again despite the murmurs and persecution from his own family.
My Own Moment
I pray that I continue to stay on the vine, that I don’t get eaten by “bugs of opposition” or lopped off too early by some eager worldly idea. I want to hang on, be patient, let the Word of God nourish and grow me, so that I can bear fruit and be part of God’s harvest.
My own “staying on the vine” moment was in eighth grade when my friends were getting into a lot of mischief. I had to choose if I was going to follow them (and keep my friend group so I wouldn’t be alone), or do what I knew was right and remove myself from those situations. I asked for my baptism because I thought if I didn’t get baptized and keep myself away from trouble, then I didn’t know if I would survive high school. I spent years of Friday nights at home, not joining in earthly “fun.” Meanwhile, my parents continually prayed for me to find some good, wholesome friends. Finally, in eleventh grade, I found a really solid group of friends who supported my beliefs, and I remain best friends with some of them to this day. This “staying on the vine” moment, being the odd kid out during the most pivotal, self-defining teenage years, is now part of my testimony.
May we always fondly remember our “staying on the vine” moments and share our fruit with others around us.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.