the branches

Spring has come to Beijing! Just a week ago, I started noticing buds about to bloom, taking off my sweater in the afternoon, and wearing one pair of socks instead of double layers. And now, spring has arrived in all its many ways! Trees are literally greener every day, bushes that I thought were dead twigs are sprouting yellow flowers, the heating system is turned off and no one needs it, and my favorite: the pink trees scattered about the school and the village!

On Friday, I had just finished morning reading exercises with seventh grade, Class 3, The bell rang for all the to students return to the classroom for their first period while I was admiring the beautiful blossoms outside their door. As three boys headed into class, they asked what I was doing, and as I explained that I was taking a close-up shot of the blossoms, I realized that pictures of people are way better than flowers. So I asked them to pose for one snapshot as they ran into class. Sure enough, they made the shot something way more special.

After all the students were out of eyesight, I reached up and plucked a tiny branch of pink flowers off the tree. I just wanted to bring a bit of spring into my desk in the office. I knew it wouldn’t last too long, but it was so sweet! The blooming tree was such a symbol of full, vibrant new life, and I wanted to bring that in with me.

I didn’t realize that the petals would be wilting within hours. I was out of the school for the weekend, and when I came back Sunday at noon, I was dismayed at the change in the blossoms. The deadness of the flowers, combined with the color of their past life, was a sad and desolate combination.

The parallel was obvious, but perhaps even more thought-provoking and poignant with the illustration laid out before me.
Jesus is the tree, and we are the branches. This concept is portrayed many times in Scripture, through Jesus’ parable of the vine, as well as Paul’s discussion of being “grafted in,” and others. One of the ultimate purposes of this illustration is to demonstrate complete dependence on the life of the root, the tree. The branches come out from the tree, or are grafted on to it, but they do nothing to actually contribute to their own growth. They receive the nutrients that are pumped to them from the roots.

Maybe a little branch of the tree starts thinking that she should being doing more to sustain herself, that she shouldn’t be so dependent on the roots and trunk of the tree. So when an admiring Shelby comes along, this little branch looks her best and smiles brightly so as to cause Shelby to pluck her off. Finally, the branch can show her tree just how much she can do!

For an hour, the little branch thought she was doing pretty great; she still looked beautiful and full of life! But that didn’t last long. Suddenly she was fading, drying up, and dying of thirst. She wanted nothing more than to be back with her tree, attached and completely dependent, just like she was meant to be.

And that’s just how we’re meant to be: attached and dependent, because now that we have been grafted on to Jesus, our life comes from Him completely. He provides us with everything we need for life, and life abundant. So let’s not try to impress God with what we can do for Him, but let’s make the world more and more beautiful by blossoming in and with Him.


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