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Surrendered Shoots Produce Much Fruit 🍇: A Formational Model for Hope, Healing and Human Flourishing

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17)

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” — Galatians 2:20

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10

In my dissertation research for The Hope-Brained Way, I started wrestling with a composite image I found (and still find) helpful in the work of emotional healing (see first image below). The image began with A.J. Sherrill's tree metaphor for identity (roots), personality (trunk), gifts (branches) and fruit in his book, The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation. I added additional concepts from Daniele Strickland’s “Transformation Tree” and made a few tweaks based on my research.

As you'll see in this graphic, I address the importance of root repair in the work of hope-brained identity reformation, since “the roots are where the story is.” I believe in naming things—in rooting out false-self narratives in order to reframe them for true-self narration. This deeply-rooted “story in our bones” (James K. A. Smith) shows up in our personality and extends through our “branches” into all we do, for good and for bad. Thus, in theory, bad fruit/lack of resilience = broken/damaged/malformed roots and good fruit/resilience = healthy roots. Everything else between the roots and the fruit are simply conveyors of the core messages stored in our identity. The second image here extends this metaphor to languishing and flourishing in community with others.

It was all fine and good (and needed concepts and images to more fully comprehend the power of the top image) ... until I started researching grapevines roots. Fascinating in and of themselves, grapevines have different types of roots: mature, woody, coarse roots that extend wide to stabilize the root stock and thinner feeder roots that go deep to procure nutrients and water from the soil. There’s a transgenerational conversation to be had here about well-resourced mature stabilizers and resourceful young procurers but this will have to wait for another day (the whole Gen X cheering on Gens Y & Z deal) 😄 *because* the process of grafting an under-producing shoot into a healthy rootstock currently has my full attention. Albeit time consuming and patience testing, once a grafted in shoot fully engages the healthy growing root, the union of the two can produce a distinct, unique fruit. 😇🍇

So, here’s identity reformation in Christ—rooted in the love of a Father and empowered through the presence of the Spirit—through the lens of grapevine grafts … IF we “surrender our shoot” (our life) to the gardener (God) by attaching to a healthy root stock (Jesus), the resulting flow of sap (Spirit) produces sweet fruit on the shoot (John 15-ish). In this metaphor, our identity becomes “hidden” in Christ’s identity (Colossians 3:3). Our identity doesn’t disappear (God loves our true selves and created each of us for a purpose), but it becomes united with Christ. God’s not looking for sameness but oneness and from oneness comes goodness.

From a neuroplasticity perspective, root-repairing identity work is VERY difficult, especially when we find ourselves trying to heal in the same context/soil in which the damage occurred (a sundry of relational contexts). Some might even call it striving. But God seeks surrender in place of striving. Rooted in the reconciling words of hope about His love, God calls us to “labor to rest” in Jesus and the subsequent work of the Holy Spirit—surrendering our whole selves to Jesus and His reparative and redemptive way of healing and positioning ourselves for the Spirit’s restoring work of flourishing.

Back to grapevine terms, the more we engage the soil of God’s Word (our foundation for hope) and the more we engage God’s Will for us and God’s Work as the Church, becoming grafted into Jesus’ shoot-repairing identity root system (a framework for healing), the more we engage God’s Work in the world as our DNA mixes with Jesus’ DNA and the a union from which the Spirit produces sweet 1+1=7 fruit (the facility for human flourishing). How?

This is the extra cool impact of a grafted-in union between ourselves and Jesus … awakening (yes, this is the exact word used in one of the articles—which I take as God’s confirmation through creation that awakening requires the Holy Spirit). The more our lives are grafted into (rooted in) the strong healthy rootstock identity of Jesus, the more "resilient" the vascular pathways become between us and Him, the more freely the sap can nourish and “awaken” our branch and the more unique fruits are produced on each branch. Following me? ☺️ (Grapevine terminology is pretty sweet. 🍇)

This image of hope, healing and human flourishing is floating my boat right now. Maybe it’s not about repairing our roots after all, but about surrendering our shoots to a healthy root where our personality, gifts and fruit reflect the story in Jesus’ bones. ❤️ Epilogue (if you’ve made it this far 🤷🏻‍♀️) … As the shoot matures, the work of pruning and winemaking ensues. David Gyertson said this on pruning, “You’ll never get this year’s fruit off of last year’s branches.” Regarding winemaking, as the fruit gets sweeter and ready for God to do a second work of becoming wine, the best of all “house blends” … but this involves crushing and pressing, so I’ll save the extension of this metaphor for another day. 🍷🙃

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