In many ways it is much easier to understand spiritual concepts through metaphors and as an artist, I understand a lot more about God’s love through nature when I can see practical evidence than through mere words which do not capture my imagination, but often sound judgmental.
So, what can ‘being grafted in’ mean for those of us who have had to transition through difficult life circumstances with limited choices, escaped from countries where violence rules or been through a divorce?
As a young child I used to follow my father or grandfather around the garden. One of the things they did was graft a bud from a new good bearing fruit tree onto the stock of an old fruit tree or one that was a strong grower but did not bear good fruit. Some of the more delicate trees would not be able to withstand the climatic conditions, but the root stock could and so this symbiosis of the two would bring about the desired fruit.
The prophet Isaiah uses a tree metaphor pointing to the future birth of Christ from the lineage of David ‘a green shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, and from his roots a budding branch,’ He also said that the ‘Spirit of God would hover over him giving wisdom, understanding, direction and strength and the knowledge and the fear of God would be his joy and delight.’ The second half of the Isaiah passage has brought me much comfort where the budding branch (Christ) won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay; isn’t that just what we need? God knows the heart of these matters and will judge the needy by what is right and render justice to the poor. When people only see what they want to see or hear what they want to hear, when the widow or divorcee has been treated unjustly, God will see and bring justice in his time.
This symbiosis of the root stock and the branch is mentioned again in Romans where Paul writes that the Gentiles (wild olive tree) have been grafted into Abraham’s tree, which was God’s special olive tree so that both could share the rich nourishment from God, for if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be too.
God has a lot to say about the treatment of widows, orphans and foreigners that they should be treated fairly. He made a lot of provisions for them in the laws that governed harvesting and reaping. In this modern age it is hard to see the equivalent when women are treated ‘equally’, orphans are put into foster homes and foreigners are welcome, yet often find it more difficult to get the same opportunities as others. As I fitted into this category of widow and foreigner, I once asked my pastor how he saw me. He was surprised and said, ‘I see you as a competent woman!” This may have been so, but it did not address the loneliness I felt of being widowed, neither the feeling of alienation from the culture, being an ‘outsider’. This was the time I needed to be ‘grafted into’ the new community. How does that happen, I think it takes the symbiosis of accepting one another, the stable stock allowing the new bud to be grafted in, it also requires that the bud heal into the tissues of the stock and start drawing sap from the root which is grounded. As the two grow together, the sap (the Spirit) will nourish and bring wisdom, understanding, direction and strength, trusting that God who makes things grow will certainly bring unity allowing relationships to flourish and grow.
The Tree of Life is mentioned in Revelation, where its leaves will be used for the healing of the Nations, in this time of mass migration and brokenness of the family structure, would it not be wonderful if we could learn from the tree and adapt and grow together, each branch grafted into its community and each nation being grafted into the Tree of Life where we would all be at peace with one another and have all our needs met. This is what God intended from the beginning so He could enjoy living among the people He created, He is the root and we are the branches and the sap is the Spirit of unity that binds us all together. Our church communities could be a starting point on a micro level! The weaker cannot thrive without the stronger, the old cannot bear as much good fruit without the strength and vitality of the new graft as it draws its strength for the roots the symbiosis is the living tree bearing good fruit.