Spiritual Lessons from A Bonsai Tree

I recently attended a workshop to learn how to graft new branches onto an existing Bonsai tree. In this case it was to graft branches from a Shimpaku onto a Personi Juniper. In the process I was reminded of Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome when he speaks to the Gentiles as being united to Christ. He told them that they had been “grafted into the nourishing root”, meaning they were now intimately connected to Jesus.
So if in fact we have been grafted into a relationship with Christ, what lessons are there from grafting that caused Paul to use this illustration? The first one came to mind with the first action I had to take toward the plant that would receive the graft. It required taking an extremely sharp straight-razor and cut a deep wound into the tree. I had to cut through the bark and cambium and into the heartwood of the tree. I couldn’t help but think of the wounding that Christ had to go through prior to and on the Cross in order for me to have forgiveness and a new life. When the instructor said you need to cut to the heartwood I could only picture the spear cutting to the heart of Jesus Christ. In order to receive me as one to be connected with Him, Jesus was willing to be deeply wounded beyond what I can comprehend.
The second step dealt with the piece of Shimpaku branch that was to be grafted into the cut on the Personi. I had to select a small branch and cut it from its original tree. If it was going to be a successful grafting it had to be completely removed from were it previously received it’s nourishment and support. You cannot keep a connection between the old plant and the new plant. It just doesn’t work. It is impossible. The piece to be grafted will surely wither and die if it tries to remain connected to both Shimpaku and Personi. When it comes to following Christ, trying to hang on to what we have trusted in for support and nourishment in the past, simply will not work. Jesus put it simply, give up everything and follow Him. When he bid Peter to step out of the boat he was bidding him to give up everything his experience told him to rely on for support and safety and trust only in his connection with Jesus. Peter couldn’t cling to both. He could not hold onto the boat and walk on water with Jesus. James and John could not follow Him and stay on the shore with their nets. Matthew couldn’t be a disciple and stay sitting in his tax collectors booth. And neither can I. Neither can you. Being grafted into a relationship with Jesus Christ means being cut off from all that you would cling to for safety and security and trusting only His word as you follow behind Him on a path that only He can really see.
There was another aspect of the grafting that struck me. In order for the newly grafted branch to take, it needs a clean, solid, tight connection to the life giving nourishment of the receiving plant. The vascular system of the graft can only bond with the vascular system of the receiving plant if it is intimately and tightly connected. Jesus made the point in John 15 that we must abide in Him if we are to have real life. He makes the point that he is the vine and we are the branches and apart from Him we can do nothing. Apart from the nourishment of the receiving plant, the graft can do nothing and it will in fact wither and die. If we are going to grow strong in Christ we must absolutely be bonded to Him in such a way that our life’s nourishment, what feeds us and strengthens us, is His life giving Spirit.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is famously quoted as saying, “When Jesus calls a man to follow Him, He bids him to come and die”. This morning I read that quote in the context in which he wrote it in “Cost of Discipleship”. What Bonhoeffer was pointing to was the cutting off of the branch to be grafted from what had nourished and sustained it before. He is saying that all that you cling to, other than Christ, must be cut off from you. That such a life must be dead, you must die to that life and find your life first, foremost, and only in Christ. Bonhoeffer points out that for some there may await death as a martyr for Christ. For others not. But the dying he speaks of is not the future dying that may mean martyrdom, but the dying to yourself, and to all you cling to instead of Christ. This is a daily dying. It is a moment by moment reminding that only in Christ am I secure, only in Christ can I find safety, only in Christ is there truly life. Everything else is a counterfeit that seeks to interfere with the deep intimate bond that a well grafted branch must have.

11 thoughts on “Spiritual Lessons from A Bonsai Tree

  1. Pingback: Bonsai Cursus » Blog Archive » Spiritual Lessons from A Bonsai Tree

  2. Excellent post. Too often I see people who claim to be Christians refusing to give up the things that our society has told them are important. How can you claim to be in Christ if you put the demands of the world before Him? It’s hard to cut ourselves off like your post describes. But to truly grow in a relationship with Christ, we have to learn that even the important things like family and friends and jobs are at best secondary to what our focus should be.

  3. “When he bid Peter to step out of the boat he was bidding him to give up everything his experience told him to rely on for support and safety and trust only in his connection with Jesus.” You talkin’ to me? 😉

  4. Luisa

    “grafted into the nourishing root” There”s no better place to be, but with Christ. Die of self to GAIN ABA’s agape (LOVE), JUST DO IT! you will never be alone or longly!
    I have been bless by His words….
    Glory to the Lord, Amen.

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