Tennis Courts And Vineyards
I slipped away from the wooded path and onto the secluded court. It wasn’t mine; I had no right to be there, but no one ever used it so, no one ever cared. Not having to watch my step or where I was going had its advantages. I was hemmed-in with 15-foot high fencing all the way around. Trees and shrubbery completely covering three sides leaving only the end open to the small playground area bordering the farthest spots of the apartment building parking lot. We’d been coming there since we were children, traipsing along the aqueduct through the woods from one apartment complex to the next and cutting off the path through the thicket to arrive at the playground. It was always empty. I had hardly ever seen anyone swim in the nearby pool, play on the tennis court, or swing at the playground. It was almost as if the planners had placed it just far enough away from the buildings to make it a chore to enjoy.
The Right Place At The Right Time
Maybe I just always showed up at the right time. Perhaps people did use it, but by chance or grace, it was always empty when I longed for solitude or wanted to play with friends in peace. In any event, while the playground had been my go-to as a child, I spent most of my time on the tennis court by the time I was twelve or thirteen. Not playing – pacing. The aqueduct was a long tree-lined path that went on for miles and miles. Steep ravines bordered the portion nearest our apartment on each side for part of the way, rolling hilly spots, brooks, but all were densely wooded areas that made you feel like you were in the middle of nowhere until some small section veered close to or crossed a road. It was my peace. But, you had to watch your step.
The Tennis Court
The tennis court was a different thing. It was quiet and mostly secluded and flat. I’d slip in through the chainlink fence door, close it behind me and walk. I found memorizing very difficult, and when I was tasking with memorizing nearly the entirety of John 15 for confirmation, along with countless other scriptures and catechism answers, I struggled. I took up pacing the court as I recited the words over and over as a way to help me remember. It worked. As I read the piece today, I was instantly transported back to the quiet rustle of the leaves, the plodding footsteps, and the depth of the scripture. Without me, you can do nothing. With me, you can bear much fruit.
If you’ve ever seen anything grow, you will probably have noticed that the stalk, truck, or vine is significantly thicker and stronger than the branches. It’s the part that is directly connected to the deep roots which nourish the whole plant. The branches hold the fruit but can easily be snapped off. When they break off on their own, they fall and whither away – its fruit dies with it because it is no longer receiving any nourishment. The fruit cannot be produced by just a branch. The branch can not survive without the vine. Jesus is our vine. He provides the strength and nourishment we need to share our gifts with the world.
40-Day Challenge: Day 21 Reading
John 14:6 Jesus answered. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.