John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
We as Christians are referred to by John in this passage as branches. If you think of a branch, what is required of it? To hang around, to draw from the life of the vine, to be grounded by the root, to be prepared to bear the fruit of the plant. What is the branch apart from the tree? It is a dried up stick! I know this illustration is used often and we go ya ya, we know, but are we really remaining?
Remain in Hebrew is translated as to stay, continue, abide, dwell, endure, be present, stand! These are not passive words nor do they portray just a hanging around attitude. This requires us to stay connected to Jesus in the midst of all that we encounter in this life. It is the lifeblood of victory and abundant life in a world that can squeeze the life out of us if we don’t.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the beauty in creation as the summer months are upon us. It is far easier to appreciate all of that when I am not in the middle of a winter season. I am able to breathe a little easier and see a little more clearly and remain a little more firmly. I just went through a season of wilderness in my own spiritual life, this combined with premenopausal hormones has made for a wild ride. A more apt description might be a crazy train!
And try as I might, like the branches, I was not able to muster up anything of my own volition. I kept pressing in even when it felt like I would snap off of that vine at any given moment. I did the things I knew to do when things looked hopeless. I watered my branch with many tears and went through periods of drought when tears weren’t even possible.
Sometimes God calls us in to the deep and it is a period of waiting that sometimes seems unending. But He never leaves us there, He is with us even when we can’t see clearly. Sheila Walsh recently described that getting to know Jesus is the antidote to shame and that we have never lived an unloved moment.
Consider that…Selah…Pause for contemplation…not One unloved moment!
Sheila also said that when we walk through a dark season in our life it will alter the landscape of our heart. This is absolutely true but the new scenery is not always a bad thing. I learned that I could not always trust my feelings, my requirement as a branch was to trust God, to walk with Him and obey even if I didn’t ‘feel’ like it. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in All things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
This frees me in knowing that He works it out for good, I do not have to manage that. It doesn’t say that the circumstances are good necessarily but that All things can be used by Him. In this wilderness time there has been a lot of disappointment; in people, in ministry, in not accomplishing what I thought this season was for and in some of this I see the truth of this verse and the solidifying of my branchness. (My word)
You see, as I heard in my heart the other day, God doesn’t waste anything. He works All together in our lives, we have been called according to His purpose. So not only do we not need to work it out, He has purposed what it is for. And our requirement is not to become a stick. To nurture our relationship with the vine and to be planted firmly in the root of who we are in Him.
It is about authenticity and identity. It is about receiving His love and allowing it to change us. It is to trust and be willing even when we don’t understand. It is to keep our eyes on Him even if it seems like nothing is changing. And so in our process, we unlearn, we lean in, we listen, we trust the preparation, we speak His truth, we learn His Word, we love Him and receive the abundance of love He has for us. Meet with Him as you are, dance, sing, write, talk, garden, love others, be honest and real and raw. Fruit will come as you cultivate your relationship with Him, after all that is what He created us for.
Micah shows us a branch requirement very clearly, “He has shown you , O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
How are you making that sacrifice of your heart and remaining in the vine?