Monday, May 30, 2011

Serenity Now!

After my last post, my friend Mike Witt wrote, “If only "remaining/abiding" came easily and naturally instead of me TRYING so hard to remain. Any thoughts?” My first thought is, “Yes, I hear you and I have no idea either!”

But as I have prayed about this today, I am beginning to remember that remaining is an ongoing, regular process. It’s something that takes time to cultivate, and fruit does not appear overnight. Being at home all day with the kids has not necessarily been the most fun. We’ve played some games, read some books, and laughed together. But it’s also been noisy and a little bit less “controlled” than my work environment. And so as I tried to read and pray while Jacob bounced on the bed beside me, I decided, “The key is to abide, so I will just abide.” And I thought I could flip the abiding switch. Didn’t work.

It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where George’s dad thinks that he can obtain peace by screaming, “Serenity now!!” whenever he got stressed out.

The fruit of the Spirit is peace, true, but fruit takes time to be borne. The Spirit is not a source to be turned on and off when I need it, freeing me to live independently from God until life gets to be a little more than I can handle. The life that Jesus describes in John 15 is an ongoing abiding, a daily and hourly relationship of intimacy, of life focused on the Father and of relying on the complete provision of the Son. That life is available at all times, but is not cultivated in a mere moment.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Back to the Vine

I used to tell my UNCG students, “You never graduate from the gospel,” meaning that our need for Jesus never goes away. Our goal is not to need Him less but to depend on Him more. It seems that I cannot graduate from John 15, Jesus’ discourse on the vine and the branches.

After weeks (months) of drifting in busyness and being driven by the expectations of people and of myself, I’m getting sick tired of being sick and tired.

Needing an anchor for my soul, I’ve wandered back to familiar ground, the parable of the vine. God has been speaking to me in recent days, revealing the root of my busyness and burnout, which is a lack of intimacy with Him. Instead of seeking God’s face, I’ve been living by what seems best to me. The really tricky part is that usually “what seems best to me” are things that are really good and nice. Helping people, leading Bible studies, prayer. These are things that have an appearance of fruitfulness, and so they have become my focus, because I want a fruitful life.

So I was stopped short again today when I read John 15:5. “If you remain in me, you will bear much fruit.” The very thing I want – fruit - is a byproduct of the very thing I have rarely been doing – remaining. My life gets so focused on results, on fruit, on the end product, and the goal – fruit – becomes my focus, instead of the Lord. Remaining is so counterintuitive to me. It seems so wasteful to just “remain” and let God bring the fruit. There are so many things to do.

But what if they are not the things He wants me to do? Talk about wasting time!

It’s as thought God is saying, “Remain. Fruit will come. Don’t focus on fruit. Be still, remain, and listen. Trust. Let me produce in you what I want to produce, not what you  think I want or what you want or what others want. Remain. Fruit will come.”

And so I will. Like a branch in a vine. Focused on the Lord and trusting Him for the fruit. But I think resting and remaining will be hard work at first.