Can I just have a little honest moment with you?
I have really been struggling to abide.
Prior to moving to Ann Arbor, I lived in Boston for two and a half years while studying for my doctoral degree in Physical Therapy. For those of you who have not lived in New England or encountered native New Englanders, let me tell you, these people are fiercely passionate about their gardens in the best way possible. I remember multiple patients giving me weekly updates about their tomatoes, their green beans, their lettuce, their peppers and the list goes on. In fact, I distinctly remember one patient telling me that as the gardener, his job was to intimately know his plants, know what would harm them, create an environment that would foster growth, and prune them to prepare for future growth. Each week when I finished treating that patient, there was no doubt in my mind that this man loved his garden.
Fast forward to last weekend, our pastor spoke on John 15 and the concept of abiding. I started getting restless in my seat as he spoke. I became like a small child squirming around, and I suddenly forgot how to discipline myself to sit still for 45 minutes. I was uncomfortable and just wanted to zone out.
ISN’T IT FUNNY HOW THE LORD PUTS THINGS RIGHT UNDER OUR NOSE WHEN WE AREN’T WALKING IN HIS WAY?
That’s what Sunday was for me – a strict realization that I struggle with abiding because I often try to find fulfillment in everything (a job, an event, a reputation, a status, a friendship, an accomplishment, etc.) other than living in a place of abiding with Jesus. I was convicted of finding contentment in my earthly circumstances instead of finding contentment in the presence of Jesus despite my circumstances. I was deeply convicted of being in a place of complacency, where I was okay with not abiding.
I was later processing with the Lord as I was cleaning my house and he sweetly reminded me of my patients who were gardeners in Boston. Earthly gardeners long to spend time in their gardens because they want to see their garden thrive. The gardener knows that a harvest does not happen without a life-giving source and without cutting away the dead parts of the plant to produce more fruit.
JOHN 15 IS ABOUT THE SAME THING.
Our heavenly Father is the master gardener. He longs to spend time with us. He, as the vine, is the only source that fruit can grow from because without the vine, there can be no life.
And by being in a place of complacency, where I was okay with not abiding, it is almost as if I was saying that I am okay cutting myself off from the vine because I don’t think I need the life from the vine to produce fruit.
As I was on my knees a few nights ago repenting of this sour, filthy attitude and nature of my complacency, I asked the Lord to replace this with an unquenchable thirst for the presence of Jesus. To replace my tendency for self-reliance with a total dependence on the presence of Jesus. To fill even the deepest crevices of my heart with a longing to abide, resulting in experiencing the transformative power that only the presence of Jesus brings.
And through it all, the Lord so gently and graciously continues to remind me that His command has not changed — to be faithful in soaking up, sitting in and walking in the presence of Jesus – to abide.
This week, I encourage you to read John 15 and ask the Lord to highlight areas you have excluded His presence or relied more on your independence than the dependence that comes from walking with Him. John 15 explicitly states that apart from Him (the vine), we (the branches) can do nothing. What areas of your life are you operating apart from Jesus and apart from the life-giving presence of the vine?