Wednesday, June 16, 2010

John 15:1-5

“’I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’” John 15: 1-5

The Believer’s Bible Commentary has an enlightening take on these verses:

“The Christian has been placed in Christ; that is his position…A branch abides in a vine by drawing all its life and nourishment from the vine…Christ himself is the vine; believers are vine branches. It is not a question of the branch living its life for the Vine, but simply of letting the life of the Vine flow out through the branches. Sometimes we pray, ‘Lord, help me to live my life for You.’ It would be better to pray, ‘Lord Jesus, live out Your life through me.' Without Christ, we can do nothing. A vine branch has one great purpose—to bear fruit. It is useless for making furniture or for building homes. It does not even make good firewood. But it is good for fruit bearing—as long as it abides in the vine.” Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald

I love this because transferring our “live out my life for You” to “Lord, live out Your life through me” really does put God in the position of Gardener, not us. So often we co-opt Christianity and forge ahead without, in true humility, taking every thought captive to Christ. It’s like trying to grow sunflowers in shade or woodland Trilliums in full sun. We think we can will things to happen through sheer determination instead of allowing the life of Christ to grow in and out of us through His Holy Spirit.

The only way Christ can live through us is when we allow Him to take His rightful place as Vine, God to take His rightful place as Gardener, and we our rightful place as branches that exist only because Christ gives us life through Himself. We don’t exist first, and then Christ outside of us. God tends, Jesus anchors and feeds and we bear fruit as a result. The process cannot be reversed or re-arranged, as if we could somehow grow Christ.

Today I give God His trowel and pruning sheers back and take my rightful place as a branch on the True Vine of Jesus Christ.

“If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:6

Sunday, June 6, 2010

If You're the Parent of a Graduate...

A year ago today my oldest son graduated from high school. The day I knew would always come had arrived. I didn’t cry at his graduation because relief was the overwhelming emotion: relief that he made it (and made it well); relief that I had been able to be an at-home mom the entire time; relief that we were able to stay in the same house from the time he was in fourth grade; relief that the ups and downs of high school were over….relief.

But then August came and we did the parent-weekend-drop-off-your-kid-at-college routine. Nobody prepared me for that (I went to a state university. My parents weren’t there to see me off, since I lived at home my first two years. I transferred to Madison with zero fanfare). So when my son’s college took the parents through what many of us found to be an excruciatingly sentimental and dramatic weekend of speeches filled metaphorically with mother eagles pushing their young out of their nests, I was just about at my wits end at the final chapel service which ended with a “parent covenant” where we corporately read words on the screen that basically pledged we would “cut the umbilical cord,” “sever the ties that bind,” and officially recognize our children as adults who must depart to find answers to their dreams, go live their lives, spread their wings…..At about this point in the service I wanted to slide the needle off the record, silence the violins, raise my hand and brazenly announce “I’m outa here! Anybody want to join me?” I was a complete and total wreck (attested to by the final breakdown in tears in the hotel room at my husband’s lighthearted joke about how we could soon say “sayonara” and be on our way).

Upon entering the driveway on our return home without our son, I cried at the site of the front porch, where he and I spent hours talking. Weeding my garden that week, tears streamed every time I thought of my son not coming home until at least October break. I shut the door to his bedroom. I cried again when I found a dirty sock of his in the laundry pile.

Thus began the first year of living without my son in the house.

And to think I was actually happy for him! I was, very happy. I just couldn’t muster up happiness for me, not yet. That would take some time and adjustment and some very big comforting from God.

As I think about my friends and other parents who watched their child graduate today, I look back over this past year. Taking my son to college seems like a lifetime ago, and in many ways, it was. He changed and we all grew and fumbled with our new roles. Melancholy still crept in from time to time, but I could come and go from visiting him at college or attending one of his concerts and finally feel joy, not just for him, but for me too.

Today I especially think about what it would have been like to endure this past year without knowing Jesus and being able to be so intimate and close with Him in the initial heartbreak and the ensuing challenges of operating in this new arrangement. I brought everything, and I do mean everything, into my conversations with God. I left nothing out and I asked Him for help constantly. And He provided, just like He has always promised. He never forsook me and I never, not once, felt forsaken. I got through this past year because God got me through this past year, and continues to do so. And as the “getting through” has gotten not only easier, but also deeply rewarding, I give my thanks to God. He truly is a rock. It is my prayer for all of you parents out there facing this new stage of life that you’ll let Him be your rock, too. God bless you and your student in the coming year.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

“…God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’” Hebrews 13:5-6

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why Not Today?

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30