Jesus said, "I am the vine you are the branches if you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit."
I'm sure I learned this verse from the gospel of John back in my Sunday School days as a child. It's a great verse to go along with plant crafts and potting soil. It looks good printed on a church magnet. After you've heard these words for a long time, it's easy to skim over and not see the depth.
So for years, I think had no idea what John 15 was all about. Maybe I still don't, but here are some of my latest hunches at least some to offer the blog today:
If I say I am a follower of Jesus, I am not in control of my life. I am simply connected to a larger story that I am graced to play a part in.
How many times in life-- daily if not weekly do you and I get ahead of ourselves with the planning of our futures? This is one of my favorite games I play in my head.
We think things like, "Well, if I applied and then got this new job, then I'll need to move to this community. And if I moved to this community, I'd need buy a more reliable car. And if I go shopping for a more reliable car then I might not be able to buy what I want because my credit score isn't high enough. Maybe I should pay down more of this credit card and . . . " It's an endless cycle of worry. And "what if" questions that have no concrete answers.
We plan and we plan and we plan some more-- as if we are the ones running the show. But the thing is-- we are not. Not at all.
If we say we are a follower of Jesus, then we are branches of the vine of Christ. We can only know our future as much as the vine directs us to grow. Nothing more.
Even if we pray everyday. Even if we pled Jesus for answers every day. Even if we went to seminary for goodness sake. We are the branches. Just the branches. A part from the vine we can do nothing. Such sounds harsh, doesn't it? Especially to overachiever types like me. "Really, nothing?" I want to fire back. But over the past couple of years, even with all of the degrees to my name, etc. I have come to believe that anything worth doing comes as I am connected to the Spirit.
Another hunch I've been thinking about is that remaining or abiding (as some translations put it) in Christ is crucial to my relationship with myself and my community.
If I want to have a life that moves in the direction of a future that is life-giving, joy-filled and gifted with hope in even during the darkest of seasons, then I must stay put until the Spirit moves. Not until then.
It means that I can't know what kind of plant I might be a week, a month or years from now.
It means that any efforts I make to get ahead of the other branches around me will simply do no good-- for to separate myself from others grafted to the same vine is to essentially leave the faith altogether. I am not a singular entity.
I recently heard an interview with Robin Roberts, the Good Morning America co-anchor. If you've followed her story at all, you know that she's been through a hell of journey concerning her health over the past couple of years. Just when she thought she was in remission from breast cancer, she was diagnosed with a blood disease requiring a blood transfusion. Reports are that her recovery is on an upward trend. So many people have been in awe of her perseverance. I was struck by her comments to a reporter when she said: "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.' At this moment I am at peace and filled with joy and gratitude. I am grateful to God, my doctors and nurses for my restored good health."
This is what I believe living on the vine is all about. Not in the past, not in the future but in the moment of here and now of who exactly is around us (not who we want to be around us).
I've had moments in the past couple of months when I've caught myself with a mind filled with a tornado of worry. I've been obsessed with either the past or the future. And neither of these trains of thought have done me any good. And it has been these words of Jesus have shuck me up and set my feet on more stable ground again.
Jesus is the vine. I am the branches. If I remain in Christ, I will bear much fruit.