John 15: Learning to be a branch
As I was reflecting on this passage that I’ve read a thousand times, I asked God for a fresh understanding of what it meant to abide. I spend so much of my life working and worrying, striving and stressing, and very little time being still and listening. So as I attempted to practice this somewhat elusive abiding that scripture speaks of, I let these words seep deep into my restless soul. “I am the vine and you are the branches,” Jesus spoke (and John writes). “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
A few things I instantly noticed. First of all, Jesus isn’t against doing. He calls us to do a great many things, yet the source of our strength for the doing must come from abiding. As counter intuitive as it seems, our very first step in doing anything must not be a step at all: it must be abiding. Secondly, I took a moment to gaze out my living room window and noticed something about the trees. None of the branches seemed to be struggling to connect with their trunks, or vines, if you will. It is the most natural thing in the world for these branches to stay attached to their source of life and strength and nourishment. These branches acknowledge the blatantly obvious: to be severed from their roots would mean all growth would cease.
So what does it mean to abide? Most simply put, just act like a branch. In humility, acknowledge that my only source of joy, of life, of peace, of strength (fill in the blank with whatever need you have today) is Jesus. It’s okay if I don’t possess within myself the patience I need to love my family well today: I am connected to Jesus, the author of patience, the relentless and never-tiring lover of my soul. It’s okay if I can’t muster up enough peace within my own spirit to face the trials of today: I am connected to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who lavishes a calmness over me that surpasses all understanding. And as I stay in constant communion with Jesus today, lifting up short prayers as I drive, singing his praises at the stoplights, His Spirit will produce that fruit that will not only satisfy my own thirsty soul but will be a blessing to all those with whom I come into contact.
So may we abide well today. May we find those sixty seconds to confess to Jesus how desperately we need Him. May we take that short moment to celebrate the joy that is found in being connected to the one true source of life. And thank God that He loved us enough to send us His ultimate gift of grace: Jesus Christ abiding in us.