It’s a baking in the hot sun, dirt under our fingernails, sweat on the brow sort of day. My husband, Dan, and I are carrying large paver stones onto an open dirt patch in our back yard. Roots from an old Phoenix palm tree block our way. We dig, and cut. Dan heaves the axe over and over again, breaking up the root knot.
These roots, they go deep.
With each paver we place, leveling the ground becomes more difficult as the roots break the ground, leaving uneven, tippy surfaces to try to smooth. I grab the plant clippers- I’m sure that’s the technical name, right?- and cut, cut, cut again at the roots. Never ending, they seem.
Then my boy scampers over. “I want to cut.” He announces. Good helpers, these boys of ours are. I hesitate, knowing how difficult the cutting has been for me. Then I look up. In the background, the clear blue sky, sun penetrating. But in the foreground overgrown vines are winding and weaving their way through the dark slats of the fence.
“You want to cut these?” I ask with a smile, pointing to the vines? “Oh, yeah!” He responds.
We set him up high on a bench so he can reach, trimming back the vines. I turn my attention away, back to the dying roots, interrupting my efforts at a flat patio. And as I do, I find healthy green leaves dropping onto my shoes.
Soft laughter accompanies each leaf that falls, and as I look up, I see my boy has taken to cutting off all parts of the vines, even the good parts. I walk over to examine the plant creeping its way into our yard. The green looks healthy enough. Curly shoots shimmering in the sun.
But as I look closer, I see it. A brown, dead looking branch weaving in and out of the fence posts, the whole length of the fence. And then cascading on top of the dead brown branch, a healthy lime-green branch, sending nutrients out to each curly shoot, and each green leaf.
Stay and Be Nourished
That’s what stops me in my tracks. Closing my eyes, I see it. This… this green branch, it’s a living parable. It brings me back to Jesus’ words about staying, abiding, remaining.
This is what it means to REMAIN.
In the book of John Jesus instructs his disciples to REMAIN in Him. He likens their relationship with him to that of a vine and the vine’s branches. Just like what I had stumbled across in my backyard.
He, this Jesus, is the vine. Those who follow him, are the branches.
He states plainly, “Remain in me, as I also 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 you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
This stopping, has made me contemplative. With a heavy sigh, I begin to understand even clearer. This LIVING parable.
Remaining in the green vine, THIS is what brings life.
Being connected to Jesus, THIS is what sustains life.
Disconnected from Nourishment
And yet so many times I find my life dry and brittle, dying like the branch intertwined in the fence. Without the fence, this branch too, would be thrown, with the force of gravity, to the ground.
And it makes me wonder, why don’t I just REMAIN? Why don’t I come to the vine for nourishment?
I’m cocky. I’m prideful. I’m too obsessed with MY way of doing things.
I think I need to do it on my own.
Pull up my own bootstraps.
Get strategies for coping. Ease my own anxieties. Live in the midst of this mundane life-on my own.
And yet, this, this living parable right on our back fence, was a call. “Come back to the vine, my daughter.”
Ah, yes. This, this is what remaining means. Don’t go far, but stay.
Stay connected to the Holy Spirit.
Stay connected with the words of Jesus resonating and reverberating through the comings and goings of my day.
My Go-To in the Midst of A Busy Life
When I get busy, my go to is my list. Organize it. Make sure you know what’s happening. Organization is good, of course. But it’s not the BEST thing when done apart from the Vine.
What if just before the list making I reminded myself, that apart from the Vine, Jesus himself, I can do NOTHING.
I can’t even make that list, that brings some sanity, without Jesus. I can’t breathe without his willing me to do so, nevertheless think about how I might love those around me!
Remaining is a state of the heart, hurry is a state of the body.
This staying slows the body and the soul.
Hurry is produced by handling life on my own. Busy, is just a sign of the schedule. I can be busy without being hurried- by remaining.
Instinctively, I know that I can’t do it, and yet deceptively, I’m convinced over and over again, that I’m capable of much, much more than I am.
And yet to slow down is to stay, abide, remain.
We might have a lot going on in our days. Things that God has called us to. But, the way to produce fruit in that, isn’t to conjure it up on our own.
All We’re Asked to Do, is to Stay- Stay with Jesus
You see, each day we have two options. First, act like we can do it all on our own. And like that green leaf my son cut from the vine, the life in it will last for a bit- a day, maybe two.
But eventually in the hot sun of life, apart from the vine, the leaves on the branch of your life will wither.
Going through life by pulling your own weight, getting it done with sheer willpower- it’s only going to take you so far, before you run out of nutrients to keep you going.
The second option is to find Jesus’ words as comfort and as the key to life.
Remain open: listening for the voice of God in the midst of the activities of our days.
Remain surrendered: giving God’s voice presence in the midst of the voices of our culture, the voices of our past, and the voices of condemnation which strive to have us stoop to their level.
Remain connected: meditate on God’s truth in the midst of work, in the midst of messy relationships, in the midst of not knowing what to do.
For in this, is our lifeblood. In this is our nourishment. In this is our EVERYTHING.
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