Posted by Kim Aldrich:
“I am the vine; you are the branches.” It sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” What could be simpler? And yet, as my old youth pastor used to say: It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
Of course, it IS easy to abide when you’re at a retreat center surrounded by Christians or on vacation in Kauai (well, usually) but on a day-to-day basis how many of us truly abide in Christ? How many of us really even know what that means, much less how to actually do it on a regular basis?
A while back, I was confronted with that question for myself personally. Am I abiding in Christ? Am I truly walking with Him day-to-day, in a Vine and branches sort of way? And the answer that came back was unsettling, to say the least. I discovered that I was, at best, an “intermittent abider.” I tended to abide when my schedule went well, when my quiet times were consistent, and when I sensed the Lord’s presence the most. And in-between? Well, uh…in the infamous words of Paul Reiser…“not so much.”
Don’t get me wrong, I almost always intended to abide—and for years I actually thought I was. But it slowly began to dawn on me that those numerous in-between times were characterized much more by hunkering down and “just getting through it” than by actively trusting and abiding in Christ. For a veteran Christian of four decades, this was a startling realization! Apparently much of what I’d considered “trusting the Lord” had actually been “trusting myself” until I felt it was safe to trust the Lord again. Thump…the realization hit me like a ton of branches. In reality, I’d done far less abiding…and far more ducking and hiding. I’d done far more laying low and waiting til the storms passed than actually trusting the Vinedresser to quiet those storms or work them for my good.
But thankfully God in His kindness didn’t just leave me there in a heap. He gently but firmly lifted me up, dusted the branches out of my hair, and led me down a path of abiding I’d never experienced before. He began showing me, step by step, how to connect my heart to His, like a branch to a Vine. And once again, the words of my old youth pastor echoed through my mind: It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Yet, as I actually began trusting Him—in daily bite-sized steps of obedience—staying connected to the Vine became easier and easier. Although I continue to learn in fits and starts—and it’s been anything but “a perfect hundred meters” since—I’m slowly but surely starting to experience the abiding joy of…well, abiding!
It can be as straightforward as focusing on Him instead of the thing that’s frustrating me, or as complex as asking Him to help me unravel my thoughts when I’m so confused I don’t even know what I think. But either way, it involves simple, lovely choices day after day that eventually allow my heart to realize…Even in my weakness, He is there. Even in my doubts, He is there. Even in my willfulness and stubbornness, He is still there for me, if I let Him be. And slowly, but surely, I’ve found myself increasingly able to stop self-protecting and hunkering down and trying to arrange circumstances, til at last I find myself just standing there, connected to Him…aware that even my very life itself flows from His…and realizing that even the most devastating situation I can possibly imagine couldn’t really disconnect me from my Beloved…unless I let it.
I still have much, much more to learn about abiding. In fact, I’m probably still in the remedial class for those who’ve been walking with the Lord for as long as I have! Yet I’m also slowly-but-surely learning to recognize the difference between times I think I’m abiding, and times I actually am. And that difference is palpable. Tangible. The difference between life and death.
I can barely express the indescribable sweetness of letting your heart rest in that kind of connection to the Vine…letting His life-giving sap flow through your veins so freely that absolutely nothing else satisfies. It sure beats the heck out of “hunkering down” any day of the week—and twice on Sundays!