As I sit and think about the idea of starting a blog I have to laugh. This is not a comfortable thing for me. I laugh because that has been a theme for my family the last few years. My family has been on a journey of being stretched, challenge, and being called to do the “I Nevers”. As I look back and try to determine where this season started God took me back to John 15.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He [a]prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already [b]clean (purified) because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [c]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so [d]prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (complete). John 15 1-11 NASV
In 2014, my dad passed away suddenly. It was about a month after that I sat in my kitchen with my bible open, realizing that I had not really grieved his death. I had spent so much time making sure that my kids were able to process what had happened, and that my mom was taken care of. I had pushed pause on personally dealing with what had happened. I remember saying out loud to God, “I don’t feel anything anymore”. “I didn’t feel sadness or joy.” It was a numb feeling. All I could pray was, “God I know you are good and I trust that you are good”, but on this day I finally admitted I didn’t feel anything. I heard a small whisper “surrender everything”. As soon as I heard it, I knew He wasn’t talking about physical things in my life he was talking about my beliefs, my ideas of who He is. In the midst of losing my dad there was also a lot of other loss within that year. I hadn’t realized how much I was internally battling with what I believed. All I remember about that moment was being on the floor crying like I had never done before. It was like God was taking the grief and the loss that I had experienced and it was all being laid at his feet through my tears. I don’t remember how long that I was on the floor, but when I got back in my chair I began to look up the word surrender in the back of my bible. I went through each scripture writing them down, but the one that came alive that day was John 15.
I have read this chapter and heard many sermons preached on these verses, but this was different. I began to see that some of the things that I was taught/believed about God didn’t align with who He really was. He showed me places that I believed I was connected to the vine, but I truly wasn’t. I may have had a piece of the branch hanging from it, but to truly live the life that He wanted for me I had to be completely connected. A branch that is just half connected will still eventually wither away. It has to be connected on all sides to get the nutrients it needs to grow and thrive. It became evident that there were major holes and they were compromising the foundation of my beliefs. The loss illuminated the holes, but it was so much deeper. God was showing me that he wanted to prune all the branches that were withering in my life. All the lies I believed about Him and about myself.
So where do I begin? It seemed like such a big task. I had been a Christian for what seemed like forever. I would have told you I trusted God. I loved Him and knew Him. What do I choose to lay down and what do I keep? He reminded me “surrender EVERYTHING”. So that is what I did. In that moment I told Him, “I lay down everything I know about you. It felt like such a horrible thing to say to God. It felt like I was telling Him I didn’t believe in Him anymore. That wasn’t what was happening. I was rooted in the fact that He was my savior. I was choosing to lay down everything that I believed about who he was, and trusting that the Savior I had met so many years ago would show up in a way that I had never seen before. I wasn’t able to sift through what needed to be pruned and what didn’t so I was finally surrendering and handing over the clippers. Sometimes when you prune a bush you can take a few branches off but in this case everything had to go. He was really cutting the bush down to the stump. Not because it was all bad. Some of it was so that the healthy branches (His truth) could grow inside me stronger than before. I needed to know a deeper knowing of the depths of His love and grace for me before I could know if for someone else. What was ahead was unknown to me but not to Him. He knew that what He had planned for our family we needed to be able to stand on a firm foundation of who our Father is and that our roots needed to be deeply rooted in His truth.
As I read verse 9 “Just as my Father has loved me, I have loved you. Abide in My love.”I quickly realized that the root was a true understanding of His love and grace. How can I abide in His love if I don’t have a true understanding of it. Abide, what does that really mean? When I looked it up in the concordance I found; abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand to remain in or with someone, to be and remain united with Him, one with Him in heart, mind, and will. It was like the answer was jumping off the pages. Abiding in HIM. That was the answer to where do I begin. It was the answer to experiencing the love that He was saying He had for me. I needed to learn how to sit with my Father in a way I had never sat before. I had to learn how to continue to keep my eyes on Him no matter what was going on around me. Allow Him to prune what He wanted no matter what it felt like. He loved me so much to accept me as I am, but He wasn’t going to leave me that way. He wanted to mold me and make me into who I didn’t even realize I wanted to be. A light bulb came on. This was how I was going to be able to feel again. I was looking for my joy, but He wanted me to find HIS joy.
In these moments, God took a season of loss and began to redeem it through a journey that I would never have imagined. A journey that is still ongoing, and has taken us places we would have said, “I never”. You don’t prune a rose bush once. It is pruned season after season. When this journey began I hated the pruning process because it was painful and uncomfortable. Today it is still painful and uncomfortable, but I have learned to see the joy in it. I know on the other side is the fruit that God has for me and my family. It is a journey that has turned into a family affair. A journey of learning how to live a life truly connected to The Vine.