I find myself here every few months. Panting. Frazzled. Threadbare and world-weary. Poured out and never filled up, believing it is up to me to keep the world spinning. And with the holidays upon us, the to-do list grows even longer and the demands grow even greater. It seems there is no end in sight.
I make a terrible god.
I’m beckoned back to re-take the test I have failed once again. I shuffle my feet to the heartbeat of my shame until I realize the classroom is a throne room and I am simply invited to rest there.
Or maybe it is a peaceful garden like the one in my dreams, not in my back pasture. It is the place my soul longs for in the noise and hurry of my days and God has been calling me there more and more to teach me about Himself and His kingdom through the physical stuff of soil, seeds, weeds, and seasons. He is so gracious in His promise that He will be found by us, making His ways plain to us through creation.
So I step in, letting my ears adjust to the quiet, letting my eyes adjust to the sunlight. And Jesus whispers my life’s verse back to me, “It is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8
“Right! Yes!” I say too loudly, fumbling for the basket of scrawny, malnourished fruit I am trying to produce on my own, “Don’t you see how hard I am working? Don’t you see all the places I am serving, fields I am plowing, people I am loving?” All the while knowing the sad offerings of my broken down basket will never bring Him glory.
He sets it aside, takes my hand, and shows me the Vine. “I am the True Vine, and my Father is the Gardener. I am the Vine and 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. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15: 1, 3, 8)
I am not the ultimate gardener in this story and neither are you.
God is the Father Farmer and like all good gardeners, He has a plan. This plan has been for fruitfulness, from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the garden of my life. I feel a bit of the burden lifting.
I Corinthians 3:10 speaks this truth; “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
I am not the gardener, I am the field. We are the soil the Father Farmer desires to grow good fruit out of for a starving world. But unlike a physical field which has no choice in what it will become, we get to choose. A physical field may be the home of a land-fill or farm, it just lies in wait for the garbage or the seeds. But we co-labor, offering up our lives, our fields up to the hands of the master gardener.
How have I mixed this truth up in my mind, believing that God is MY co-worker in MY service? It is evidenced in the panting, world wearied, frazzled state of my soul.
The one and only way to co-labor with the Father Farmer and to offer up my humble plot of ground, is to abide. It is found right there at the Vine in John 15.
But remaining isn’t passive, it is a choice. It’s a moment by moment choice for me. But unlike the exhaustion of operating out of my own strength, the work of abiding fills and equips me for the very fruitfulness that will bring God glory.
And I know the biggest enemy to my abiding is my agenda. Anyone else?
I shelf my fruitfulness over and over when I choose my agenda over my abiding. I walk away from the peaceful, orderly garden planned perfectly by my Father Farmer towards my own path of striving and control.
An empty terra-cotta pot on a shelf will never produce something of beauty or nourishment. An empty field, not yielded to the gardener will never be fruitful. Neither will my life, my walk, my ministry when I place it on the shelf of my own agenda, my own to-do’s, my own ideas for the garden. That fruit will rot on the vine and the world will think me my own disciple.
And I will re-take the test again.
Though it is simple- this remaining, this abiding- it is never easy.
My agenda is loud and bossy. My abiding is quiet and satisfying. “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” Matthew 7:16-17. When I look at the fruit my life is producing it is obvious if it is growing from my agenda or my abiding.
So I come humbly to my Father Farmer and hand him my field once again knowing what He will grow will be for my good and His glory. And there I choose to remain.