“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit alone but must remain in me.”—John 15:4 Which Bible woman would best characterize you---Martha or Mary? I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us would call ourselves Martha's compatriots. I think being a mom is synonymous with being like Martha. There are exceptions, but I think I can count them on one hand. And yet, I think there are many wistful Mary wannabees out there too. I'm raising my hand! Can we be like Mary while working like Martha? I think so.
Being a “doer” I have always struggled with this verse. I guess I picture "remaining" in Christ as a mystical, spiritual hiding away with Jesus, sitting at His feet like Mary. I think that if this is what this word means, my house would be in shambles, my kids would be going wild, and there would be absolute chaos in my life. I admit I'm a little scared of obeying this verse! Surely, God doesn't expect busy mothers to obey this verse! Unfortunately, I have experienced not obeying this verse and its consequences, and it ain't pretty.
However, God has been showing me that it is possible for a busy mom to abide in Him. I just need to change my definitions. First, the word “remain” means just that—--remain, as in not to move away. The NIV says "abide" which suggests "to be at home in." When I abide in Jesus, it means I make my home in Jesus and am content to stay there. That's what a branch of a vine does. It is not busy calculating what angle it needs to be at to receive the most sunlight. It is not rushing around, pushing itself through the other branches to show how strong it is. It is doing what seems like nothing. And that is probably the very thing that makes it the hardest.
As Robert Robinson writes in his hymn, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” Our natural tendency to wander away from Him makes this the hardest “inactive” command He gives. In fact, I feel like I am being lazy or irresponsible if I take some time to reconnect with the Lord. I feel compelled to squeeze every bit I can into every minute. As a mom, I feel like I can't afford to stop!
What needs to change is not Jesus' command, but my perception of it. Over the years, abiding or remaining in Him means maintaining an open connection with Him throughout my day. It is acknowledging His presence in my everyday life, whether it be washing dishes, changing diapers or doing laundry. It is praying through my chores, seeking to speak His words to my children, noticing teachable moments in my day and acting on it instead of putting it off for another time. Basically, it is learning to live a life that is whole, not fragmented into segments. It is not neglecting duties, but learning to connect with God through them.
As with all commands, there are consequences for not obeying. He says it twice: We must remain. It is not an option! It is impossible to skip this command and still bear fruit. If I want a godly home, marriage and children, then I must remain. If I do not choose to remain with Him, I cut myself off from His life living in me. If I wonder why I am impatient with my kids, feeling hopeless or get angry with interruptions, it is because I have disconnected myself from the life source He gives.
The flip side is also true: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” On the outside, a vine branch looks like it’s doing nothing, but inside, life is happening! Water is making its way through the vein system. Beyond what we can see on the outside, new blossoms are preparing to bud, new fruit is preparing to burst forth. Isn't that amazing? When I abide in Jesus, in the unseen places, He is remaining in me, doing a work in me that I cannot even imagine! When I choose to stay with Him, then I experience all that He is in my life. His life flows through me, flushing out sin, renewing my spirit, preparing me for the good works He has in store.
How this looks will vary with each person, but the heart remains the same. One thing is for certain--—the busier and more frantic our lives are, the harder it is to remain or abide. Our to-do list and our schedule becomes far more the reality than He is. But when I seek to be at home with Jesus, I find that the fruit that I long for becomes more and more real in my life.
Part 5 of John 15 series. I'll come back to this series later, but for now this is the end.