I'm back at Middle Places this month with some thoughts on abiding and making things more complicated than they need to be...
For the last few weeks, I've been home. I brought my kid to my parent’s house for some much-needed vacation time, and we've been enjoying these days together.
There are so many things I love about being back under my parent’s roof. The smell of clean laundry as soon as you walk in the door. Taco nights when my brother and his wife come over and everyone teases me for putting ketchup on mine. Listening to my sons giggle wildly while my dad chases them around the living room.
Touching each of these elements is a sense of ease. We're family. We belong to each other. We aren't doing the "get-to-know-you" dance or trying to impress anyone. Sometimes there's conflict and sometimes it's awkward, but mostly we're just together.
For good or for bad, we abide with each other. To use a less fancy word, we spend a lot of time hanging out just for the pleasure of each other's company.
There's an unattributed quote on a photo meme making the rounds on social media lately. I've seen a couple variations, but essentially it says:
Be patient with yourself. Nothing in nature blooms all year.
It's a powerful notion. I have no idea if it's true in a botanical sense. But the idea we could all use a break from the pressure to perform all the time resonates deeply with me.
When I scroll through Instagram or catch up with a friend over the phone, it’s easy to feel ‘less than,’ like my accomplishments, my efforts at motherhood/writing/cooking/fill-in-the-blank, pale in comparison to those around me.
I know that isn’t helpful.
I know that, as my friend Char loves to say, when you compare, you will despair.
I know those photos and stories of friends dear to me are snapshots, that they have bad days too, that no one’s life is perfect.
I know that instead of looking around me, I need to look to Jesus, to trust Him with my efforts, my performance, my life.
But the truth is, there’s a drive to bloom there too. When I read Jesus’ invitation to abide with Him, to remain connected to His life and His mission, I can’t help but read what He says next.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
Did you hear it there? There’s an invitation to abide, to remain, to be with Jesus. But there’s also an expectation. Abiders should bear fruit. Which sounds like accomplishing, succeeding, blooming. I find myself reluctant to turn to Jesus because it feels like work.
And I’m tired of trying to bloom all the time.
But here’s the thing. With my family, I don’t feel this way.
They don’t care if my Bible study was well done or whether my blog is growing or how much weight I’ve gained this pregnancy. They’re just glad I’m here.
I think Jesus might be more like my family than I realize. When He tells me that if I remain with Him, I’ll bear fruit, He doesn’t mean I have to be awesome all the time to be a good Christian. In John 15, He’s using a grapevine metaphor. Grapes are only in season for a short time. The rest of the year the vine is tended and pruned and given chances to grow and to rest.
Like my family, Jesus invites me to enjoy Him. I do that when I spend time with Him in prayer and Scripture study, keeping my heart open to His presence throughout my day. And when He promises I’ll bear fruit, He doesn’t mean I need to be amazing every day of the year. He means the time I spend with Him will change me for the better, prepare me for what’s next, plant seeds in my heart that will flower when the time comes.
It’s kind of like how learning my mom’s recipe for chicken and rice comes in handy when I have to make a quick dinner for our neighbors or how watching my parents love each other well into their third decade together encourages me in my own relationship. Still, time with them is not a cooking class or relationship seminar where I need to ace the final.
It’s abiding. Hanging out. Blooming not required.
This post originally appeared at Middle Places.