To Abide
November 24, 2017 Esther Johnson

To Abide by Esther Johnson

To Abide by Esther Johnson

 

I want to sit at Your feet, Lord. I do.

And I try—I kneel next to You, open my Bible and journal, and prepare to hear Your voice.

But maybe You don’t speak loud enough, because next thing I know I’m drafting my to-do list under my journal heading “What does this passage say about God?” (I would probably scribble to-do’s in the margin of my Bible if it didn’t look ugly.)

The day encroaches, creeping into the corners of my mind and claiming my emotions. Whether excitement or anxiety, what I’m feeling soon has nothing to do with the passage my eyes are scanning.



I don’t want to be this way, because sometimes I have a headache before I open my eyes in the morning.
Sometimes sleep is so thick and bitter on my tongue I can’t swallow it down with a glass of water.

Sometimes the coffee doesn’t help, and I know I need more than a duty to a far-off God to give me joy, and hope, for the day.

Once I’m awake, though, there’s no stopping me.

I rule my life by lists of where I’ve been and where I’m going. I slice my time and steam when my plans are knocked askew. And when I cross off one item, another awaits.

I don’t know how to focus on You without dividing our time into a series of tasks. List what a passage tells me about You. List what it says about me. And—my favorite—list what I should do about it.

What practical steps can I take to apply this passage? What can I praise God for—and rattle it off now. How can I intentionally serve others with what I’ve learned?

I am an analytical machine, reading and regurgitating for a recommended thirty minutes each day.

I am a Martha, and I am tired.

And one day, when I’ve barely pried myself out of bed and I can’t stop thinking about the exam I should be studying for, I flip open to John 15.

“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.”

And it stops me in my tracks because the first command is—abide.

I want to skip on to the parts about bearing fruit and loving one another perfectly, but this is how the passage begins and I must confront it.

I rub my eyes and I swallow a yawn and I puzzle at the word.

Merriam Webster confirms what I suspect:

“Definition of abide

1 a: to bear patiently: tolerate

b: to endure without yielding: withstand

2:to wait for: await

3:to accept without objection

1:to remain stable or fixed in a state

2:to continue in a place: sojourn “

Stable and fixed, await and withstand—this is a word of watching for the work of another. It is the word, in fact, that a branch would use within the Vine.

Yes, the passage commands me to bear fruit, and expands this into loving and serving and speaking and rejoicing. But it begins with the command to endure, and accept, and wait—to abide.

What does this waiting mean? This sojourning in the Lord?

The metaphor does not allow me to make a checklist for abiding, a step by step plan to becoming a fruitful branch. I cannot dissect the vine and discern how I fit. But I can wait, and ask for understanding, and I begin to understand the passage by beginning to live it.

A branch has no value or life on its own, but it is the manifestation of the vine’s life. Its fruit is the outpouring of the vine’s unseen roots. Without a deep connection to the vine’s vitality, a branch cannot produce fruit, and its leaves will quickly wither.

I cannot force the fruit, I can only connect deeply to my source of life.

Without Him I have no fruit—or the false, bitter fruit of self-glorifying labor. In Him I am given righteousness, strength, and comfort.

Remain in me, He promises, and you will bear fruit. Not may, or can hope to, but will. Certainly.
He does not cultivate in me what is already good as though I were my own vine, but rather trains me that I may more effectively display the strength and value of the Vine.

And this abiding, this waiting on His strength and life, begins when my alarm shatters me awake in the morning, and I’m tempted to hit snooze.

In that moment, when exhaustion prevents me from following a cold checklist, I hear the voice of the Vinedresser whispering my name, calling me to join Him and take the life He gives. Eternal life has begun already, and the call to abide is the call to thrive.

So I want to sit at Your feet, Lord. I do. And when the stress of the day forces its way into my head, I rest, and wait, and remain until Your voice comes, bringing life.

 



 

Esther Johnson is a freelance writer, editor, and magic bean buyer with a passion for lemon bars, folk rock, and morning runs. She has written for Piercing Word ministries, CHAP Magazine, and The Rebelution, and recently became a regular contributor to TCB.  You can find other writings and updates, and get in touch, on her blog at https://estherjohnsonsite.wordpress.com/

 

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