Don't be discouraged. I tell myself this and then go to bed early, knowing it will be better in the morning. But sometimes it's not better in the morning, at least not until the Word silences the nagging downcast feelings that gnaw at me.
Last night, I spoke irrationalities to Kyle: I'm not good at being a pastor's wife. I should have this down by now! After all, we've been doing this for years. This morning, however, the Lord spoke truth that obliterated all my petty, emotional, self-focused thoughts.
Abide. That's the word from John 15 that kept settling in my mind. I looked out my window and saw the strong tree trunks holding up branches covered in leaves, even a few dogwood flowers left from early April. I thought of our drives up to Carter Mountain, where we see the grape vines spread wide, each connected to one sturdy base. I thought of our trips with the kids to pick strawberries at Chile's Orchard, remembering that the (oh so delicious) fruit never stands alone but is always connected to something else. 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.
That's what I want to do. I want to bear fruit in my home, in our church, and in our community. But sometimes I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. My kids goof off through family Bible study. I say something that I wish I hadn't. I wrestle with the same old sins. When I don't see fruit, I grow discouraged, and sometimes I just want to give up completely. I don't like the winter season, with its bare trees and its waiting. I want a perpetual spring exploding with color, bloom, and fruit.
But that's not the way it works. Spiritual fruit works like physical fruit: it is not perpetually bountiful. It comes, often suddenly, after a period of pruning, watering, tending, cultivating, and lots of waiting. And then it is gone, disappearing again into a season of dormancy.
There is no other way around this process, and I only frustrate myself trying to force fruit to come. When I focus on the fruit (or lack thereof), feeling that I should somehow be better at this or further along in that--my heart deflates. But when I look for the hope in this word Abide, peace settles on me, knowing that there is a Vine and a Vinedresser in charge, and I am not them!
I am not responsible for producing fruit. If I just stay connected to the Vine, He will do it. I've known this, but to really know it enough that I live it each day is more of a challenge. It's just one step forward, day-in and day-out trust, listening for the Spirit's leadership and simple obedience. Is this not what it means to be a Christian?
And when I settle into abiding, I find myself not even thinking about the fruit but, instead, simply soaking up the water of the Word and celebrating God's goodness when the bounty comes.
Any other way is the way of discouragement.
And today, I'm not going that way.