John 15:5 “I am the vine; 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.”
A sweet friend asked me the funniest question over FaceTime this past weekend. We don’t get to chat often, so when we do, it’s a fun and insightful catch up. Anyone else have friends like that?
“Random question,” she said. “What do you do?”
She was asking in reference to two instances of me speaking in front of a group of youth. That in conjunction with all the other fun activities I capture in my day to day rightfully prompted confusion. First, I laughed out loud, then I answered honestly that I work part time on campus, and I’m completing the final year of my Masters in Counseling program. Then I told her what the Lord had been doing in my heart, and about how at the beginning of the summer I was filled with the desire to truly abide in Him and pursue peace in the midst of a good but laborious schedule.
One of my favorite things about the Lord is that He invites us to accomplish supernatural works in the most practical ways. For too long I’d lived my semesters pouring myself into school and work, only coming up for air when I felt like I had time, which wasn’t often. With the desire to abide in Christ came the realization that in order to do that, I needed to take ownership of taking care of my heart, and for that to happen I had to establish a new life rhythm. This is better understood as time management.
The tricky thing about creating life rhythms is deciding where all to spread yourself so that life is tasteful and nourishing. I love Subway’s spicy mustard on my flatbread sandwich, and the employees always move the sauce bottles back and forth in zigzag fashion to make sure that every part of my sandwich gets the sauce. Yum. Now, imagine if instead they squirted a single glob on one side of my sub and completely left the other side hanging. I would be horrified, and I would most likely ask them to go back and spread it across the sandwich or do it myself to achieve appropriate sauce distribution.
We treat our schedules the same way. Our lives are in need of substance—the meat, lettuce, and veggies on a sub sandwich—and those time commitments usually come in the form of work, school, parenting, and the other roles and places that require the most attention in our lives.
What I’ve learned this summer, though, is that our lives are also in need of flavor. These are the things you love to do. The activities and hobbies that make you you. Some of my favorite life flavors are reading, writing, working out, listening to podcasts, and sharing with others. These were the parts of me that went neglected at the reasoning of not having enough time, and thus came the tension between obligation and celebration, substance and flavor. The Lord’s invitation to thrive in this space seemed impossible, and technically it is, hence this truth: Apart from Me you can do nothing.
We’ve all had those seasons when it’s felt like forever since we’ve gotten to taste our favorite flavors: that overdue mani/pedi self-date, a dive into a good book, the long, scenic route, or a weekend getaway to unplug from all the chaos. Sure, life can go on without these things, and the house and homework may be in order, and the bills will get paid. We can survive on dry sandwiches, but do we want to?
When I dove into this act of creating new life rhythms, I found that there was now room for me to receive the peace of Christ. Rather than binging my favorite life flavors after suppressing my cravings for so long, I took small, satisfying bites each day. What that turned into was devoting all my attention to one podcast a day, wholeheartedly praying for one person a day, reading a single book chapter a day, and setting a time boundary on my daily writing, which is admittedly where I fall short most ha! What that also meant was having honest conversations with myself: If you know you’re going to be up late with the youth, is it really a good idea to go to the gym at 5:30 in the morning? Nah, boo. Kill the alarm, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Was it challenging? Yes. Were those durations of time that I could have spent focused on the areas that cried louder for my attention? Absolutely. What came out of those simple acts, though, was a satisfying and more lasting sense of peace. Like any new rhythm, it took a bit of time and awkward footing to catch on, but remaining in Christ means understanding that there is room for that. In the moments when I could have blamed the length of my afternoon to-do list on spending too much of the morning taking care of myself, I could feel the angst beginning to rise and peak. To combat this, I prayed a simple and short in-the-moment prayer. Lord, I want to abide in You. Help me abide in You. Then it became a choice to remain there or give into the uprooting. When you choose to remain there with Him, He is faithful and you are blessed every time. Not only that, but once the tension has passed you become aware of how trivial a situation or moment it was compared to the lasting peace He gives.
As I wave goodbye to summer and prepare for the Fall semester to begin, I find myself understanding how important my rhythms are and excited for any new ones that may come about. Pray for me as I enter into my final year in the Counseling program of taking clients and preparing for major exams. Also pray for my creative journey: the Lord has opened tremendous opportunities for me to grow in writing and explore other creative capacities. My desire is to continue in the consistently rhythmic practice of welcoming the Lord in and detaching myself from a depleting, schedule-ridden life, and I’ll pray the same for you, for “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine” (John 15: 2, 4).
Christ as my Anchor