Slowly Learning To Abide
Once I had not only established roots, but also started some great disciplines, like regularly reading my Bible, journalling and quiet times alone, I was impatient for the fruit. I am a doer, I am results orientated. I know that God was calling me to put down deep roots, but it really wasn’t long before I expected to see the fruit.
I am the same with my plants! I carefully nurture them as seedlings, but when I put them in the ground I almost stand over them, waiting to see what will happen, anticipating the first ripe tomato, or wanting to make sure I get to the raspberries before the squirrels do!
When I planted a cutting of rhubarb from a neighbour, the hardest thing was seeing it grow and look delicious, but not picking it. I had to keep reminding myself that I would get more fruit in the future if I left it alone (I still don’t know why that is so please enlighten me if you know the answer!)
Then I discovered that vines grown from seed can take up to seven years to produce grapes. Seven years before you get any fruit?! That is a long time.
"I Am The Vine"
This is when John 15: 5 became a key verse for me.
Maybe there was a reason Jesus used a vine as an analogy here. First of all, the young vines needs lots of care, attention and protection. They might not look like much, but over these first few years their roots are burying deep into the soil and are feeding on the nutrients they will need to produce fruit. (I talked a lot about roots in my previous blog post.) To produce fruit, the vines needs strong roots along with plenty of sun and regular pruning.
Unlike other fruit, grapes don’t continue to ripen once you have picked them, so literally they need to abide on the vine! There is no short cut to spiritual growth either.
Unlike vines, I know Christians can produce fruit as soon as we turn to Jesus; I have seen this fruit in my life and in the lives of others over many years. But this analogy did teach me a valuable lesson in patience.
The Gift Of Time
Thanks to the pandemic I have be able to spend more time with my husband. This has been a good thing, even if we have got on each others’ nerves too! I have found out more about him as we have just spent more time together. The same is also true of our relationship with Jesus. I may have been a Christian for as long as I can remember, but I think I have spent more dedicated time alone with God in the last fifteen months than in a long time.
I have been abiding.
Some of it has been “productive” time when I have learned more through in-depth Bible study, some of which has been fascinating. Some of it has just been stillness and quiet, or reflecting on some verses in Scripture. I have even memorized some Bible verses, and in that process come to understand more about what God was saying. I am a fast reader, so it is easy for me to skip over things, but as I was reciting back my memory verses to myself I realized that I kept missing out certain parts.
For a long time now, much of my prayer life has been centred around my desire for children, and for looking to God for comfort or guidance. There has even been fear that he would tell me that we would never have children. Yet, the more I abided, the more I realized that God has so much more to say to me. I also have so much more to learn!
Here are three practices which I have found really helpful as I have learned to abide this year.
Last summer, my friend and pastor, Doug Ward, invited me and our church to join in a journey called “The Urban Monastery.” It has been such a blessing. Having some regular disciplines and practices, and people to share these with, has been fundamental to my growth. Particularly the habit of stopping to pause in the middle of the day. I don’t always manage it, but my alarm goes off every day at 12:15, literally an interruption, to remind me to stop, to read something like Psalm 23, or to recite the Lord’s Prayer, or just to be still. To look back and note when I have seen God at work, or where I have ignored him, and to look forward to see how He can be a closer part of my afternoon.
At the start of 2021 I joined an online discipleship group for marketplace leaders, run by Church Renewal. Ironically the group study was called “Abide” and it confirmed to me my need, not only to put down roots, but to abide. We had an awesome group across Canada who studied the material and shared our learnings together. Sometimes it is great to go back to the basics and learn to listen to God again. It was thanks to this study that I started to memorize Scripture!
Ironically, it was during a global pandemic that I took my first silent retreat (and then my second, and my third!) Now if you have spent the pandemic surrounded by your kids and needing a break, this may sound like heaven right now! But for me, I normally hate being on my own, and I hate silence, so for me to enjoy these things was a miracle!
I also found guided retreats really valuable, and One Way Ministries have put on a number of “Dates with God” via Zoom during Covid.
I also found joy in time alone in the back yard.
Time with a pen and paper, a Bible and an open mind. I journalled, I listened, I read. I asked God questions and was silent, waiting for an answer. Sometimes I heard Him speak, and I wrote it down, other times I didn’t hear anything, or I wasn’t sure, or I got distracted. I do believe God speaks today, sometimes prompting a thought, sometimes a memory, sometimes a verse of Scripture and sometimes a picture. Sometimes it is right away, and often it comes over time.
This is what I’ve learned to love about abiding – there is no rush, and there is no action – just enjoying time in God’s presence, getting to know him more.
Share your experiences with me – I would love to be encouraged!