Week 6 • Day 1 • Stop Trying

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Stop Trying
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit. Without me, you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 (NIV)

We all come to existence with DNA. Think of DNA as a little booklet of instructions doling out orders to cells and other … things (I’m not a biology major, okay?) on what to create. “Give her some brown eyes, a sleepy metabolism and a freak pinky toe!” is what I’m pretty sure my DNA said when I was knitted together in my mother’s womb.

Nature has the same DNA instruction manual – the reason orange trees don’t sprout apples. But despite God’s genius in creating life, he left a little caveat. We all need a farmer, or a gardener to live up to our fullest potential. Yes, we’ll naturally grow in the wild, but all living things, if left to their own devices, are bent towards creating unproductive growth. Just a bunch of new, unnecessary branches, browning leaves, projects and responsibilities that only steal resources from the whole being, with no real descent fruit to show for it. Dead or wimpy branches take away vital nutrients from the whole – leaving it exhausted and unproductive. All of nature, including us, needs a gardener who does the work of extensive pruning and shaping so that we reach maximum potential.

Without the gardener, without the vine, we can do nothing. Except maybe lots of unproductive growth with insane schedules, tons of stress and hurting relationships as a result.

I’m an ambitious person who has always wanted to bear a lot of fruit. I’d like to say it was all Godly fruit, but I bet a lot of it was worldly fruit too.

And for some reason, even though I spiritually knew better, I would attempt to do it all on my own. And every time, I would create unproductive, meaningless growth – that would zap me of my resources and eventually lead to some sort of breakdown. An “I quit, you animals!” sort of send off on my way off to bed.

Years ago I invested an incredible amount of time into a small ministry. I had within me another true passion, but I felt like I had to also do the ministry too. I thought maybe the passion wasn’t “good enough,” whatever that means. But the ministry never grew and it took massive emotional, spiritual and physical resources. It left me exhausted and weary, and often bitter because it didn’t produce enough fruit to keep me sustained. I was so busy and so worn down, I neglected my marriage and produced a stressful environment around my children.

I boo-hoo cried to God about it, asking Him why he wasn’t blessing my efforts, even though before I had even asked, I felt a clear impression it’s because he wanted to prune it away. But that felt like failure, and it made me sad to fail. I called my mom to grieve over it and said, “But how can I bear fruit to honor God if I quit my only ministry?”

“Oh Anna,” she said. “Caring for your children and your home, is a ministry. Caring for your marriage, is a ministry. Loving your parents, your siblings, and giving that love and goodness to your neighbor is a ministry. That one time you baked a Bundt cake and surprised your hungry father with it – believe me, that’s a ministry.”

I felt all the stress and pressure melt away. God’s yoke is so light, so simple. If we put “working for fruit” above our deep connection and reverence to the vine, we’ll find the fruit of our labor to be a lot of sour grapes.

God is such a delightfully simple father. If there’s chaos and stress, with little to no fruit to show for it—it’s the perfect clue that we’ve somehow detached from the vine and attempted too much on our own.

I wonder how much fruit we could produce if we tried less and simply connected with God more?

I bet it’d be so much, we’d have to give most of it away.