I wasn’t looking for a Word this year. A word that defines, inspires, and focuses my spiritual journey for the present. In past years, I have sometimes chosen a word or had a word, image, or Bible verse capture my attention for a season. But not this year. The last several weeks have been particularly and overwhelmingly chaotic for me, and I just hadn’t given it any thought at all.
But then, in a recent prayer time, a word unexpectedly chose me: remain.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. – John 15:4, 9
A branch that remains in the vine is fully satisfied because all its needs are met: food and water, connection to the source, part of the whole, fulfilling its purpose by bearing fruit, being fully itself–what it is made for.
The branch can take the vine for granted. It can take and take as much as it wants from the vine. The vine never runs out of resources and never gets fed up with providing for the branch’s needs. That is what agape is. The branch’s only role, its only way of giving back, its only participation in the relationship is the choice to stay connected, to remain in the vine. Even bearing fruit is not something the branch must do but a natural result of its right relationship with the vine. All that is required of the branch is to trust in the vine’s faithfulness by choosing to remain connected.
The past several years, perhaps even the past 10 years, have carried a central theme of transitory living. I mentioned in my last post that I have been well acquainted with waiting in these recent years. I have lived in a constant state of flux, always anticipating the next change but never knowing exactly when it would come or where I would find myself living next. As a result, I have so often felt alone and isolated. Each time I began to feel connected to a town, a church community, or a job I was working, the next change would suddenly whisk me away. I would be left having to start all over again.
Now, I am being invited to remain–not in a physical location, not in a person or community, not in a particular job or occupation–but simply and completely in God’s love. God’s infinite, inexhaustible, abundant, fulfilling and satisfying, comforting, faithful love is being freely offered to me. I have only to reach out and take it into myself.
I have only to choose to remain in God’s love. Wherever the next change takes me, I can never lose that connection. I can hold onto the promise that, as I choose to remain in God’s love, so God chooses to remain in me.
So, my fellow pilgrims, as we walk this way together awhile, what connection are you being invited into? In what are you being invited to remain?
Do you have a Word for 2017? What word defines, inspires, and focuses your spiritual journey for this next season?