Saturday, April 16, 2011

One Vine, One Branch

For lent I gave up facebook. It hasn't been as hard as I thought it might be -- not really much of a sacrifice. But I suppose the sacrifice is not what it is about. For me, it is about making space for something else; creating an emptiness and then stepping back and allowing God to fill it.

He filled it...with an awareness of my emptiness; how stark it is & how right & good it is.

As per my usual, I began to see and think in terms of some comparative imagery. This is what my life is like right now:

I'm realizing the story of the three little pigs is not just a faery tale! Houses made of straw and twigs -- the trappings I've always felt protected by are really not sufficient shelter from the rains & winds which are bound to come in all lives. I want a house made of brick -- set firmly on the foundation of Jesus' Kingdom. The house He is building (Psalm 127:1) is the one I want to live in. But first the houses I've built (and the ones given to me which I've stepped into and tried to live in) must be left behind. There are three ways for this to happen:
  1. Build brick re-inforcements around the current house. Valid option, but not what I am called to (think traditional churches adding contemporary services, and morphing over time into a contemporary church).
  2. The old house of straw can come crashing down in one fell swoop, and I can go running like the first little pig into the house of my brother which looks A LOT stronger...and he and I can laugh and feel safe there, until the big bad wolf comes again -- and then he and I can both run away to the house of our brother who built with bricks, and find refuge there. Thank God that's not what we've experienced!
  3. Neither of these really felt right to us. Instead, we've felt called to something different:
  4. We've stepped away from the hard work we'd put into the other houses, and have begun to build a brick house.
    This takes time and energy and during the building, it feels very vulnerable...the wolf may happen along at any time and what if my house is not yet finished?
Plus, the most difficult piece is simply stepping *out* of the old house. We thought we'd done that but at every next season, it seems we are being called again and again to step out and leave the old behind.

And it seems more and more that the "building" is not so much a house being constructed as artificial support structures being demolished. Michelangelo was once asked how he could possibly sculpt something as magnificent as David. He replied "All I do is chip away what does not belong". That is what God is doing in me as He removes the shell. It is not so much about building a brick house as it is getting rid of the shell so that I can be free.

With Easter right around the corner, I'm realizing what a baby chick must feel.
emerging from the shell of religion into a new world of freedom is at first exhilerating: new light streams in, and there's fresh air. New sounds, etc. But once the majority of the shell is gone, it can be a bit frightening, cold, with no more shelter.
And I'm realizing how flimsy the shell is now that I'm on the outside looking back at it.
"Really? That is all that was protecting & feeding me?"
I'm starting to (just starting mind you) to understand Psalm 127:1 and the other Psalms which refer to Him as my Refuge, my Strong Tower, my Place of Shelter, my Rock.

In this place of emptiness there is work to do; I am not spiritually idle. But the work I do feels different. I feel like a member of a crew team
See that little dude at the far left, that's the coxswain. That's Jesus. I'm a crew member. I'm facing away from the destination, and have to trust the coxswain. All my hard effort is absent of seeing the prize, but with my ears and eyes and heart fixed on the one who *can* see the destination. He directs my strength; my rhythms of work and rest.

But this is all so new, and strange. What He's telling me is so freeing and life-giving, but so different from what I've ever known. It is like being pruned.
Bearing fruit is the goal, and if that means cutting away pieces that appeared fruitful, but were not as fruitful as the final result will be -- then trusting the Master Vintner's experience for what to cut and how far back, etc is a good thing...but is still difficult -- since to my relatively inexperienced eye, I'm thinking "But that piece was bearing some fruit..." or "You're cutting away too much! There's nothing left but a single solitary branch cut back to the beginning!"
And He says
"Yes, Keith but do you see that bud?..."
I do see it.

It is so small. It is so fragile; so vulnerable.

And it is so beautiful. It represents the beginnings of new life.

And while it still seems so stark and empty; so barren...
"You are The Vine. I am a single branch.
One vine. One branch.
I need nothing else.
That is enough for me."
~ Keith


  1. The whole illustration of the crew team (your life...and mine) and coxswain (Jesus) is perfect.