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For Your Weekend: From Striving to Abiding

Caitlin Bean

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 15:1–8

At the beginning of Lent, I shared how I’d been praying with the question, “In prayer, are you achieving or are you receiving?” It was a question that began to reveal to me areas of perfectionism and a performance-driven prayer. So, with humility and vulnerability, I embarked on a Lenten journey of surrender, inviting Jesus to minister to the desert of my heart.

And what a transformative journey it has been, my friends.

I started Lent slowly and skeptically. I showed up to my prayer time quietly and empty-handed—without words, litanies, or petitions. I came to Jesus weary and tired, unsure of how to pray in this new season of motherhood. But in this surrender, I have discovered a profound truth: there is power in allowing ourselves to simply abide and rest in Christ’s love. 

The Vine and the Branches
In Sunday’s gospel, Jesus uses the image of a vine and branches to teach His disciples about the relationship between His followers, Himself, and the Father. He conveys that we are the branches, He is the true vine, and the Father is the vinedresser. Jesus goes on to explain that the mark of discipleship is bearing fruit. He warns that branches that fail to produce fruit or are disconnected from Him will be thrown out. 

Trusting the Vinedresser
When reading this gospel, I’ve often neglected to ponder the significance of the vinedresser. Since I do not live in a vineyard, I took some time to research a little bit about grapes and the role of the vinedresser. As I did, I realized that the vitality of the vineyard is contingent upon the meticulous care of the vinedresser. 

It is the vinedresser who tends the soil, ensuring it is moist, well-drained, and full of nutrients; who places and adjusts the plants and branches to receive optimal sunlight; who significantly prunes the branches each year to foster new growth and abundant fruit. But it is not just cultivation that the vinedresser is concerned with. He also protects the vineyard against threats of weeds and disease.

I find this image so comforting. Knowing that the vinedresser tends to each branch with the utmost care and guards them against harm allows me to abide all the more in the true vine. How often do I catch myself comparing myself to others? Am I judging people by their fruits or lack thereof? Do I worry that I am not producing enough fruit or that the enemy will harm me? Yet, when I trust the Father is a wise vinedresser, I am liberated from the spirits of comparison, competition, and anxiety.

Yet in the divine economy of the vineyard, God the Father sees it all. He understands that each season serves a purpose. Just as winter blankets the vineyard in a state of dormancy, so too are there periods in our spiritual life that are marked by quietness. But just because it doesn’t appear that life is happening or fruit is being born doesn’t mean it isn’t so. Often, the hidden, contemplative work of prayer ends up being the most fruitful. 

Abide in Him
As I prayed further with this passage, it led me to consider the concept of “bearing fruit” in the context of my own life. Often, I find myself equating this notion with performance, feeling the pressure to achieve and accomplish constantly. My natural inclination is to strive relentlessly to prove, not just to the Lord but to others around me, that my life is, at the very least, capable of bearing fruit. However, when I look at the example of vines bearing grapes, I notice a striking contrast. The branches are not busy with tasks and checklists, they do not worry about the perception of others, and they are not anxious or worried. Instead, they simply abide, secure in their connection to the source of life who will ultimately do the work of bearing fruit through them. 

Living out Easter’s Promise
Now that it’s Easter and Lent is behind us, it’s understandable to feel tempted to set aside the resolutions we made during that sacred season. And yet Lent is a season that is not just a period of sacrifice; it’s a time for new beginnings and the cultivation of spiritual growth. We are not meant to return to our grave clothes but instead embrace the new life that Easter ushers forth. 

Through my own Lenten experience, I’ve come to realize the importance of renouncing and rejecting spirits of self-reliance, control, productivity, perfectionism, and pride. Indeed, Jesus tells us explicitly that our own striving and efforts, apart from Him, are futile: “because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Did you catch that? We can do nothingTrue fruitfulness comes from solely depending on Jesus. We must trust that by abiding in Him, the true vine, fruitfulness will occur, far greater, sweeter, and more abundant than anything we could ever dream or accomplish on our own. 

By surrendering our will, plans, and preconceived notions to the work of His hands and allowing His life to transform us, we become vessels of His love and grace. Through this surrender, we truly begin to live out the new life Easter promises, bearing fruit that glorifies the Father.

Food for thought or journaling...

How do you personally understand what it means to abide in Christ? Are there specific practices or attitudes that help you cultivate a deeper sense of abiding in Him in your daily life?

Jesus, teach me the simplicity of abiding in Your love. May I always trust in Your perfect timing, and may Your Spirit produce abundant fruit in me that glorifies the kingdom of God. Amen.

P.S. If you would like to read more of the Gospel of John in a way that helps you apply its teachings to your life, I encourage you to order Touching the Divine.

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