My friends are in Kentucky and Iowa braving the heat and doing good things for people. I wrote the following as a morning meditation for my friends in Kentucky. I post it here as an act of solidarity.
A common feeling by this point in any trip is that coming when Jesus says “Come,” following wherever Jesus leads you, and sticking with Jesus as though your life depended on it, gets a little old.
We don’t feel like coming to Jesus with our anxieties and frustrations; we’d much rather sit with them a while, indulge them.
We’re tired of following Jesus into uncomfortable experiences and conversations; we’d rather be by ourselves, quite frankly, and we’d at least rather feel free to drop the “I’m so religious” façade that we’ve been lugging around with us.
And all this sticking with Jesus as though nothing else satisfies? Our minds fill with things we’ve had to live without for days now; our eyes wander toward things Jesus wouldn’t want us wandering toward.
Jesus is, quite frankly, wearing us out.
Yesterday Jesus freaked us out a little bit by inviting us to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Today is different: Today Jesus employs a different metaphor, one from the garden. Jesus, he tells us, is like a vine; we, he tells us, are like that vine’s branches.
Christianity has always been an active faith. For twenty-one centuries Christians have run all over the world, talked to everyone they met, taken care of the sick, fed the hungry, all that stuff. Abiding with Jesus has tended to be understood in the context of coming to him and following him: we abide with Jesus while we’re on the move. But here’s Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, on the eve of his death, telling his followers that they are rooted, that they ought to rest in the reality of that rootedness.
Vines are not static; they keep growing and growing. Jesus is not suggesting to his disciples that they’ve gone as far as they’re going to go, that they’re finished coming where he bids them or following where he leads them. He is suggesting, however, that there is a sustaining, nurturing Source feeding continually into them. Whether we realize it or not, Jesus is continually nourishing us with nothing less than the love of God.
Vine branches do occasionally wither, but a good gardener recognizes the difference between an unhealthy branch and a healthy vine. In our case, the vine is fine; if we’re feeling burned out or used up, our first, best response is probably to remember to be loved.
So today, in the midst of your work, your conversations, your homesickness, your whatever, remember to be loved by God. Remember that, while it’s true we live in a world that too often neglects its own, too often turns a deaf ear to the real, desperate needs of people, too often uses one another up and then leaves them to fend for themselves—it’s also true that the God who created us loves us and abides in us. Rest in that when you need to, and draw on that when you remember to: we live and move and have our being—we abide—in the love of God.