Focus

You Don't Have to Try So Hard

You Don't Have to Try So Hard

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit If it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” - John 15:1-4

Twenty years of serving Jesus, and I had always read these words through the lens of fruit production.

“If I am a disciple, I’ll produce. The proof will be the fruit. I need to keep growing. I need to bear the fruit. It needs to always be evident. I can’t ever stop producing!”

Though the branches are representative of believers and disciples of Christ, I truly struggle to wrap my mind around the description of the grapevine. Maybe this would be easier if I grew up in a place like, say, California where vineyards are a normal view in some areas.

Louisiana isn’t prone to grow vineyards. No, the scenery along the highways from South to North Louisiana remains to be a green and brown transition from cypress trees to pine trees. I’ll helpfully imply which ones I grew up around. The street I grew up on was called Tall Pine Dr. 

Forgive me, but I just can’t see Jesus’ talking without seeing a pine tree. I think it’s OK for this discussion though.

When I read this, I imagine a branch in North Louisiana that fell off a pine tree. More specifically, it would be the kind of branch that you would get rid of when picking up and cleaning out the yard. 

It’s flaky. It’s dirty. It’s brittle and grayish brown. There’s no green on it, which means there’s no life. 

Now imagine yourself as that branch. 

Encountering God in a '96 Saturn Sedan

Encountering God in a '96 Saturn Sedan

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep living like this.

Etched into my memory, these were the first words that broke the unsettling silence within our car when sitting at a red-light that felt like an eternity.

Matt and I had just left Wednesday Night service and was met with typical traffic in Baton Rouge that night. The service itself wasn’t necessarily memorable. I don’t recall what songs were sung or the topic of the message. It was unusual anyway for us to attend church in the middle of the week because of our schedules, but even that isn’t the reason for recollection.

Instead, what I will never forget is the heavy presence that met us not during bible study but rather in the car ride home.

Described perfectly by my husband last week, our life at the time was fused together by a slew of productive activities but void of purpose. The day of the week decided where our attention was placed – whether on God, school, work, leisure or rest. This scheduled cycle went on for almost two years of our college career.

It was a pattern built on good works and best intentions in the life of believer. For anyone who has experienced this repetitive lifestyle, you can guess what happened next. Unfulfilled and drained, our breaking point had come sitting in a 1996 Saturn Sedan on Siegen Lane.

I can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep living like this. This isn’t the life God intended for us, and we need to do something about it.

For the next hour, Matt and I peeled back the layers of our hearts. Vulnerable and honest, we poured over our drained lives that were void of God’s constant presence.

We were simply unsatisfied with only knowing His presence on Sundays. Like desert-bound wanderers in search for water, our dry souls were thirsty. Change happens when we are unwilling to allow life to continue in its current state.

I wish I could tell you that after an intense sob session we got on our knees at home, called out to God and changed our apathetic ways. Man, that would make for one great, intense turnaround story. It’s the Hallmark classic moment of Christian testimonies. That’s not what happened though.

In fact, there were no tears. There weren’t any prayers. An altar call was available to us, and no change happened to our schedules. On paper, nothing at all seemed to shift, yet within our hearts – we were different.

In an effort to work toward freedom together and not ‘on-paper’ perfection, here are the overnight changes that happened in our belief (and not our behavior) that led to this defining moment.