September is a bit like January, with all of its good intentions and naïve dreams of being a better version of myself. Over the summer I scheme and daydream and about being more on top of things, and wonder whether this is finally the year we’ll get “the balance right.”
When my children returned to school this term, I felt quite lost for a couple of days. Suddenly the flat was quiet and I had time to do all the things I had been putting off during the holidays. But where to start?
By week two, we’re were off to the proverbial races and we have to remember PE kits, after-school clubs, homework and consent forms. I feel like now that it’s all in full swing, there isn’t much time for quiet reflection. But I have noticed one thing:
I’m still me.
I’m not the slick, imaginary version of myself I’d dared to hope I might be.
As it’s a ‘new year’ I’ve been using some new Bible reading notes, and I’m slowly reading John Chapters 14-16. I keep thinking about these words:
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15)
If you can relate to my emotional ups and downs, here are a few encouragements from Jesus’ words here:
You’re in Christ. If you believe in the Son, and he’s your Lord, then you’re secure in him. This is the same whether your kids are at home, at school, or at the hospital. It’s true when your morning is running smoothly, and it’s true when someone spills the cereal and the cucumber lands in your tea. It’s true at the Seaside in August, and it’s true on the school run in September.
You’re bearing fruit. If you’re in Christ, then he’s making sure you bear fruit. He’s making you more like himself. It’s not just my children who’ll be learning a thing or two this year. Jesus has a curriculum ready for me, too.
If you’re bearing fruit, you’ll be pruned. Jesus’ curriculum for me will at times be painful, because he’s chopping off the selfishness; the pride; the impatience; the harshness; the self-pity; the badness etc. And this is good news! He’s getting rid of it, so I need to get with the programme.
Apart from Him you can do nothing. I don’t need to be slick (there’s no danger of that, so phew!), and I don’t need anyone to think I’m on top of things. I don’t need to depend on a new system or regime for getting out of the door and through the school gate on time and in a state of calm serenity. I need to depend on Him. Seriously, I need to remain in him. Jesus repeats this phrase to emphasise that this is what we need. We must depend on him. We must trust and obey him. I need to take my eyes off my ‘to-do’ list and wish lists, and fix them on Christ.
It’s for the Father’s glory, not mine. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15v8) When I remember and acknowledge that I’m completely dependant on Christ, I will give the glory to the Father. What’s my goal for this term? Is it to keep a neat hallway? Is it to donate more stuff to the charity shop? Is it to finally teach my daughter the piano? Well, those could be my mini goals, but my ultimate goal must be to glorify my Father in heaven. That is obedience. And let’s face it, that is much, much more worthwhile.
Let’s pray for a fruitful term, to the Father’s glory, knowing that the Gardener will have some pruning to do. (And try not to forget the packed lunches.)