Like many others last December we put up a tree in our family room and tortured our curious offspring with wrapped gifts under its branches. They obsessed over the pretty packages and counted down the hours, days, weeks, eternities until they could unwrap them. I wrestled with teaching my kids how to enjoy the blessings of Christmas without losing the meaning behind it all. And I heard God speak to me about my own struggles in this arena.
I struggle with gifts that He gives me as well. It is too easy for me to turn them into an idol. Something I feel I have to have to survive but did just fine without before. Even worse, I make them something that defines who I am apart from Him. I also take those gifts and spoil them with comparison to other people’s blessings. Another problem I have is trying to hold on and nurture them on my own apart from Him working through me.
Can anyone relate?
During my early years on campus I got to see many, many women come to Christ. I enjoyed the blessings of a fruitful evangelistic ministry. Fast forward many years to life with nursing infants and toddlers when I barely managed to do any evangelism on campus but once a year. There were times when I wondered, Who am I if I’m not an evangelist anymore?
Another blessing God has given me is a way with words. I wrote for many years in obscurity and prayed that He wouldn’t let me be published unless I could handle it. Would I let it define me apart from Him? Or would how many “followers” I had or “likes” become more important than who He says I am? The average life of a book is one year (yikes!). When my published work becomes obsolete, Who am I if I’m not a writer?
It is too easy for me to identify myself by my fruit.
I see oranges on a branch and call it an “orange tree.” As a believer, I’m not to do this. My identity comes from Him alone. Not the fruit He grows through me, no matter how pretty and enticing it looks dangling off my branches.
The heart of what I think He is trying to teach me is how to bear fruit and remain connected to the Vine (John 15:1). I have to continually remember I’m desperately dependent on Him for all the life that flows through me and grows anything at all. And I have to remain surrendered as He prunes away certain things I once enjoyed to make room for others to grow. So much of motherhood and ministry is this pruning, surrendering, and clinging to the Vine.
In this same passage, I see Jesus modeling perfectly for me what He asks me to do. Here is the Son of God calling HIMSELF the VINE (John 51:1). You cannot be much more surrendered than this, laid out as a Vine under complete control of the Vinedresser. What a perfect example of submission.
It will take years to teach my boys to look past the pretty packages to the true meaning behind them. And it is a journey for me to learn the art of bearing fruit without it becoming too important. Only when I have my mind set on surrender can I enjoy the blessings in my own life without spoiling it through comparison or idolatry.
Mamas, no matter what fruit He happens to be growing through you in this season of motherhood and ministry, I pray You grow more and more in your identity as His. Whether you are being pruned or hanging heavy with abundant fruit, your identity as His precious daughter can never change.
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” 1 Peter 2:9-10 The Message (MSG)
Blessings to you,
Sherry joined staff in 1997. She robbed the cradle and married a handsome student (gasp!) named Jeff in 2000. Since then they have served in WI, SD and now in CO. They have 3 boys ages 7-12 and there is never a dull moment in their house. 2 years ago Sherry finally got her girl, a black and white lab mix who is her constant shadow. Jeff works with operations and training for collegiate. Sherry enjoys writing and encouraging mommy missionaries when she isn’t busy homeschooling.