Whenever I went home for a break in college it was bitter-sweet- I would be away from my friends, I would have less freedom over my schedule, and I would miss campus, but… at least I wouldn’t have to struggle with party culture for a few weeks! Yet as challenging as it was to follow Jesus while living with my sorority sisters, being home with my family was sometimes just as hard. Going back home sometimes felt like going back to high school. My friends at college could see the daily transformation happening inside me as I tried to follow Jesus (even if they didn’t know Jesus was the reason for my transformation), but to my family back home I was the same Taylor they had lived with for 18 years.
When I went home my family would treat me the same way they always had, assuming that my motivations and behaviors were the same as before. In response I would instinctively react to them by slipping back into the same behaviors as my high school self. It was completely different from being tempted in a hot, sticky fraternity basement where people took shot after shot and tried to hook up with each other for one night. Yet at the same time it was just as hard to say no to my old self at home as it was at school. I’d learned so much about my faith while at school just to go home and wonder if I had actually grown at all or if it was just my imagination. Maybe you can relate in this season of at home classes.
So, how do we continue to grow in our faith no matter where we find ourselves living for the rest of this semester? How do we continue to seek God in this Lenten season as we transition to a new normal?
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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.
“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Questions to Consider
- What is the relationship between the vine and the branches?
- What is the role of the gardener?
- How is our relationship with Jesus similar to the relationship between a vine and its branches?
- Based on the imagery Jesus uses, what does it mean to “remain” in him? What could it look like to remain in him in this season of at-home classes?
Have you ever looked at a grapevine? They are deceptively strong compared to how they look. Even the branches that grow off of them seem fragile when you look at them, and the clusters of grapes that grow from the branches look so full they could break off and fall to the ground at any moment. But they don’t. Why? Because the branch is strong. Why? Because the vine that it is attached to is even stronger!
If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, then he gives us strength. He also gives us everything that we need to continue to grow in this season. When I went home for winter and summer break, I put an unhealthy limit on the work that Jesus wanted to do in me. I knew that he wanted to help me turn away from my old habits in the Greek system- of course God wanted to help me to turn away from over drinking and drugs but why would he care about my home life? I didn’t realize that he wanted me to continue to come to him and lean on him even when I was home with my family.
As we continue in this at-home Lenten season, God wants us to continue to come to him. He wants us to continue our fasts, to meditate on his sacrifice for us, and to come to him in prayer. He wants to continue to grow and shape us as we spend time with family, chat with friends over FaceTime, and take classes over Zoom.
So, as you plan out your days this week set aside time to spend with God in prayer or scripture, think about him when you want the dessert or drink you gave up for lent, and remain in the vine. There have been so many ups and downs in this season as we continue to get updates about the Coronavirus, but his continued invitation through it all is to remain in the vine. A branch that remains in the vine WILL bear fruit (v. 5), and you never know what fruit God is forming in and through you in this season.