April 19, 2020 • Life for Leaders
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”
When I look at the metaphor of the vine in John 15, Jesus declares that he is the vine and his father is the vine-grower. The careful pruning of branches as part of a growth process does not seem to fit in the scenario of our current crisis. However, we do all feel a stripping and a violent cutting down of most things that were fruit and flourishing. A virus is disconnecting us and dismembering the interconnected branches of our communal lives—violently. We are experiencing unprecedented collective trauma and layers of grief upon grief. Our leadership is also being stripped of those things that seemed to work pre-COVID and maybe no longer work now. Is that frustrating to anyone else or just me? How can the Living Vine speak into life impacted by this deadly virus?
Nothing that I write today will be able to change your circumstances, yet my hope and prayer is that it can change your center. I find myself as a leader returning to the simple basics as desperately as I search for basic toilet paper once a week in our local grocery stores. I went to my backyard fence and found a beautifully exposed vine that drew me to this passage for such a time as this. So I dug deeper.
The word “abide” is used nine times in nine verses in this passage. The word as it is used here means: “to remain, to stay, not to depart, to continue to be present and to be held.” It is not a static word. It is an active word, an active response to God’s presence in the face of pain. It is an invitation to believe, to faithfully follow, to persevere and to continue to trust, even and especially when the news can rob us of any hope and peace. The vine remains steady, strong, and steadfast. The vine resists quickness and easy-fixes, just like this devotional isn’t a quick fix, because abiding is slow. The vine invites us to resist productivity and instead to be present. I have come to terms with the fact that right now my perception of production as a leader has been stripped of any extravagance. It looks different now. The simple vine is our life-giving source that we can return to time and time again in times of anxiety.
Our leadership has a center and a source. The soul of our leadership also has a soil. The vine is our starting point, our base, our origin, our beginning and our end. The vine is the Alpha and the Omega and everything in between. The vine is not separated from pain but proximal to it. The vine sustains all things by God’s powerful word in the midst of the storm. The vine also holds us when we stand in the tension and waver between abiding and being apart. The vine invites us to return and remain without question as to why we fluctuated in the first place. To return to the vine is to return to the root: it is thick, strong, deep, and wide. The vine does the work. Our work is only to remain connected as we abide. The fruit we bear will flow from that living connection. I believe the soil is the steadfast and unconditional love of God that nourishes the vine, which in turn holds us and upholds us. The Vine is Jesus and we are the branches in desperate need of abiding. Our leadership, indeed every ounce of our lives, must depend on being connected to the vine.
May you be deeply rooted in the soil of God’s love and may you be held and upheld, sustained by the source. May the soul of your leadership grow a thick and deep root in the soil of God’s own love. My hope is to remind you to stay connected to the soil of God’s own love for you and your community. Abide in this love today. The harvest of this abiding will come tomorrow. There’s nothing more that you need to produce today. The vine invites you to be present today. Be present to yourself, to God, and to others. I am in this struggle with you. You are not alone.
Something to Think About:
What daily and weekly spiritual practices are you engaging to care for the soul of your leadership? What daily and weekly things have you stripped from your schedule that aren’t life-giving? I invite you to reflect about both of those questions.
What is one small act that you can do differently this week to take care of your body and soul as you juggle all the leadership hats that you wear?
Something to Do:
Go for a walk. Pray with your feet. Let the walking do the talking. Go in search of a vine or a tree. Pause and ponder. Take a good look at the soil, the root, the branches, the leaves. Ground yourself. Let the Spirit speak into your soul and the soul of your leadership. Abide in God’s love.
Oh, Living Water, Living Vine, Breath of Life and Bread of Life, we need your sustenance. We return to you even as we carry fears, anxiety, worry, bad news, change and loss. Hold us close and draw us near. Hold our anxieties and nourish our hope. Help us to stay connected to you even as everything around us threatens us towards isolation and disconnection. Let the living water that flows through the veins of that living vine fill our very own veins in our bodies and lungs. Give us breath. Give us strength. Grant us resilience. Be present in our pain. Hold us close. Draw us near to you. We need you Lord. We choose to stay, to return and remain, time and time again. Grant us resilient grace. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: I am the Vine and You are the Branches (John 15)