My husband is a saint. Have I told you that?
For the last three weekends, I’ve abandoned him and the kids to attend three different women’s conferences. He still loves me. And he did the laundry each weekend while I was gone.
It was an accident, really, as I (and he) said “yes” to each of these opportunities in isolation, not taking into account the bigger picture, what was happening the week before or the week after.
And then the trifecta was upon us.
First, it was Noonday Collection’s annual conference, Shine, for three nights. Then, it was a women’s ministry event (also called Shine) at our church. And this past weekend, it was an If Gathering local event at a church on the other side of town where I knew absolutely no one.
It was bliss.
All three weekends of it.
And I learned something about myself.
I love being with people I don’t know.
It’s awkward at first because I’m not the kind of person that never meets a stranger, but it’s such an energizing feeling to get outside my own context, meet new people, share experiences, and make new friends.
I’m also amazed at what happens to God’s voice inside my head when I get away from my own life.
It gets louder.
And God speaks to me in a consistent theme, taking all the crazy that’s going on in my head and streamlining it into a cogent thought.
What a nice change of pace.
Well, sort of.
Because this time, the cogent thought was a brutal one.
On the eve of Lent — when I typically find myself searching for that one thing I need to do or to stop doing for 46 days — that one thing that might draw me near to God in preparation for the remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection, I need to listen to God’s voice, and I have to be honest with myself.
I have an issue with contentment.
And if I really want to move forward in my relationship with God — if I really want to make progress in my life — then I’ve got to deal with this. It’s an area of my life where I need to die to some things.
And every other written expression of “I really don’t want to do this right now.”
This past weekend, I spent a lot of time studying John 15:5-8:
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.
As I sat around a table with a lovely group of strangers, reading this passage yet again, I saw something new in it for the first time.
The blessing is in the “remaining.” It’s in the abiding.
It’s not in the fruit. The fruit is just evidence of the blessing.
“If you remain in me and I in you…”
So when we have our eyes on the fruit (or lack thereof) instead of on the abiding, we miss the point. And we make it difficult on ourselves, especially in a season of pruning, when there’s no fruit for miles.
I know this first hand because I’ve been in a season of pruning for a while now, and I need to confess:
I’m desperate to see the fruit.
Pruning is hard.
And it’s sad. There’s a lot of grief in pruning. Because pruning is a cutting away. A removing. It’s a season of the death of so many branches that have been central to our stories for so long. But if we want to be ready for the next harvest, then we have to lay these past things down and come to God with empty arms.
Easier said than done. I know.
Just three weeks ago, I sat on the floor of my closet in the dark, back against the door, sobbing. My empty hands were raised to the heavens, as I screamed at God, “Is this really the rest of my life?” In many ways, it’s so much less than I planned.
I’m desperate to see the fruit.
But as I look at my life-season, I’m not sure there’s going to be any for a while. At least not the kind of fruit I think I want to see.
So it’s occurred to me that I can’t continue to focus on the absence of the fruit. That will drive me crazy. Leave me unsatisfied. And keep me in a state of discontent. Instead, I need to focus on remaining in God.
I need to hunker down in this place where I am and abide in God. I need to gather with God every day, dive into the scriptures, and swim in prayer. And I need to be thankful. Very, very thankful.
Because there is rich fruit in many areas of my life. If you know me personally, then you know that’s true. But I’m in the weeds of the pruning in other areas that are important to me too, and I’m struggling to see the blessing for the bush.
This Lent, that’s going to change.
Instead of giving something up this Lent as I usually do, I’m going to put something in. Because sometimes action precedes belief, and I believe this is one of those times.
So here’s my commitment.
Beginning today at 6:15 a.m., and for 46 more days at the same time, I’m going to post a Confession of Gratitude on our Confessions Of A Pastor’s Family Facebook page.
Why 46 days?
Because Lent is 46 days long if we count the Sundays.
Why on our Facebook page?
Because I really need you to hold me accountable.
And why 6:15 a.m.?
Because if I’m going to abide in God, then it has to start with my morning quiet time, before anyone can shoot the wheels off my day.
Through these Confessions of Gratitude, I will be choosing to view view my life through the lens of abundance rather than scarcity. And this will require that I lay some things down. Some things that I’ve been clinging to in grief for so so long.
This scares me.
Because when we lay these things down, we’re finally admitting they’re gone. Done. Over. They’re in the past. And there’s nothing we can do to revive them. It’s the end of them.
But this action, this laying down, also signals the start of a new beginning. It’s clean slates, ready to script the next parts of our stories. It’s empty arms ready to embrace new things. It’s hope-filled hearts, trusting God to bring us to the next harvest. Maybe a harvest bigger and more abundant than we’ve ever known.
Maybe. Just maybe.
So I ask you.
Do you have an issue with contentment?
Do you need to practice gratitude in this season of Lent?
If so, I’d love for you to join me in the conversation. So hop on over to the social icons in the right margin of the blog, and click the Facebook button. Then “like” our page so you can post your own Confessions of Gratitude in the comments to my daily posts. I can’t wait to hear from you because we’re better together, and we can lift each other out of the discontentment we’re wallowing in and see the blessing.
Won’t you join me?
I’d love for us to be thankful together as we walk with Jesus to the cross this Lent. I’ll start by saying this:
I’m thankful for each of you.