I have this propensity to focus on only the good that is to come (yay, optimism) and am inadequately prepared for what actually lies ahead. Marriage can be hard. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about. Marriage is also unbelievably good. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about either. What the last few weeks, and particularly the last few days, have surprised me with is this: there’s nothing quite like marriage to bring you face to face with the reality of your brokenness and shortcomings on a daily basis. Marriage is humbling!
I don’t know if I’ve already mentioned this, but we now have a Sunday service at COTP led by Pastor Dan, dad of the Grace House. What a blessing that has been! I also get to get back to my musical roots and play keyboard for our worship time. Each week, a few of us go through the passage that Pastor Dan has chosen for the week and decide which songs we will sing together. This week, one of our passages is the first half of John 15. I love it when I’ve read a particular passage hundreds of times, and then God randomly makes His Word just jump off the page and into my soul. Ok, nothing is random when God is involved, but isn’t it cool when he does that? I’m sure you know John 15: the vine, the branches, the fruit, and I think there’s a gardener in there too.
Rewind just a bit to the day before I read this passage. I had been frustrated by my impatience and lack of gentleness in certain situations within my marriage. That day, I was so intentional about every interaction, every thought, every word, every moment. I made it almost the whole day and then burst into tears when I made a thoughtless remark shortly before we fell asleep. I didn’t even make it one day. One of my biggest fears as of late, apart from being uneven (yes, really) and public speaking, is failing at marriage and not being the wife that Wilson deserves.
Back to John 15. It was like Jesus was speaking directly to me, “No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in my love…apart from me you can do nothing.” I started thinking about the fruits of the spirit and suddenly found myself writing lines, like the kind you wrote in 3rd grade when you broke a rule at school:
Apart from You, I cannot love
Apart from You, I cannot have joy
Apart from You, I cannot know peace
Apart from You, I cannot practice patience
Apart from You, I cannot share kindness
Apart from You, I cannot embody goodness
Apart from You, I cannot show gentleness
Apart from You, I cannot demonstrate faithfulness
Apart from You, I cannot exercise self-control
Apart from You I can do nothing
Redundant? A little. But sometimes it takes a little repetition to really sink in.
Jesus also explains his Father’s role as the gardener (a pretty great picture of two distinct parts of the Trinity, Jesus the vine and his Father the gardener). He will cut off all the branches that do not bear fruit. He will also cut off pieces of all the branches that do bear fruit. All that cutting sounds painful, but there’s no way out of it. Fruit or no fruit, we can’t escape it. The difference is that one type of branch is going to end up getting thrown in the fire and the other ends up bearing even more fruit. I want to be the kind of branch whose pain is not meaningless but leads to something even greater. It’s not possible on my own. Apart from Him I can do nothing.