I love my garden. It’s one of the places I connect with God. I’ll go chill out pulling weeds and cutting off branches on the shrubs that stick out beyond where I want them to go, or that have some kind of disease on them. I’ll get rid of the flower stalks on my lilies that are done flowering to keep the plant looking clean and pretty. It’s a place I get to create beauty, and an oasis from the busyness of life for my family.
So one of the sad things for me this time of year is saying “see ya later” to the garden and cutting off what has or will become dead and wilted and just plain gross over the winter. It’s bittersweet, but it’s also important. If I don’t take the time to clear all that old growth, next spring we will have all kinds of mold and rot, and it will be harder for the new growth to get through the mess.
It’s timely that we’re spending time exploring the realities of waiting as we officially are in the fall season. Why? Well, because alongside the development of perseverance and the reshaping of our perspectives, another very intertwined thing happens in the waiting. (Ha ha - see what I did there? Mom gardening jokes for the win).
Yup - it’s a P-word train. What will be next? Come back next week and find out.
There are two pieces to this that we get to look at. The first is this - when God moves us into a new season, there are things from our past seasons that we can’t take with us. Like pride. And anger. And impatience. Or greed, jealousy, and envy… Or more tangibly - really poor money management or crappy eating habits or toxic relationship patterns… It’s in the NOW and the HERE that God gets us ready. So this is not only where we develop more maturity and perseverance, but it’s where He works in us to get rid of the things that will keep us from accomplishing His will.
“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."
Think about it - you have a dream to start a company that will provide much-needed educational support to kids with learning disabilities. Something online and accessible that would reach kids in remote areas who don’t have access to the kind of support they need to excel. But to build it, you’ll need massive government grants and investor funding. If you’re terrible with money and budgets, and you step into that season before God says go, what is going to happen when that money comes in? You’ll blow it. The purpose that He wanted to equip you for because He had plans for those kids gets entirely derailed. But had you waited and allowed Him to break those patterns off of you and for you to integrate new ones, it would be an entirely different situation.
Or you really want to get married, but you had a bunch of toxic relationships in the past. Until you leave your patterns and habits and old ways of thinking about your value and what is okay, and until your relationship with Jesus is strong enough, you’ll continue to find toxic relationships.
For me, it’s been impulsivity and impatience, and what I’ll call “I can do it in my own power” patterns.
Second - and actually this is the most important of the two parts but we needed a transition point…
We have to develop dependence.
“I can do it on my own” is a pretty common sentiment. We’re surrounded by it. But Jesus had a lot to say about this. Here’s the key - “apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Even more than leaving behind and pruning off our anger or resentment, pride or insecurity, anger or envy, Jesus wants us to leave behind our independence.
Can I just say - typing that puts a lump in my throat? Can that even be true, God? What are we without our independence? Who are we without our independence?
Hang with me though. Our concept of independence is skewed, distorted, and twisted - just the way the enemy wants it.
Here’s what I think of when I think of independence - confident, capable, grown up, knowledgeable, being able to make decisions… In my mind, it's the opposite of co-dependency - needy, clingy, insecure, value tied to what others think…
But here’s a definition to stew on:
The ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people.
Umm…. life without help from others… and life that isn’t influenced by other people...
That second one isn’t even possible if we take it word for word… Not to mention that surrounding ourselves with people who are a good influence is vital to our growth and development. And not having help from others equates to isolation - which happens to be one of the enemy's favorite tools to suck us into despair. What happens when you break your leg and need to pick up your kids from school but can’t drive? Or when you face mental illness and need someone to step in and fight for you?
Independence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We are created for community. We are made to do life together. And God designed life so that we would be shaped by others who love Him (*cough* discipleship *cough*).
And, independence extends the same dynamic to our relationship with Jesus.
What if we don’t have Him to help us and shape us and influence us?
For some reading this, you just have to look at the people you run into day-to-day that don’t share faith with you. For others, you only have to look in the mirror.
Dependence though… oh that word has associations too doesn’t it. Ick.
"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."
Our dependence on Jesus is actually what empowers us to do what He built us to do and to live lives that are not only the best for us, but the most beautiful and joy-filled, and connected.
In our waiting, Jesus wants for us to be with Him. Be present with Him. Be HERE instead of living in anticipation of THERE, wherever we think that may be. And in being here, practicing dependence, developing a discipline of dependence, what we actually learn is surrender. That is where the real opportunity is for us to be made ready for our next season.
Let me leave you with this - the goal isn’t independence, but interdependence. Mutual dependence. We depend on God, and within that context we also move toward life in community. We move toward relationships where we are mutually dependent on each other. Relationships that allow us to carry each other’s burdens “and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” (See Galatians 6:2)
Keep waiting. Practice surrender. You’ll find there is freedom in dependence on God. And it’s the only way to become everything He made you to be.
Grace, peace, and power,