"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me." John 15:4
The grandfather clock ticked in the living room, a metronome to her life these last few weeks. Ticking a pace of music too slow for comfort.
Abide in me.
The words reverberated in her mind. She'd spent a lifetime trying to be everything everyone wanted her to be. Well, perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration. But, nonetheless somewhat true. Since childhood, she'd had a picture of herself, of who she was supposed to be. A super missionary or super church member or something super. She'd tried. Days sitting beside others in the hospital. Taking food to those in need. Giving of her own money...well, her husband's money, to anyone who needed it. Trying to teach others. Trying to be a witness. Trying to....trying to be the perfect servant in the eyes of her friends and church family.
Abide in me.
Swallowing against the nausea she pushed herself up and reached to the Bible on her bedside table. Lord, for all the good I've done, where are You? I mean, I know You're there. But do I really, truly know You?
She pulled the Bible on her lap and turned to John 15. Lord, sometimes faith ain't so easy. I can talk the talk, and even walk the so-called walk by the terms of others. But I know, I feel, it just isn't good enough.
She ran her finger down the page and started reading. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."
"I believe that I am saved. I believe that I am in You. Yet, those years of pain. Those years when I felt everyone hated me, and I hated myself, and I had convinced myself You hated me...those were wasted years, Lord. I have no time to change that now."
Sighing, Carol looked at her daily reading plan, and turned the pages to Ruth. She took several breaths and swallowed the saliva forming in her mouth. She just needed to spend some time reading. Just some time to abide. Her mind wandered over the story of Ruth, a story so many have loved because of its romance. Somehow, all these yearly readings, she'd never quite seen it that way. Yes, she understood why others thought it a romance, but...well, it seemed like Boaz just did what he did out of duty.
But then, the words took shape. Boaz had noticed Ruth. There were other maidens beside Ruth, but Boaz had taken notice. Carol picked at the words, mapped out the romance, and pressed her hand against her stomach, then leaned back. It was there. Not the sappy, overtly physical brain-candy of dime-store romance novel type of love-story, but definitely love perhaps truer to that of God for Israel, or Christ for the church.
Ruth wasn't some great war hero, like Jael. Or some wise woman noted for solving problems, or even the Proverbs 31 super woman. She wasn't a Debra or a queen. Ruth was ordinary. And Ruth became the great grandmother of a king.
Ruth was a humble, widowed daughter-in-law choosing to care for her beloved mother-in-law and make God her god. She was obedient and a risk taker, and really must have had some faith to have been so forward with Boaz.
Carol closed her Bible and laid back down, holding her stomach. She'd raised three children. Beautiful children. God-fearing children. That seems all she had to account for her life. Perhaps it wasn't all the doin's of a church member that God saw as fruitful. Perhaps it was simply abiding in the One she loved and letting that relationship pass on to her children. Perhaps the fruit God chose her to bear was simply living a life surrendered to God before others so that they might see God's faithfulness. Perhaps, like Ruth, it wasn't the goodness perceived by man, but what God blessed her with that bore fruit for God. Ruth, after all, became a mother in the line of Jesus.
Could it be that the importance is not on the bearing of the fruit, but on the relationship...on making God your god? The loving Savior, desiring us...desiring a perfect and pure relationship with us. And the result of that relationship is fruit. After all, Ruth obeying Naomi and making herself known to Boaz as a potential wife eventually resulted in the Messiah, the Savior Who came to save the world. Couldn't get anymore fruitful than that.
Carol closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. Perhaps to strive for fruit without the relationship is to cheapen yourself and the love of Christ. "Lord, You've provided for my every need. There is no reason for me to not fully abide in You, to not make my relationship with You, the focal point of my life."
The nausea eased away as drowsiness took over. Lord, please let Your Words abide in me. Forgive me for my pride that so easily slips in under the cover of 'godliness' and help me to abide in You, to live in the truth of Your love for and delight in me.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved."