Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Influence vs. Dependence

There is great danger in creating, or fueling, dependence, but it's oh, so much part of who we are and what we do. Part of that is because others tend to blame-shift. "It's my mom's husband's fault... my environment, etc. etc." Just because it's what people do and I feel the weight of their choices not does make it so.

As a parent, I have a sense of responsibility for my children's choices, well-being, and future. As a teacher, I create a sense of dependence and take responsibility for student learning. This happens in so many different relationships and situations.

But the truth is that we are simply called to "influence" others, not become the source of their life, peace, happiness, hopes and dreams. That's God's job--and He is quite capable.

This week, as I have had opportunity to interact with others--children, women, teens, adults--I am reminded of Jesus' description of the Vine and branches. The branches are not self-sufficient, they are Vine sufficient. The life source does not originate in them, it simply flows through them to others. They are a conduit, nothing more.

So I have spent time evaluating my life as a structure for the gospel. What are my likes and dislikes? What resources are at my disposal? What are my spiritual gifts and natural abilities? All of those things define and describe ways in which the gospel of Jesus Christ flows into, through, and out of my life to others.

Taking the burden of providing and producing the fruit of God in others leads to great frustration, discouragement, despair, impatience, anger, and bitterness. That was never God's intention. The to-do's of the Bible are not independent of the have-done's by Christ. He has, therefore we can. If there is no sense of dependence on what Jesus has done through His death and resurrection, the conduit runs on empty and offers only itself. These are the shriveled, ineffective branches.

Instead, each and every part of the branch is intended to direct others back to God, through Christ. The fullness, life, joy, and peace is not due to the branch's effort, but the Life-source of the Vine. Others dependence should not rest on my influence, abilities, resources, or availability. I will fail. I will not hold up because that's not how I was designed. I am frail, broken, sinful, limited. My calling is to point others to the true Source of life, light, goodness, love, peace, joy, and comfort.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full." (John 15:1-11)

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