A couple of weeks ago, I went home to Alaska where I grew up.
There are so many things I love about being back under my parents’ roof. The smell of clean laundry as soon as you walk in the door. Taco nights, when my brother and his wife come over and everyone teases me for putting ketchup on mine. Listening to my sons giggle wildly while my dad chases them around the living room.
Each of these elements carries a sense of ease. We're family. We belong to each other. We aren't doing the "get-to-know-you" dance or trying to impress anyone. Sometimes there's conflict and sometimes it's awkward, but mostly we're just together.
For good or for bad, we abide with each other. To use less fancy words, we spend a lot of time hanging out just for the pleasure of each other's company.
Copyright: Lindsey Smallwood
There's an unattributed quote on a photo meme making the rounds on social media lately. I've seen a couple variations, but they all essentially say:
“Be patient with yourself. Nothing in nature blooms all year.”
It's a powerful notion. I have no idea if it's true in a botanical sense. But the idea that we could all use a break from the pressure to perform all the time resonates deeply with me.
When I scroll through Instagram or catch up with a friend over the phone, it’s easy to feel ‘less than’, like my efforts at motherhood/writing/cooking/fill-in-the-blank pale in comparison to those around me.
I know that isn’t helpful.
I know that, as my friend Char loves to say, “When you compare, you will despair.”
I know those photos and stories of friends dear to me are snapshots, that they have bad days too, that no one’s life is perfect.
I know that instead of looking around me, I need to look to Jesus, to trust Him with my efforts, my performance, my life.
But the truth is, I feel a drive to bloom there too. When I read Jesus’ invitation to abide with Him, to remain connected to His life and His mission, I can’t help but read what He says next.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (English Standard Version Bible, John 15:4-5)
Did you hear it there? There’s an invitation to abide, to remain, to be with Jesus. But there’s also an expectation. Abiders should bear fruit. Which sounds like accomplishing, succeeding, blooming.
I find myself reluctant to turn to Jesus sometimes, because it feels like work. A to-do item to tick off, a mission to fulfill, an expectation to meet. And I’m tired of trying to bloom all the time.
But here’s the thing. With my family, I don’t feel this way. They don’t care if the bible study I led was well done, or whether my speaking gig went well, or how much weight I’ve gained or lost since the last time I was home. I mean, they’ll care if I need them to care, but mostly they’re just glad I’m there.
Copyright: Lindsey Smallwood
I think Jesus might be more like my family than I realize. Like my family, Jesus invites me to enjoy Him. And when He promises I’ll bear fruit, He doesn’t mean I need to be amazing every day of the year. He means the time I spend with Him will change me for the better, prepare me for what’s next, and plant seeds in my heart that will flower when the time comes.
It’s kind of like how learning my mom’s recipe for chicken and rice comes in handy when I have to make a quick dinner for our neighbors, or how watching my parents love each other well into their fourth decade together encourages me in my own relationship. Still, time with them is not a cooking class or relationship seminar where I need to ace the final. It’s abiding. Hanging out. Blooming not required.
Today, the sweet invitation of Jesus remains: “Abide in me.” I’m learning to love it.
Lindsey Smallwood loves to communicate truth through stories, whether by blogging, making up tales at bedtime, or preaching and teaching to churches and groups. She is married to Chris, a SJSU Physics professor, and they have three young sons.