Well, friends. Whether or not it feels happy, it is, in fact, a new year.
I’m not entirely sure what happened toward the end of 2022. I don’t know if it was the culmination of a few years that led to an over-all feeling of exhaustion, or if too much simply happened all at once. But I was ready for 2023 to sneak in very gently and without much fanfare. Maybe you always feel this way. It is abnormal for me. I LOVE New Year’s Eve. I love a whole week of holiday celebrating and I love the idea of everyone in the world celebrating something new collectively.
The more I talk with people and process through my own thoughts, the more it seems everyone is just so tired. There isn’t much motivation to tackle a new year with new goals and fresh vision. We’re kind of just trying to figure out how to recover and manage what we have now.
Wow, this sounds pretty gloomy, huh? It isn’t meant to be. It’s meant to be a reminder that you aren’t the only one, and that it’s okay to take things very slowly.
The best stuff doesn’t happen all at once anyway.
A few days ago I found myself seriously overwhelmed with my growing list of things to do and my lacking energy to tackle any of it. I found myself repeating out loud, “Just one thing at a time.”
I can’t do it all, and I certainly can’t do it all at once. I can’t start a new workout program, declutter and organize the kids’ room, the closet, and my own bedroom all at once. I can’t get serious about meal planning and blogging and reading and being the best wife and mom. I can’t succeed at everything I’ve put on my plate or that’s been asked of me if I do it all at the same time. And neither can you.
This is what happens when we turn our eyes from Jesus and rely on ourselves. Whether we recognize it, whether we name it as this or not, this kind of anxiety and striving comes from reliance on our flesh. Now, hang on. Don’t hear things that I’m not saying. Life can get overwhelming. Sometimes the things that happen to us are painful and unjust. Those things do not mean that you aren’t relying on Jesus.
What I’m saying is that it’s what we do with what happens to us. It’s the anxiety, the overwhelm, the feelings of failure – all the things that don’t come from God.
Anytime I find myself in this place, there is one chapter in scripture that gives me the answers I’m looking for. It’s found in John 15:1-5.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and prunes the branches that do bear fruit so that they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.“
It’s all pretty clear. If we’re working to be successful in any way outside of Jesus, we’re just not going to make it.
The important thing to note in this section of John 15 is that both the good and the bad get cut off. LOL. This made me laugh out loud just now.
The stagnate stuff that is literally just dead weight? It gets cut off.
The good stuff that’s succeeding? Doing great? It gets cut off.
Sure, the Bible uses the word “prune.” Sounds a little nicer, but in reality, it’s exactly the same.
The good and the bad. The fruitful and the dead. They experience the same exact kind of pain.
This is wild to me because the branches don’t know the difference. All they know is that they’re getting cut. The pain feels the same. The cutting back looks similar. Both are meant for growth.
But in the moment, they equally feel pain.
This is the reality of knowing and trusting the Gardener. The only requirement here for growth and production and life is staying close. Those buzzword, churchy Christianese words that still mean as much as their original intent.
We can’t dictate what happens to us in life. But we can decide our location and our proximity to the Father. We can decide where we look, where we stay, and Whom we decide to trust through the pain.
I don’t know about you, but I just don’t want to start off this year distrusting the only One who is truly for me.
Just one thing at a time.
Let’s make one choice. The only one that will actually change your life. The only one that is a lifetime commitment, not a fickle resolution to give up on when it gets hard.
Let our one thing be Jesus.
Choosing to stay. Deciding to remain, and remain close. To hide away in Him. Forgetting about what else you see and who else sees you.
Forget everything else you think you’re supposed to be doing to get it right. Just Jesus.
Don’t neglect everything else you know – like worship, gathering together, praying, fasting – all the good stuff. But without one thing, it’s all meaningless.
Just one thing at at a time.