I had a nice, restful vacation in Alaska, but when I came home I was far from relaxed. My shoulders felt achy and tense. What was up with that? I always get all wound up getting ready to go on vacation, but that usually goes away once I leave. Everything in my life was going well. Were my shoulders tense out of habit?
On closer evaluation, my whole body was tight and achy: my chest, my hips, my feet. Enough is enough. If I don’t calm down I’m going to make myself sick. I vowed I would really dig in and make a conscious effort to relax my muscles throughout the day, then realized this sounded like a New Year’s resolution. And how long do those work? Hmm.
About that time, I happened to read a familiar Bible passage in John 15 about Jesus being the vine and us Christians being the branches. It says that if we stay connected to Jesus, we’ll bear much fruit. Then the last part of verse 5 jumped out at me: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
That line had always irritated me. Of course I could do some things apart from Jesus. I could do a whole range of things, from tying my shoe to doing complex tasks. What did it mean when it said I could do nothing.
Then it occurred to me, this verse is talking about bearing fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit includes peace and joy. How was I doing at producing that on my own? My tense muscles told the story.
“Okay God, this time I’m getting serious about riding with you—letting you steer every detail of my life.”
I decided I’d take this verse literally for a while—that I could do nothing without God—and see what happened.
So I asked God to help me brush my teeth.
I asked God what I should eat for breakfast and which tasks I should do next. Before I left to go out the door, I’d ask Jesus, “Am I forgetting anything?” and sometimes I’d suddenly remember an item I needed to take with me.
Whenever I put Jesus in the lead, I felt my shoulders relax and my posture straighten up. My attitude also improved. Instead of forging ahead with my head down, I felt like I was hanging with my best buddy.
But when I forgot about God and went about my plans on my own, I found myself making mistakes. I forgot to take my medical records to my new doctor’s appointment. I went to another office on the day it was closed. I mixed up facts in conversations and had to be corrected. It seems I couldn’t do as many things on my own as I thought, and at the end of the day I felt drained and frustrated.
I always thought of myself as a competent person. I work hard to figure things out. That is who I am—a thinker. So taking the stance that I can do nothing without Jesus is hard for me to do. But I’m beginning to see that treading through my day without Jesus is like walking in the dark with a small flashlight.
I can do it, but I only see a fraction of the picture and I’m prone to stumble.
With Jesus, I’m traveling in style in the light.
I think I’ll keep relying on God for everything, with God’s help.
photos courtesy of crestock.com