I was finishing up my album late last summer. We were almost there, but we had encountered a few challenges along the way. I was overwhelmed with the details, and when the mastering didn’t come together as we had planned, I nearly crumbled under the pressure. I was afraid we wouldn’t meet the deadline, and I had a horrible feeling that all of our work would be for nothing.
Who is this “we” I speak of? Well, I certainly didn’t release my album all by myself. I had an incredible team behind me: producer, engineer, bass player, percussionists, violinist, back-up vocalists, cover artist, and many others I’m sure I’m forgetting. In particular, my producer and engineer had been with me every step of the way. He wouldn’t let me settle for second-best. He told me I was paying too much money to get mediocre results. When I was too tired and stressed to call the distributor one more time, he got online and chatted with customer service until everything was resolved. He told me he “had my back,” and that made me smile. I needed the assurance that I wasn’t alone in the struggle. Nate wouldn’t let me down, and he had proven his trustworthiness over the year we had spent in recording and post-production. We were a team; there were two of us, and if we needed help, we had many others we could count on to come to our aid.
A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon based on John 15. Before I go into detail about the message, I thought I would share the pastor’s opening illustration. He told about a woman who had worked for her employer for over a decade. She was dedicated and never seemed to tire of whatever tasks she was given. When everyone else went home for the day, exhausted and tired, this woman seemed like she could work for several more hours. When the woman submitted her resignation because she was ready to retire, her boss sadly accepted the reality and planned a party to celebrate this woman’s contribution to the company. On the day of the party, everyone in the office was surprised to see two women, identical twins, enter the room. It quickly became obvious that the twins had been sharing the job and paycheck for over a decade. There had been two of them, doing the work of one.
In his message on the vine and branches in John 15, the pastor spoke about the branches (us as believers) remaining in the Vine. The Vine is Christ, and God the Father is the Gardener. God prunes and cuts away the parts of our branch that will not bear fruit in order that we may begin to make a difference in the Kingdom. If we remain in the Vine and submit to His loving pruning, others will begin to see the evidence of His love within us based on the fruit from our branches. But if a person does not remain in the Vine, he or she will be cut off and the fruit will wither and die.
This passage is one I can relate to quite well. I have one plant in my house that I have managed to keep alive for three years. It is usually green and leafy, and occasionally it will flower. It hasn’t flowered in nearly six months now, and I am getting discouraged. Surely, I must be doing something wrong. So recently, my household assistant cut off some of the dying and yellowed branches, and I am hopeful now that this will start a process of growth.
I am also hoping and praying for growth in another area of my life. I have been praying for a dear friend for a long time, and the days and months have blended into years. My friend is kind, generous, dynamic, and gifted— incredible qualities that drew me in from the day we met, but there is something missing. That missing element is connection to the Savior. My friend has been supportive of my faith and ministry, but yet, has not entered into relationship with the Lord despite everything I have shared and conveyed over the years.
I am not a charismatic evangelist; I don’t often witness by preaching and sharing outright. I am more of a friendship evangelist. I would feel much more comfortable talking over a cup of coffee without the pressure to share the Gospel. If a friend can see by the way I communicate that I love the Lord and one day asks about the hope that is in my heart, I would be overjoyed to tell my story of faith.
Typically, I have been satisfied with this approach. Throughout my life thus far, I have been placed in many situations where I was able to share my faith. Often, I wasn’t able to share my testimony or directly speak of my salvation, but I made many life-long friends, many of whom are still not professing believers. I pray for these friends frequently, hoping that God has been able to use me as an instrument to communicate His love. I know I cannot save someone in my own power; I might just be the one to plant or water the seed. Perhaps someone will come along later to harvest what has been planted as the Holy Spirit convicts a friend to accept the gift of eternal life.
But when it comes to the dear friend I mentioned earlier, I feel a strange sense of urgency. As I explained, I have known this person for many years, and we have had several deep and intentional conversations, but matters of faith have always created a roadblock. Recently, I have felt a renewed stirring to pray for this person because I am sensing something is changing. I am restless and unsettled, my thoughts constantly wandering to this one person. The burden is great and it is heavy. In my own strength, I have carried it alone for all of these years. Yes, I’ve prayed; I’ve tried to leave it in God’s hands, but it’s been difficult to relinquish control.
Recently, I shared an evening with a sister in the Lord, and I talked about what was on my heart. That opened the door to two more sisters in Christ coming alongside of me to offer support and encouragement. I know they are praying for me, and even more importantly, for my friend too. I realized that like the twin sisters in the story I recounted above, I am not alone in this journey. I have a team surrounding me, similar to the dedicated souls who supported my album production.
But greater than my sisters in Christ, I also have Christ, my Vine, to cling to as I wait and pray— as I intercede for my dear friend. I don’t have to save this person in my own strength. For some reason I have been planted here in this time and place to play a part in this life-saving endeavor. But it remains to be seen the impact I will have in the end result. I only pray I don’t have to wait much longer. There are two of us— Christ and me— and my sisters who will carry me and pray with me.
I was surrounded by some of my sisters in Christ at a recent cardio/drumstick class at church when something incredible happened. I was dancing in the back row when we began a routine to Blanca’s “What if.” Just then, the sun came blazing through the stained glass window at the front of the sanctuary. The image depicted on the glass is of Jesus, knocking on a door, and even though I couldn’t see the details from the back of the room, I knew what the sun had illuminated just then. Call it coincidence. Call it a God-wink. Maybe I was just hyper-sensitive to the need in my heart. But I got the distinct assurance then that God had everything under control. Even then, perhaps, he was knocking on the door of my friend’s heart with the invitation to eternal life. He was working, even as I fumbled forward, trying to do the saving on my own. Oh, how I longed for God to use me, to be an instrument in this work, but I didn’t need to carry the burden alone.
As I danced, I basked in the glow of the setting sun, knowing He was front and center, leading and guiding me forward. I let the words from Blanca’s song wash over me, and I marveled at the peace that came over me. I was probably grinning like a fool but I didn’t care who was looking; I had my eyes glued to my Savior.
“I know You’re holding me up
I know Your love is enough
I know the power in Your name
Can do anything
And I know You’re making me strong
I know You were here all along
I know I’m right where You want me.”
There are two of us: me and God— and together, we are going to pursue the one who needs His love. As God does His work, I will do my best to reflect Him and bear the fruit he has brought to life in me: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). I will remain in the Vine and remain in His love.