I am what you would call an experiential learner. I can remember one time as a girl when my family was out to dinner; my mother was kicking me under the table, trying to get my attention about something. I don’t even remember what it was. Maybe I was talking too loud, a normal occurrence or maybe chewing with my mouth open or any other dinner table fau paux. Instead of just stopping whatever it is that she wanted me to stop, I turned to her and said, probably in my loud voice, “Why are you kicking me?” She was embarrassed, I was embarrassed, and it has been a family joke ever since.
Throughout my life I have had to see for myself if the stove was hot, the sidewalk was slippery or the pool too deep to touch bottom. I have had to learn from my mistakes. Will I really get a bad grade if I don’t turn this paper in on time?
God is so good and he has a wonderful sense of humor, he has given me my own experiential learner to raise. So now I find myself saying, “Why didn’t you just listen to me when I told you that you could not carry 12 plates at the same time (as we swept up bits of broken plate off the tile floor)?” And things like “You will bump your head if you try to jump into the pool sideways and upside-down.” But I still hold and love on that same head when it gets whacked on the side of the pool.
God has a special heart for those of us who are experiential learners. He knows we are a bit hard headed and it takes a few bumps and bruises for us to finally get the message. I think John 15 is written especially for experiential learners. Jesus repeats, “Abide in me” not once, not even twice but TEN times!!! Thank you Lord, I get the message, THIS IS IMPORTANT.
“Abide in me and I in you,” Jesus says. The branch can not bear fruit unless it abides in the vine. Neither can I unless I abide in Him. Jesus does not even try to make this verse a mystery. He says, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” See no mystery. Whoever abides in me and I in him bears much fruit. If I don’t abide in him, I am thrown away and burned. YUCK, who wants that, I sure don’t. If I abide in him and his word abides in me, then I can ask Jesus whatever I wish and it will be done. WOW. By this abiding in Jesus, the Father is glorified. Jesus tells me to abide in His love so that my joy may be full. This is my paraphrase of John 15: 1-10.
I get it Lord. You want me to abide in you but Lord no one uses that word anymore, it is a bit old fashioned. I do not say to my children, “Come abide with me on the couch while we watch, “The Backyardigans” together or to my husband, “Dear, I am so glad we abide together in the same household.” So I looked it up in my handy dictionary. Abide implies a much deeper relationship that even the one I have with my children or my spouse. It means to accept without objection, to endure without yielding or turning away.
It is no mistake Jesus uses the illustration of the vine and the branches and the vinedresser. I want to abide in the vine. I want to endure without yielding. But being the experiential learner that I am, I now had to find out what being a branch was all about. If Jesus was going to ask me to be one, I wanted to know all the details.
In the fall, after the harvest, a grapevine is cut back to only the strongest part of the vine, the hard woody part that has been around for years. This is the part that endures the long cold winter. This is the vine. In early March, buds begin to appear on the vine. By April, you can see tons of sprouting branches and the beginnings of grapes. They are tiny and of no use to anyone but they are there none the less. Come May, the vines has really begun to leaf and the buds are growing strong and the branches are looking great. In June the vine pollinates and it is now that the grapes start to appear in the form we know them.
The vines are full of developing grapes and leaves and tendrils and branches. I am sure that vine is feeling all good about itself and then, THIS GUY COMES ALONG. This is the vinedresser. See those big shears in his hand?God the vinedresser does not want this to be a mystery. He wants us to abide in Christ so that we can be produce fruit that is not puny and lackluster but fruit that is large and abundant and brings glory to the Father. It brings us joy and love. It brings us answered prayers. I am learning to not be afraid of this pruning. Does it hurt, sure it does. Jesus calls me to abide in him. It is only by being one with the Son that I know the Father.
The vine is loves me. The vine wants what is best for me. The vine knows that I stumble and fall down and bang my head on things but He loves me and wants me to endure. He says, “You did not chose me, I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide (there is that word again), so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” Even hard-headed experiential learners like me.