I have to begin this week’s blog by sharing a personal story. Some of you know my story, some of you don’t. For the sake of keeping this from becoming a novel, (Which I’m always capable of doing) I will only say that for the vast majority of my childhood, I always felt completely abandoned by both of my parents. I don’t say this to whine or complain or to make anyone feel sorry for me. I say this because it’s true, and looking back throughout my life, I can clearly see how God has used that abandonment to shape me into a man who can, and is, being used by Him.
As a child, I learned that being alone was not always a bad thing. It allowed me to focus all of my attention on things I truly enjoyed. Writing and playing music were two things that always lifted me and inspired me. I wouldn’t learn until much later in life that these were the areas where God had gifted me from birth. I can’t remember the first time I picked up an instrument, or sat with a pad of paper to express my thoughts and emotions. I just know that I was always able to do both very easily. They just came naturally to me. In fact, I remember being shocked when I first learned that not everyone could do this.
As I grew older, the pain I felt from feeling alone and abandoned led me to pursue things that ended up being incredibly self-destructive. I turned to drugs, alcohol, relationships, possessions, and countless other pursuits in an attempt to fill the void left within me. None of them worked. In fact, all of them led to heartbreaking consequences. Every time I felt some sense of fulfillment from these things, they were seemingly removed from my life, leaving an even greater hole within.
I remember sitting back a number of years ago, thinking that I must be cursed somehow. You see, it was never a lack of effort on my part that led to my many heartbreaks. I know without a doubt that I worked harder at these things than most people I knew. All the while, I watched as those around me who seemingly worked far less had far more success in their lives. It was as though God was angry at me, refusing to give me the peace, love and security that others seemed to be enjoying.
This week, Bob spoke on John 15. The key verses that struck me were John 15:1-4:
“I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes so that it will bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”
What struck me through Bob’s message today was this: I was created by God, gifted in areas that He designed to do His work. If I attempted to use those gifts to do my work, to build myself up, to give myself worth or value, He would frustrate my efforts, stopping me dead in my tracks. These are, and always have been, His gifts, given to me for His glory, not my own.
Just as Jesus spoke of being the vine, and the Father being the vinedresser, and just as the vinedresser prunes the vine to make the areas where fruit is produced more productive, God has been there throughout my life, cutting away the areas of my life that weren’t productive in bearing His fruit.
The evidence of this can be found in where I find myself at this point in my life. Once again, I am alone. But what is the most important asset for anyone who wants to write or play an instrument?............ Time spent alone to focus and concentrate on the work they need to accomplish. And what has been the result of this? For the first time in my life, I see God working through me in ways I never thought possible before now. Why is that? Why now? What’s so different? You see, for the first time in my life, I’m not looking to fill that void with anything except focusing upon God and His word, spending time in prayer and study, asking Him for guidance on a daily basis, and then asking Him to show me where I might best use my gifts to bear His fruit. In other words, “Abiding in Him.”
God didn’t make me feel abandoned as a child because He was angry with me. He wasn’t being cruel. He wasn't punishing me. He wasn’t being indifferent to my pain. He simply knew that it would drive me to seek Him, and to pour myself into the areas where He had already gifted me.
Look back upon your own life. Where are you gifted? Where are you being asked to bear fruit? What’s holding you back, and where can you see God’s hand “pruning” you so that you will be more productive in that. Don’t fight that process. While it may be painful, the rewards are eternal