How are you these days? A friend posted a question on Facebook a couple days ago: How many of you have ugly cried in the last four weeks? So far there are 138 comments, and I have not added to the list yet. I am not typically one to weep, but I have shed my share of tears this last week or so. The emotion of our current reality caught up with me.
My confidence in God is still tangible, but I have felt the stress and sadness deep in my soul. How about you? Maybe it was the losses of community, work, and school, maybe it was too many virtual connections rather than real connections, maybe it was feeling the sadness, pain, and stress of those close to me and those not so close, the isolation of ongoing social distancing, or the magnitude of global suffering, but the weariness became heavier, the gray days grew darker, the pressure increased... and the tears came.
I am reminded of Jesus' tears at Lazarus' tomb. I do not completely understand his tears, Scripture only tells us that Jesus wept even though resurrection was imminent. Perhaps I do not need to understand. Jesus was approaching the cross, only weeks away, and in accordance with the Father's leading he delayed his return to Bethany which resulted in the death of Lazarus and suffering for those he loved. Were his lament and his tears an identification with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? Jesus, the God-man, would go on to endure the pain of broken humanity more completely than any other human ever would. Maybe his tears reached farther than that moment.
So what about you? How are you today?
I have also experienced sweet moments of gratitude in this season: stirrings of creativity, connection that is virtual yet real, gifts of unexpected kindness, and good opportunities to love and endure... probably a lot like you.
Beth quotes British author Jamie Goode, "Making the vines struggle generally results in better quality grapes. It's a bit like people. Place someone in a near-perfect environment, giving them every comfort and all that they could ever want to satisfy their physical needs, and it could have rather disastrous consequences for their personality and physique. If you take a grapevine and make its physical requirements for water and nutrients easily accessible, then (somewhat counterintuitively) it will give you poor grapes. (p.105)
Our hearts long for significance and meaning—we are created to be fruitful. But fruitfulness comes when we abide in the Vine. Jesus tells us that he is the true vine and His Father, is the vinedresser. And when we consider that Jesus fully engages humanity by being our source, the true Vine... how much more beautiful does the metaphor become? Jesus joins us in the hardship and the stress to be our source of life (John 15).
So as we grieve, and endure, and press on, we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We choose dependence upon the One who gives us life, the Vine. And we trust the Divine Vinedresser who tends us well: nourishing and pruning, and watching over our growing.