On Mindful Monday, my readers and I practice the art of pausing, TRYING to be still, or considering, ever so briefly, the big picture. We’re hoping this soul time will provide enough peace of mind to get us through the week!
There is a definite theme that’s been emerging in my morning reflective readings. Let me see if I can articulate it. Here we go: “You ain’t jack without God.”
For example, today I read in the Gospel of John:
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit….Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”
Fr. Joe Girzone said much of the same in his blog post I excerpted the other day about his struggling bipolar friend (Geeze, I wonder who that was…):
When we seem to be in such dire straits that even our existence seems to hanging on a thread, I have learned that that is when God is at his best. He has not left us. He is trying to help us to become strong, even stronger than was necessary in previous situations. When we gain that strength he will gently without our even realizing it, draw us back from the brink and set us on solid ground for us to continue his work. It is never easy, but for people who have gifts and talents, God can’t afford to allow those souls to assume that their talent is the source of their success. In our debilitating weakness and desperation, it is impossible to take pride in anything in ourselves. We are just glad that God uses us to accomplish something for him that will be of benefit to others who are also struggling to survive.
And Thomas Merton also writes about coming to recognize that the source of all your talents, strengths, and goodness is God. He says this in a letter to his friend Jim Forest:
Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the face that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no results at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.
Your own thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.
The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand.
All of these readings help free me from what could very easily become a debilitating insecurity after I throw a concept, idea, or dream of mine out onto the Internet.
I know that my morning prayer and my attempts to live according to God are working because the distance between the results and my disappointment is growing wider. And, in the same vein, when I stumble upon a great opportunity or win an unexpected accolade, it feels good, but doesn’t justify my existence like those things once did.
I know that if I stay on the vine and try to remain in God, that I won’t be totally crushed by the letdowns in my immediate and not-so-immediate future (I’ll just be a little bit crushed). The vine protects me from that.
Because the wisdom in these readings is right on: I have no life apart from the vine. I ain’t jack.