I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 In a little under three days my life will be changing in some considerable ways. Instead of returning to school this semester, I am relocating to Johannesburg, South Africa, where I have the distinct privilege of working the International Board of South Africa. This is exciting news — the happy kind of exciting and the scary kind of exciting. Admittedly, my decision to take this opportunity wasn’t solely motivated by a desire to do mission work (although that was a big part of it). I felt it was time for me to grow up. Get brave. Overcome fears that make me weak. And I really thought that’s what I was doing by moving to a country 8,000 miles from my home, family, and friends. But, as is so often the case, I had missed the whole point of this experience.
I don’t pretend that my semester abroad requires particular bravery for most people. It’s not that big of a deal, really. But certain things I will have to do in the next six months scare me to death. I hate that. Over the past several years I have become acutely aware of and disgusted by the fears I allow to dominate my life, so I decided to kill those fears. I have become a little obsessed with bravery, to be honest. I took the advice of the incomparable Eleanor Roosevelt to “do the thing you think you cannot do.”
But the Lord, as He is so very good at doing, taught me how wrong Eleanor and I were.I am human. By definition I am weak, afraid, and sick. I do nothing, absolutely nothing, by my own power. I’m not making my lungs suck in air right now. I am not telling my neurons to fire or my fingers to type. So why am I under the impression that I can will myself to be brave? That’s not my job. That’s a job for the same One who keeps my heart beating. That’s the job of the VINE.
He is the VINE. I am just a branch. He gives me nutrients, oxygen, life. As I read John 15 last night, I was dumbfounded that, on one hand, I could claim dependence on my God while, on the other hand, remaining convinced that I could make myself braver. Do not mishear me: I am still certain that bravery is one of the rarest and most valuable of human traits. But real, true bravery can only be supplied by the One who overcame death (the ultimate source of fear) so that we could live life abundantly and fearlessly. It is through the VINE we are brave. And, in turn, we are brave so that we may glorify our Vine, our God.
So, dear friends, as I ask for your prayers during this time, I ask for the bravery rooted in the deep peace and empowerment that comes from knowing Jesus Christ. His death means I have no fear in my death. That also means no fear in flying, no fear in injury, no fear in robbery, no fear in inadequacy, no fear in lostness, no fear in homesickness. This is good news! This is why I, the coward of all cowards, can do what I’m about to do. To God be the glory!I’m tweaking Eleanor’s words a bit: I’m letting HIM do the things I know I cannot do alone. I think she would approve.