Abiding {In the Gaze of the Father’s Love}

If you are just joining the “Abiding” series you can find the first post here and the second post here

“My Father is the vinegrower.”

Exploring the connection we have to the Vine inevitably leads us to consider the connection the Vine has to the vinegrower {some translations say, ‘gardner,’ vinedresser”}. Throughout the ministry of Jesus as told by the Apostle John, we discover that Jesus is always aware of his connection to and dependence upon the Father. Without connection to the Father, Jesus doesn’t see his life or ministry making any sense at all. His life as both a member of the Trinity and as a man are bound up in deep dependence on the Father.

Identity is found in origin, mission, and destiny: Where we come from. For what we exist. Where we are going. Jesus answers all his identity in one place, or should I say being: The Father. He has come from the Father. He lives to do as the Father says. He is returning to the Father.

Jesus is the Vine. The Father is the gardner–He is ever watching to see that his life and love are finding vibrant expressions of his beauty, goodness, and truth in the garden.

John 15 tells us how the Gardner guards the health of the garden:

  • He removes fruitless branches (John 15:2a). If they don’t have fruit, they are posing. Notice two things: 1) The Father examines every branch–you are always under his care. 2) The Father sees where there is true fruit.  The Father will see to it that anything dead not impede on the life of Vine. 
  • He prunes the fruitful branches so they will bear more fruit (John 15:2b)–He doesn’t want you to merely survive on the vine, he wants you to flourish! And just like so many other paradoxical truths to found in God’s kingdom, often God will prune back in order that we will forward in our faith.

I have several fruit trees in my backyard. What little I know about horticultural I can make up with observation. Sometimes branches grow where they’re not supposed to go. They get lanky and end up in shady places. There they are vulnerable–prone to breakage, disease, and become too weak to bear fruit. They need to be trimmed and trained to remain in the light. So too with us. It is also true that vibrant, fruit-bearing branches need maintenance pruning in order to produce the next season. Dormancy is not death, it is rest for the future. The Father is always watching to see that we stay in the optimal place to receive of his life and love that flows threw the Vine.

I grew up singing “for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful…” The last three words were ominous. Careful of what? It made me think that God was a big eye in the sky, policing all wrong doing. He was armed and ready to write out citations. The warning was so loud that I could hear the sweet whispers of love that preceded it.

I was chatting with a friend yesterday about the ways we theologically jack up our kids–we make God small when he should be big {by turning every Bible story into some moral lesson about what they need to do for God}, and we make him frighteningly large when he should be safe {because fear has always been a steady control agent, but awakening desire requires so much more creativity}. If only the song would end with the words looking down in love. Think of the shame that would have been saved. I wonder how many generations of faith by works could have been interrupted?

I know too well what it is to do something only because I fear the consequences of not doing it. It’s a horrible way to live. It’s not the life on the Vine that Jesus wants for us. He wants us to know how deeply  the Father loves us. It’s why Jesus stooped to clean out dirt from hard the hard to reach places of his disciples’ feet. It is why the Father bows low and plants a Vine in a garden desperate for life. And he gazes and gazes on it–ever watching and weeding and welcoming. He plucks up branches covered in mud, gently placing them in a supported place in the sun. He prunes back sickness and overgrowth. He loves his garden. He delights in its growth. He is always looking down in love.  When we abide in Jesus we are in the gaze of the Father’s love.

There is a lot of concern these days about the Church, rightly so. In many respects, it has ceased to be a reflection of God’s beauty, goodness, and truth. Maybe we have forgotten the essentiality of connection to the vine. Maybe we are too in a hurry for fruit of our own making. Maybe we are too obsessed with counting branches. So many maybes.

Yet one certainty. The Gardner is tending his garden. He sees. He cares. Because he loves the Vine and every branch, he will do all that is necessary to bring health and much fruitfulness. He delights in the Vine, and in all its many branches. Abiding in Jesus is trusting the Gardner. 

There are many places where we have been less than careful–less than aware that the Father is watching.  A million times a day I forget I am just a branch, with not one breath of {spiritual} life apart from the Vine. I get lanky and go where I shouldn’t. I get proud and think I can be a free-agent branch. We all do.

We could hang our head in shame. There is another option: We could look up at the One who is already looking down. We could let what we see awaken desire. A desire to receive–desperately, like there’s no other place to find life–of the Father’s love. A love that will sustain us, hold us, train us, grow us, and yes, even prune us, but always love us.  A love so beautiful and good that our lives won’t make any sense without it–we will be intricately dependent on His love. 

How would our lives look if our understanding of abiding was bathed in the awareness of the Father’s love and delight?

2 thoughts on “Abiding {In the Gaze of the Father’s Love}

  1. Pingback: Abiding {Remaining Where Christ is Already At} | Once Upon a Truth

  2. Pingback: Abiding {Dwelling Where Jesus Dwells} | Once Upon a Truth

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