John 15:5 (NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you [abide] in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
I have many vivid memories from growing up on the farm. One of them comes from the days following the sowing of the fields. Dad would drive his beat up F-150 Ford pickup from field to field with me riding shotgun. He would stop at several places on the turn-row of each field, get out of the truck, walk out about twenty or thirty yards into the field and bend down to his knees on the ground. At first, I wondered to myself, “What is he doing? Did he fall? Did he lose something? Is he praying?” I decided to walk out and see for myself. As I approached I noticed he had a small stick in his hand and he was scratching the ground. He was searching for the seeds, looking for signs of sprouting. Were the seeds waking up in the seedbed? Had the miracle happened? He motioned me to join him on the ground. He handed me a small stick, inviting me to scratch the surface in search of seeds, sprouts and tiny shoots. At times we would find them just beginning to break through the topsoil. This was pure joy for my dad and me—to witness the miracle of new life springing forth and growing upward.
This is a picture of what attention looks like. This movement from awareness to attention begins with a farmer who carries keen awareness of the seeds hidden in the ground. Attention walks out into the field, kneels by the furrow, and begins to scratch the surface with a stick searching for signs of germination, of sprouts and shoots.
But let’s remember—we are not the farmers. We are the field. The most groundbreaking reality of this whole picture? Jesus is the attentive one. He is profoundly aware of you and me and us together. It is when we become aware of his awareness of us—that is when the seed begins to sprout. And when we become attentive to Jesus’s attentiveness to us—that is when the seed begins to shoot up through the soil and break the ground into the light.1
This cannot be overstated. Jesus’s awareness of and attention to us precedes our awareness of and attention to him. In fact, the former is what germinates and generates the latter. His love for us precedes our love for him and for others.2 This is perhaps the most fundamental place of our brokenness. We can imagine Jesus’s awareness of, attention to, and love for someone else, just not for ourselves. This is what fuels all striving—the deep-seated, distorted belief that we must do something to generate Jesus’s awareness of us and to win his attention to us. Most, if not all, of this comes from our broken family systems. We carry a deeply ingrained and even generational belief that the attention, affection, and secure attachment of our parents is the fruit of our striving, achievement, and advancement in life.
The truth? God loved you before you were born. He baptized you because of and into his particular love for you. He is already walking across the field of your life. He is bending down to his knees in the furrows of your heart and scratching the topsoil away, searching for signs of sprouts and shoots.
Farmer Father God, thank you for the way your abiding in us precedes our abiding in you. Thank you for the compelling invitation to abide in you as you abide in us. Thank you that your abiding in us does not depend on our abiding in you first, but that in fact, our abiding in you is only possible because you are abiding in us. Wake us up to this most foundational truth. Stoke the fire of our deep awareness of this truth and the fact that everything else is mere slavery. Awaken our attention to your working and then make our attention a love offering to you. Praying in the name of Jesus, amen.
Do you (like me) tend to get this backward? Do you think that you are responsible to gain Jesus’s awareness of yourself; to win his attention and affection for you? Do you think of yourself as the initiator in the relationship or the responder? Where might this way of thinking and living come from? Can you perceive the slavery of it? Do you long for freedom from this broken way?
For the Awakening,
NOTES FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
1. This again cuts to the deep essence of one of the overarching and pervasive messages of the Wake-Up Call—the difference between what I call functional religion and transcendent faith. Functional religion asks the questions like, “What must I do to provoke God’s activity?” “How do we get God to do what we want God to do?” “How can we somehow gain God’s favor?” All of this leads to a thousand flavors of striving, ranging from endless campaigns for spiritual activism, to trying to “unlock” blessing through prayer and fasting, to legalistic matrices of holiness becoming hypocrisy, to “having more faith” for healing, to giving in order to receive, to more brazen expressions of name it and claim it prosperity oriented transactions. Functional religion is the essence of idolatry whereby people try to get God in their debt. Not only is this false religion but it generates all manner of false gods leading to the flourishing of hypocrisy and the harming of people.
Transcendent faith, on the other hand, begins with the recognition that God is God and we are not; that God has every claim on us and we have no claim on God; and that short of God’s intervention and invitation to respond, we have no hope. This gives rise to the gospel, which is that God is love and because God is love, God has decisively intervened through the sending of his Son, Jesus Christ, who is like unto us in every way save sin and who has given his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sin, that he has been raised from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and with the Father, sent us the Holy Spirit. In other words, God has transcended our broken reality with the open offer and total gift of complete salvation and deep wholeness to anyone who will respond with their lives in a decisive surrender evidenced by a life of ongoing faith becoming love. The cross of Jesus is not a one time transactional offer but a lifelong transformational invitation.
2. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19. Click on that to link to the whole passage there. It is a stunning revelation, and if we think we understand it that’s a sign we only half get it. This text merits deep rumination and rememberization. It is the very essence of the gospel of Jesus and its implications for not only our relationship with Jesus but with one another. IMHO, it is the plainest stated frame of the genetic code of the very kingdom of Heaven (outside of John 15 of course). ;0)