Back in 2013 my family and I left the relative comfort and security structures we had known in China to return to the United States. I can recall feeling excited but also scared about a big move like that. For 8 years I lived and worked there, meeting my wife there in year 3 and enjoying life together as husband and wife there for 4 years. We built up a support structure in China; had people who knew and nurtured us. We knew our way around, had favorite places to go, and even could communicate with others (for the most part!).
Then a jet lifted us and our two kids up over the Bering Strait, down through Canada and back to the United States. And our security, support structure and way of life was suddenly removed.
It takes time to become accustomed to a new way of life, establish new support structures and to feel secure. While the USA was our place of birth and early nurturing, it was not quite the same place that we had left behind and then returned to.
Friends, we will all experience some of those same things as we re-enter life post-quarantine. What seemed normal 2 months ago will not be the same as the normal we encounter now. What sustained my wife and I, and what can sustain you in the days ahead? While not an easy path, the only right and fulfilling path for re-entry was rest in Christ and bearing fruit through Him.
Here’s what Jesus says in John 15:1–5 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV)
That’s the main theme Jesus wants us to get and the unifying theme of this series of articles. It’s a compelling invitation and command: “Abide in me” (4). Jesus speaks a word that refers to true home, rest, fellowship and security. Each of us seek for home and rest, fellowship and security all the time, and Jesus tells us that all those things are found in Him. He compels and commands His beloved people to remain close to Him, learning from Him, trusting Him through all the changing scenes of life.
Isn’t this so good? Although life continues to change, and the lives we lived 2 months ago aren’t quite what they are today, the Christian has Christ. When we live in dependence on Him, trusting Him, obeying Him, we accept whatever changes come, knowing in Him we have a home, rest, fellowship and security.
The key to bearing true spiritual fruit that will be to the glory of God and the good of others is to first abide in Christ.
One of the lessons my wife and I learned over those initial months of re-entry is that Jesus Christ had not left us, and that no matter where we were He was with us, and we were with Him. Everything else got sorted out as we looked in dependence on Him.
How quickly we all tend to forget Him. Our love comes and goes. Our fruit looks often like the plants in my family’s garden: will they hang on? Will they make it? In times of stress and upheaval our spiritual lives too often suffer.
Yet our performance isn’t the resting place. Our record doesn’t produce the fruit. Christ has not changed, no matter if we’ve flown thousands of miles over oceans or the culture around us changes while we remain in our homes. Christ is ours by His self-giving love and sacrifice. And we are His.
We will meditate further on the fruit we can bear for Jesus, but I was struck today by how fruitless our lives would be if we do not first submit to Jesus as the One who has not changed and who is with us now.
Meditation in Song: I Hear the Words of Love
This older song by Horatius Bonar (1861), is not often sung today, but the words are still as life giving today as they were over 150 years ago.
“I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.”