My heart sank at the scene in front of me. I stared at the pile of dishes, already stacked higher than I wanted them to be. “Don’t think about that right now,” I reminded myself, taking a deep breath. “The dishes can wait. You need to call the doctor, and we have to pick up groceries this afternoon. Also remember the kids have martial arts class later today… Oh no, did I put that wet load of laundry in the dryer yet?!”
I felt overwhelmed. Full time home-making and homeschooling wasn’t what I’d signed up for this year. I had been chomping at the bit to jump back into the workforce this year after a much-too-long hiatus and career swerve. But there I was. And here we all still are, in many cases feeling stuck or frustrated, spinning in circles just to keep everyone fed, clothed, schooled, and somewhat sane. How could this be OK? How could this factor into God’s big plan? I thought He wanted me to be … successful!
Can you relate? Most of our lives look pretty different in this pandemic-focused culture. The façade is gone. No longer do we see ourselves as invincible, nor do we take our health or social lives for granted. Mindsets and habits that we hadn’t taken time to think about before now are being brought into sharp focus as our days shape-shift closer and closer to a stripped down version of our old constructed reality.
On this particular day, I was especially frustrated. I found myself peppering God with somewhat accusing questions like, “What’s going on here, God? I feel like I’m spinning in circles. What are you doing? You put all of these dreams and desires in my heart! How am I supposed to execute them and be productive for You in this environment? I love taking care of my family, but when do I get a break from all of this to do something really important and successful?”
But on this particular day, God was ready for me. No further had this string of questions left my thoughts then He swooped in with some questions of His own. He (very kindly) responded right back saying, “Well what IS success, Bethany? What exactly does that look like? How are you measuring whether or not you’re being successful?”
Me: “oh ………. well ………um…..”
I suddenly felt very exposed. I realized I had no good response. I was basing my vague idea of success on my own list of accomplishments and gauging how other people saw me. But I was getting the feeling this wasn’t the right answer.
My mind jumped back to a verse I’d memorized in my college days:
“But what does the Lord require of you but to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8.
Hmm. None of that verse involved attention from other people. None of that sounded flashy or important. It was simple, and quiet, and … well, humble. Was that really it? Where was the part about having a career? Or finally getting the bigger house? Or making enough money to retire? Was living a “successful” life actually a whole lot simpler than I was making it out to be?
I was beginning to see it, but as I kept looking I found John 15:4:
“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.”
Remain in me. Stay connected to the vine. Fruit will come out of your connection.”
Ah. And I remembered. This is what Jesus took the time to talk to His followers about. Being with The Father. Staying connected to Him. How had I forgotten this? When had I decided that having an impressive resume and looking successful to others meant I was being a good Christian?
I thought about that all day, and then the next. Maybe I’d learned this all backwards. Maybe I’d learned that success looked like attention, and maybe that wasn’t actually true. Maybe all the success and fulfillment I longed for was actually waiting for me on the other side of seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God. Or in other words, “remaining on the vine.” Maybe the problem wasn’t in my lack of success, but my very definition of it.
What if I could choose to change my definition? What if I could actually reach this kind of success and then celebrate it! What if I could “remain on the vine” while I was finishing the laundry … and cooking … and washing the dishes. I had a feeling this was going to change everything.
What’s your definition of success? Is it grounded in remaining on the vine? Let’s adjust our definition of success to include these beautiful God truths! And let’s do it together.