After Susan and I had been married one year, we moved to Kazakstan – the Central Asian, former Soviet republic. That same year, Susan’s older sister lived in Japan and we thought it would be nice to get together for Christmas. I found cheap tickets for her to fly to us via Moscow. While her Moscow to Almaty flight was en route- we got a call. She was being held in a detention cell in Sheremetyevo airport and being deported, she thought. To Canada? Japan? No one would speak any English. They took her passport, wallet, and tickets, and they sent her to a room where a young man from Cameron said he had been there for 3 weeks – he thought.
We immediately went to the Canadian embassy in Almaty- but they said there was only so much they could do. (Russia ….am I right?)
We had one contact in Moscow and were in touch with him.
He jumped into action – put his suit and his Canadian flag pin on his lapel, and went to the airport. He walked up to the appropriate desk and said, “I understand you have a Canadian citizen in custody, and I’m wondering if you can tell me why. “
They didn’t know he spoke fluent Russian and knew they were saying, “the Canadian embassy sent someone – get that girl out of here”
They also didn’t know he was actually just an American missionary who had a maple leaf pin kicking around his apartment for some reason.
They released her on the spot – and got to see Red Square and the Kremlin before catching a flight to see us.
Sometimes – the things we see on the outside – are just enough to fool people for a bit.
However, the truth eventually comes out. We will never be content if we are constantly trying to convince people we’re something we know we’re not.
Jesus has some great insight for us when we fall into this trap.
He says we don’t have to try to be something we’re not – because if we stay connected to him, the rest will happen.
We don’t have to try to force ourselves to be more loving, patient, and kind. Which is great – because we can’t and we’ll just end up incredibly discontent as we see ourselves as failures.
We stay connected to him, and God and His Spirit will make the growth happen.
Read the following words of Jesus from John chapter 15 (the Message version) – and then reflect on this:
What kind of fruit are you trying really hard to force?
What thing do you know you should be doing, and are trying hard, and constantly failing?
What thing have you tried to quit over, and over, and over – yet can’t stop?
How much have you focused on the fruit instead of remaining attached to the true vine?
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”
God the only true source of goodness,
forgive me for trying to do good things,
help me instead to be so connected to you,
that you actually make me a better person.
Help me not just try to love,
but become a loving person.
Help me not to try to make myself a loving person,
but remain connected to you,
and allow your Spirit to change who I am.