Day 4 began with more water. And it sure wasn’t clean.
We traveled from the Kampala/Entebbe area to Jinja for the second half of our trip ministering in Uganda. Because of the nature of the in-between travel time, our team took our “day of rest” at a place on the Nile River.
Yes, the Nile. The same river that turned to blood, swarmed with frogs and has seen more plagues and history and sunrises than I ever will. It was beautiful. Although I effectively sanitized my hand after dipping it in.
I had the opportunity to go on a “sunset cruise” down the Nile after we had an amazing meal. Why I thought it would be at sunset and that we would be “cruising” is beyond me. We still had plenty of fun though.
What was meant to be a day of rest was still pretty full and the next morning I woke up feeling a bit empty and weary and at my breaking point. Because when you set out to love selflessly and to no end and are used to spending time with the Lord each morning and suddenly you don’t or can’t, things can crumble down pretty quickly. It was a time of feeling overwhelmed.
Am I obeying the Lord? How can I continue to give all of myself when I feel like I have nothing left to give? Will I connect with the remainder of the children and people we will encounter like I did with those we had already met?
I knew to Whom I needed to turn, but I didn’t know the sweet words He would whisper to my soul.
“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…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…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:1-7
Apart from me you can do nothing.
This is true when you’re serving the Lord and others in Uganda. It’s also true when you’re living out life with your spouse, family and neighbors. Anywhere, everywhere, apart from the Lord we are useless. Apart from the Lord we can do nothing.
Because really, all my righteous deeds are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64) and if the Lord isn’t working in and through me what’s the point of this anyway? Anything good that comes from me has it’s origins only and always in Him alone, His Spirit at work inside of me.
And WOW. If we abide in Him and He in us, we can ask for whatever!?
An amazing promise, but God is not some genie waiting to grant us our three wishes. No. If we abide in the Lord and His living, breathing, active Word abides in us, then and only then can we ask for whatever we wish and receive it. It’s a conditional promise.
You cannot gain the ending without the effort of the beginning.
But really, whatever? How is it that we can ask for whatever?
Because when we abide in the Lord and He in us, God’s heart becomes our heart. God’s love becomes our love. God’s desires become our desires. God’s dreams become our dreams. We are praying in the will of the Father. In his character. In his Name. And this is why He answers. Not because of our righteous living, but because we are asking for the very things the Father yearns to give us, His children.
This is abiding. This is what produces much fruit.
And I for one, want to bear fruit and to be pruned so that I can bear more fruit, even when it’s painful and confusing. Even when it doesn’t really feel worth it. To come to the end of myself and the love I think I can muster and be Christ to this world and give His love which is the only kind of love worth giving.
Bearing fruit, reflecting the face of the Father, our hearts and our love shining clearly for the world to see.
I didn’t know what I needed from God on the banks of the Nile that day, but He did, and He gave it willingly. The peace, the courage, and the trust to keep moving forward, to keep dying to self and living in obedience to Him. Believing that His love, not mine, will always be enough and is exactly that this world needs.
Because apart from Him I can do nothing. Not in Uganda, not here, not ever. And I needed this reminder and I need it everyday.