The Vine

Do you want to know what I’m really good at?

Making things difficult.

Don’t believe me?

As a kid, I couldn’t figure out how to use the brake to stop my bike. So I just jumped off. Every time.

As a teenager, it seemed simpler for me to learn how to wash, dry, and fold my own clothes than to follow the family’s schedule for laundry.

As a teacher, I’ve rewritten lesson plans for eighteen years rather than repeating those already developed.

As a graduate student, I once halted progress on a lengthy research report two days before it was due. Why? The results of the study didn’t sit well with me. So I reconfigured the entire research project, scrapped the original, and rewrote the twenty page report.

I routinely over commit. I volunteer for tasks I don’t know how to do. I agree to projects I’m unqualified to complete. And whatever the challenge — I will be sure to complete it in no less than the greatest number of steps imaginable.

It occurs to me that I could offer a unique service to the world: anti-hacks. Rather than quick tips and tricks for making life simpler, anti-hacks make life infinitely more clumsy and complex.

It’s not as miserable as it sounds. After all, I’ve been me for my whole life, so I’m pretty used to it.

LIFE

When it comes to life’s little things, I basically look at myself as an amusing experiment in progress. (I mean, obviously it’s pretty entertaining to watch a person refold a fitted sheet three times until it’s satisfactorily flat and compact.)

I usually get a real kick out of watching myself trip myself up.

That is, until I don’t.

Eventually I reach a point when I bump up against a deadline, or someone else’s expectations, or the necessity of completing a task.

It’s fine to play around and overthink the little things. But in the things that really matter to me — like investing in my family, impacting my students, and connecting with others through my creative writing  — I’ve watched this weed of overthinking strangle my intentions, grip my efforts in a choke-hold, and prematurely spoil the fruit I might have born.

In these matters, overthinking delivers true devastation, keeping me from doing what feels destined to be my most important work.

MADE FOR MONDAYS

In his recent sermon series “Made for Mondays,” Pastor Johnnie Blair reminded us that God created each of us with a very specific purpose in mind. Even on your worst Monday, the truth remains that there are tasks only you can complete, projects only you can develop, and people only you can uniquely impact.

For me, that work is communicating.

I’m a teacher, so I spend my days talking with young people and doing my best to encourage their growth.

I’m a writer, so I spend my nights reading and writing and exploring ideas — looking for ways to encourage others and prod them on toward pursuing Jesus.

OVERTHINKING

But when the overthinking gets bad, the tangles in my head keep me from saying the things I need to say — out loud or in writing.

I can’t plant seeds if I’m too busy inventing new ways to rearrange them.

I can’t bear fruit if I’m too focused on creating a detailed mental map of what it all means.

It’s usually at this point my thoughts start throwing shadows on the walls of my mind, casting bloated and expansive layers of meaning begging to be explored, teased out, and shared. And an hour later I’ll look back over my shoulder to realize I haven’t written a blog post — I’ve constructed the outline of a book proposal.

 

SO HERE’S THE CLIFF NOTES VERSION

We can’t bear good fruit if we let lies or distractions kill it on the vine. 

We can’t bear that fruit without God’s help anyway, but we sure can kill it quick if we let the wrong thoughts camp out for awhile in our minds.

Yep. There’s a whole book in that idea somewhere. Maybe someday I’ll get it out.

But for right now, what this means for me is this:

I need to focus on God.

And I need to stay on task and do good work.

REFLECTION

What does it mean for you? What things are distracting you from your life’s most important work? What lies are you believing that keep you from doing what God has placed in your heart to do?

Reflect on the words of John 15:5 and bury them deep in your heart.

 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit . . .”

Remember this important truth — God created you with a purpose in mind.

Focus.

Stay on task.

Do good work.

And hold on tight to the Vine.

 

 

Briana McDonough
“I’m a wife, mommy, teacher, writer, reader, and child of God.”

 

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