“Martha, I have a marvelous opportunity for you,” said my mother’s pastor. “Our church has been looking to expand its ministry to families with small children so we joined a national organization called M.O.P.S. (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers). We want you to be an older adult mentor and speak to the group as well as offer individual counseling to those mothers who need it.”
“I thought my pastor had completely lost his mind,” mother said. “I was busy with other church projects. My children were grown up and gone. My grandchildren were near adult age. My marriage was certainly not perfect and I wasn’t that great a mother. Why me?” I didn’t know what to say because I never thought of her helping young mothers either. This strange job offer didn’t make sense.
The pastor however smiled serenely and said, “Martha, your situation is exactly what these struggling mothers need to hear. You are perfect for this job and I believe God is calling you to do it.”
As I wrote last week… When you least expect it, things change. Whether it’s an unexpected job, a tragedy or a sudden illness, events can spin out of control. Like it or not, things do change… The best question to ask is, “How can we learn to deal with the change?” The answer may surprise you.
I just wrote how Zig Ziglar shared his favorite Bible verses from John 1:1-7. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so that they will produce even more… Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine and you cannot be fruitful apart from me… Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit.”
The word that stood out for me was fruit. “You will produce much fruit.” As an experienced salesperson, I expected to go out and produce fruit for God but instead I failed miserably. After a fruitless few weeks, I was alone in my office wondering if everything God promised was a delusion.
But I was missing the point. The key word was never meant to be fruit. Fruit is the end product. There can be no fruit without another word. It’s not fruit… it’s the vine. I was trying to produce fruit with a weak link to the vine. I needed to strengthen my relationship with God and let the fruit grow naturally.
- The vine provides life-sustaining nutrients. I started listening to Bible tapes on the way to work.
- The vine provides a link to the gardener. I set the alarm clock earlier to allow time for prayer.
- The vine prevents the fruit from falling to the ground. I became more active at my local church.
- Without the vine… there is no fruit. I began to listen compassionately and genuinely care.
Learning to focus on the vine gave God the opportunity to change me. Only then would I begin to bear fruit.
But what about my mother? She took the job and nervously stood up to talk to her first group of MOPS mothers. She cleared her throat and slowly began to tell her story. “I’m not the best example of an ideal marriage or a good mother. At times the tragedies I faced nearly destroyed me but I survived and learned a valuable lesson: God seldom changes circumstances… God changes you!”
She went on to say, “God seldom changes circumstances… even though we desperately want them changed. I know many of you are suffering with troubled children or a bad marriage or a messy divorce. Some of you are struggling financially and most of you are praying that God will make your circumstances better. Like you, I prayed for relief from all the misery and pain but I was looking for the wrong answer.”
“…God changes you! At first, this may not sound like what you want to hear but allowing God to change me was what got me through. In addition, I found hope and love I never knew. I found peace in the midst of my pain. God began to change me. As I changed… everything changed.”
Do you get it yet? It’s not the fruit… it’s the vine. When dad died, my mother received a precious gift. Those same women from MOPS surrounded her, fixed meals, cleaned the house and helped her recover. Why?
Because through her loving witness as a mentor, they began looking for the vine… and found a closer relationship with God.