The Price of Fruitfulness

fruitremains2I love summer fruit. Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and pineapples are some of my favorites.  But even the freshest fruit, if left alone, will spoil, mold and sour.  I don’t want my life to produce beautiful summer fruit that fades, but rather the eternal fruit that remains.  And only fruit rooted in heaven, rooted in intimacy with Jesus will stay and not sour.

Jesus tells us:

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”  John 15:16 NASB

From this one verse, there is a plethora of directions I could go in.  Intimacy, perseverance, character, relationships. But what is most deeply on my heart is something I rarely, if ever hear spoken of any more. The price, the cost of such fruit.

I have been in meetings where people would come ask me if I’d pray for God to “give them everything” I had or “a double-impartation” of my anointing.  My response was most often: “No, I won’t do that because if He answered yes it might kill you.”

What many fail to understand and what few dare to talk about is that all that is seen as external ministry success comes at an incredibly high price tag.  My journey has cost me so deeply there are no words. Where I am now is the result of decades of grace and decades of pain.  But in the steepest valleys carved in the fellowship of His sufferings are found the deepest wells of His joy and beauty.

It has cost me my health, relationships, acceptance, slander, comfort, security, being understood, fitting in, sleep, safety… etc. etc. etc. and that was just while I was in Africa.  When I left Africa, my world was in shreds.  My dreams were completely shattered.  My “reputation” was in a million pieces {and truthfully I’m better off with out it anyway!}.  Hate mail was filling my inbox almost every day. Relationships I trusted walked away or turned against me. My heart was ripped so violently I didn’t know if I would even survive the transition.

It was a year that can only be described as hellish.  But in the middle of walking through hell my roots were being pushed deeper into heaven.  Even though there were virtually no incredible encounters or prophetic words or even times feeling His Presence.  There was something greater.  Him.  My experience changes but HE never does. He never leaves. Period.

{And by the way, in case you are unfamiliar with the back story, the work in South Sudan hasn’t ended. It is still going on and growing with God moving powerfully through the current leadership, who truly carries my heart in some ways even better than I could.  My health crashed and was a key component in forcing a move I might not have made otherwise. Now it is a new season for me as well as the work in South Sudan. I was honored to serve my family there for as long as I was able to and will forever carry them in my heart.}

As I was starting to say, His Presence is not Him.  You can be in someone’s presence {i.e. at the same event, in the same room, at the same table} and never actually get to know that particular person.  I love experiencing anything and everything Jesus wants to offer. But the experiences OF Him are supposed to draw me INTO Him to produce a lifestyle of intimacy that gives life to fruit rooted in and sustained by Who He is.  It is this fruit and this fruit alone that remains. 

I can say a year later what God has produced in me through the middle of indescribable pain, loss, and betrayal is a profound awareness of His kindness in the little things, internal boldness and confidence on a vastly new level, a healthy disregard of false or misdirected expectations… just what immediately comes to mind.  My journey still continues.  But the pain of the process is worth the gain it produces.

The enemy meant to silence, strip and kill me.  But God used it to strengthen who I am and help add definition to who I am not.  I’m no longer afraid of loss like I was before because last year I lost almost everything that mattered most to me.  In less than 1 week.  Gone.  I survived the unsurvivable and it has helped me become more of who I now am. I no longer need to edit who I am to fit in any prescribed box.  I am freer to be and become more and more of who Jesus is growing me into in His grace.

I wouldn’t wish my journey on my very worst enemy.  But I also wouldn’t exchange it for anything.  The price is worth it because He is worth it.  And it is ALL JOY.  Over the next few weeks I will be talking more about what I have wrestled with in developing what I consider a healthy understanding of suffering.

I am not talking about pity or misery or self-punishment. I am talking about the hard stuff that comes as we follow Jesus and the mystery surrounding it.  Just because you are in a hard patch right now doesn’t mean you are a failure or have upset God or have a defunct faith.  And just because you are walking in the appearance of tremendous favor and blessing doesn’t necessarily mean you are making all the right choices or have an amazing faith.

This is a brave conversation that needs to be had.  So we are, in bits and pieces, going to have it.  And I am really grateful to have you a part of it.  You matter.  You are not alone. And you are deeply, profoundly and extravagantly loved.

How about you?  What does fruit that remains mean to you?  Why don’t you drop by my Facebook page and join the conversation by commenting on this post over there.