Our hope for our kids is that they learn to do things on their own- independence. Yet, when independence begins we often struggle with the idea that they are growing up too fast. Still, let’s face it, none of us with young children dream of a day when as adults they will still be at home, needing us to pack them lunch and do their laundry. We live in the tension between wanting them to grow up to be healthy functioning adults, while not wanting it to occur too rapidly. When Adeline says, “Mom, carry me.” I think to myself, “but you’re 3 now. Can’t you just walk?” Of course secretly I also think, “Yay! She still wants me to carry her. She still needs me!” If the truth be told, as much as I want her to function normally, grow up, and mature toward independence, I also desire to occupy a special place in her heart – the place where she always needs me on some level. I never want to lose the mother-daughter connection (nor do I consider it a realistic possibility).
Adeline seems to do something new every day that moves her towards independence, otherwise known in our house as “a big girl act”. This can be anything from learning to hold her own bottle to taking her first steps; from brushing her own teeth to learning to go potty on the big girl potty. It is even the simple act of taking her jammies off “by myself” and sitting naked at the top of the stairs to tell me she has accomplished such a thing. Watching her grow up brings me such joy, while at the same time gives me the desire to hold on to these days forever (impossible I know).
I know I have to let her grow, but never let her go. This is the beauty of the mother-daughter relationship. I get to be a part of her life forever (if I play my cards right, haha). My role may look differently at one stage or another, but we will always be connected. Being 4 weeks away from my due date with our second child, I am living in the first stage of connection- the literal umbilical chord connection. This stage is complete dependence. My baby can’t live without me, the life of this unborn child is literally connected to mine and 100 percent dependent on me (in a literal sense, not a theological one of course. Pretty crazy to think about. Maybe this is why, as mothers, we have such a tough time letting our kids grow up! So maybe not through an umbilical chord, but Adeline is connected to me for life. I am her mother. She is my daughter. That relationship will forever keep her rooted in my love and connected to my heart. It may not always be literal, but I desire to be a life line for my little girl throughout her life.
Jesus talks about this idea of connection in regards to our relationship with him, and of course through him, with the Father. In the Gospel of John he likens the relationship to a vine with branches when he says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” This places us as the branches. And what does Jesus say in regards to the branches?
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. “
Jesus is talking about relationship. He is not asking his disciples to stay exactly as they are. Of course he wants us to grow and mature in our faith. He is handing his ministry off to us and commanding us to represent him in the world. But he knows that we cannot do any of this without him- without the connection to the Father that comes only through Jesus. He tells us that apart from him we can do nothing. We must REMAIN IN HIM in order to be faithful, strong, and live as the person God created us to be.
Anyone ever try to do anything without Jesus? (See me pointing finger at myself here) Guilty! Let me confess something here: I like to be in control. I like to know that I am in charge of the details of my life, that I am making the choices, and that everything is under my direction. Sounds familiar at all? Let me confess another secret: I am a control-freak (insert burst of laughter from those reading who know me and are going “SECRET????? I don’t think so!”). So for me independence tends to be an easy thing- just let me do it MY way! – You know? The right way! And of course, the only way.
So Remain In Me is a much needed reminder from Jesus that connection to him is necessary- that he is my life line and I am not intended to live disconnected from the Vine. Apart from him, I can do nothing. As much as this convicts me, it also encourages me. It lets me breath. I am reminded that I do not need to be in control (nor am I really ever anyway) because he is. It comforts my worry and allows the Spirit to literally change it into peace.
Jesus reminds me to stay connected to my life line, to remain in him – but also that he remains in me. Trying to do life any other way is just silly (yet I continue to make an effort all too often). No doubt there are times Jesus gives me space to grow, (which always involves failure on my part and grace on his), opportunities to learn, and moments to mature. But he never intends me to disconnect myself, as a branch, from the Vine which gives me strength and life. I am created to stay connected.
As a mother, I hope that part of me wears off on Adeline (of course I also hope certain parts of me never do). I pray that she will be connected to me forever and that my faith will be a good example for her. I pray that our relationship will be strong and solid, that it will endure and be a life line for her. But I also know I am not the capital “L” Lifeline she needs. I know the relationship she has with me will be important to her, but nothing like the one she will have with Jesus. After all, even though we stay connected as mother and daughter, the permanent connection Christ offers will sustain her, nurture her, and offer her everything she needs. She will be able to do nothing without it.