By Aundi Kolber
“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.” (John 15:4 ESV)
I remember lying in bed at night as a teenager, reviewing everything I needed for the next day at school. Were the papers signed? Had I written all my projects down? Was I going to fail my test tomorrow?
My adolescent body felt anxious and tired at the same time, and the pressure would often take its toll. I would wake at 4 or 5 a.m. to ensure I had everything I needed. Then, sheepishly, I would realize my alarm hadn’t gone off and try to go back to sleep.
I spent most of my childhood trying to remain one step ahead of problems. I came by this honestly as I grew up in a loving but significantly dysfunctional home. My mom and dad both struggled with addiction and mental health issues. Based on our family system, one of the main ways I learned to deal with difficulties was to be hyper-aware of what might go wrong so I could try to stop it from happening. Or at least keep the issue from becoming severe.
I functioned this way in multiple areas of my life, but especially in school. Never in all my school years did either of my parents ask or remind me about my homework. Not needing help was a badge of honor to me. I thrived in areas where I could demonstrate responsibility. Our family life had enough chaos. My contribution (at least in my mind) was to be so highly responsible that no one had to worry about me.
Of course, learning healthy responsibility isn’t bad. But as anyone who’s grown up with pain knows, healthy becomes sick quickly when there’s no balance to keep us grounded. At that stage of my life, I needed my parents to check in with me. I needed them to be aware that while I didn’t seem to need them, I absolutely did.
This experience in my family transferred to my faith. While I’ve been a Christian for most of my life, the concept of learning to abide in Jesus has never felt easy or natural for me. I wondered, would God be there when I needed him? The idea of waiting, trusting, and remaining rooted in the Lord has felt abnormal and scary. My default has largely been to crave control so I can remain safe. Or at least, that was the purpose of the control, although it didn’t usually bring me the safety I so deeply desired.
In my own process of healing, I began to dig deep into Jesus’s words about abiding. In John 15:4 he explains that unless we are connected to him, we cannot bear fruit. Essentially, we won’t grow or produce or create or even be anything good apart from him. He is our wellspring of life.
This idea seemed simple to me in many ways. Just abide, Aundi. See, it’s simple, I would tell myself when I failed to do so again and again.
Mercifully, I began to learn that abiding is not about trying harder; it’s about trying less. It’s about surrender and releasing our fears. It’s about allowing our connection with God to heal our soul. It’s admitting we are deeply broken and we need a big God to heal us.
Understanding this concept changed my expectations of myself and my time with Jesus. I saw I was not being asked to do more; I was being asked to live into my identity with him.
This is a journey I’m still on. Some days I don’t want to trust. Some days it still feels scary to allow him to heal my heart and soul. And yet I find my truest self is never at rest until I am in the quiet of his shelter—abiding.
Aundi Kolber loves Jesus, people, and stories. She has a goofy sense of humor, but may start a deep conversation within five minutes of meeting you. She is a professional counselor in Colorado. Her hope is to use her voice to talk about hard and beautiful things. Aundi blogs at bravelyimperfect.com.
Photograph © Allef Vinicius, used with permission