I LOST my car key. It disappeared from my purse sometime between 12:45pm and 5:45pm while I was at church. I didn’t go anywhere. When I realized that it was gone, I retraced my steps and wracked my brain for where in the world of Cape Christian it could have gone. I checked every lost and found. I asked every person I met. I wandered around the campus and tried not to panic (which didn’t work – I totally panicked on the inside). By sunset, I was dejected but hadn’t given up hope. I went home and looked for the spare key – which I couldn’t find either.
Meanwhile, my regularly scheduled life continued: five church services on the weekend and then we went out of town for a Pastoral Staff Offsite Meeting. I left my locked car in the church parking lot and tried to not let the lost key make me lose my salvation – I mean my connection with God.
Jesus said John 15:9:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (NIV)
Basically, Jesus was staying, “You are loved, now stay there.”
It is hard to remain in His love.
Because we get distracted, discouraged and dejected when life gets frustratingly difficult like when we LOSE the key to the car. Or other things like when someone we love dies. Or our finances turn south. Or when we can’t get a job. Or because we equate love with a feeling instead of a commitment or a fact. It is easy to get confused these days when we talk about falling in and out of love. Love, God’s brand of love doesn’t fall in and out of love. It is the kind of love that comes from who He IS and is seen in action on the cross. Jesus was sent as a sacrifice to remove that which was keeping mankind from an unhindered relationship with God the Father. His love for me (and you) isn’t moved or changed by circumstances because it was sealed on the cross.
I put my anxiety about the lost key in Jesus’ hands and reminded myself that I am still loved even though I didn’t feel like I was. I didn’t love myself at that moment, how could Jesus? I was stuck with no car. If I didn’t find the key, it was going to cost me a lot. Even though it was an accident and totally my fault at the same time. Over the next few days, I prayed about it. I continually petitioned heaven for a small miracle that it would suddenly appear in my purse (and checked every once in a while to see if it happened). I searched for the spare in the house and the lost key at the campus continually. Even though I didn’t know what would happen, I have been walking with Jesus long enough to know that this circumstance didn’t change His love for me. It wasn’t a reflection of His care or not caring about me.
When Jesus spoke the words in John 15:9, He was using the metaphor of a vineyard. Maybe He was walking by one and pointed to the place where the branch merges into the main vine. The place of connection that keeps the branch alive. How do I remain in His love? By keeping my connection with Jesus authentic and real. Most of the time this means being honest with myself and with God. I was really sad about the key and worried about it costing us more than we had to get it back. I told God all about it every time it came to mind. Remaining takes connection.
Jesus says that a good gardener prunes the branch so that it will bear more fruit. Sometimes pruning your faith means cutting off dead lies or beliefs that don’t belong in your relationship with God. It means learning that your circumstances do not represent God’s love or God’s disapproval of you – because Jesus took all your sin upon Himself, you can always know you are loved by Him. You may need to grow in understanding it but nonetheless, you are loved. You may need to learn important lessons of faith but nonetheless, you are loved. You may lose your car key, or your finances go south, or someone you love dies, or someone you love rejects you but because of Jesus, you can know without a doubt – you are loved. I know God didn’t cause me to lose my car key (I did that all by myself) but I know He will use it in my life if I let Him. He will use it to cut off (prune) the lie that “God loves me when things go well and He is mad at or punishing me when things go badly.” That is karma, not Christianity. You can trust the Savior who laid down His life for you to love you through all your circumstances whether they are big, small or annoying. Remaining takes trust.
My car remained parked and useless. I remained sad and nonetheless, loved by God.
Did you know you are allowed to feel sad feelings and feel loved by God at the same time? Jesus clearly did. As you read through the gospels, you see Him heart-broken, mourning and sad while remaining in His Father’s love. As I honestly talked to God about how I felt through it all, I settled on faith: God would either provide the key or the finances to get a new one. Remaining takes faith.
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love”.
Jesus told his disciples this because He knew that things were going to happen to them that would make them question it all. They saw Jesus die a horrible death and their hope destroyed by a sealed tomb on Friday. They had trusted and been connected to Jesus for three years but suddenly He was gone. On Saturday, no one had faith. By Sunday afternoon, their faith was uncontainable. The resurrection changed everything. It changed the world, it changed the disciples and it changed me. It means my faith isn’t based on feelings, it is based on an event and the person who did it – Jesus.
“Faith means receiving the gospel message as dynamis, reshaping us in the image and likeness of God. The gospel reshapes the hearer through the power of Jesus’ victory over death. The gospel proclaims a hidden power in the world – the living presence of the risen Christ. It liberates men and women from the slavery that obscures in them in the image and likeness of God” Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning, pg 79.
Remaining takes faith. Not faith in “things working out” but faith in the Risen Christ. The One who sacrificed himself for me, because He loves me and is alive with me walking with me through the really hard things in life, like people we love passing into eternity as well as the comparingly small things like losing a car key.
Beloved, Jesus is with you in big ways and in small ways. In big things and small things. He conquered death and lives today to love you and bring you into the fullness of His Father’s love. Be honest about how you feel and stay connected to Him. Trust Him and let Him prune the lies that keep you living unloved. Have faith in Risen Christ and alive to His love for you.
P.S. My key was found a week later in a bush on the opposite side of the campus where it was lost. I am relieved and so happy it was found. I am overjoyed that 29 years ago I discovered the love of Jesus and received Him as Risen Lord into every area of my life. It has not been easy, my faith has been pruned a lot and through it all, His faithful love has been with me. It has just taken decades for me to learn how to receive it.