One of the alarming moments in my spiritual journey was when I discovered myself to be hollow. I was empty on the inside. If you were able to grab a spiritual microscope and take a look underneath the surface in my heart and soul, you wouldn't find anything. I was an empty core. Where there should've been compassion, you would have seen indifference. Where there should've been hope, you would have seen cynicism. Where there should've been a deep, loving concern for people around me, you would have seen suspicion, mistrust, and competitive rivalry, masking itself as other things.
And what made all of this worse was that I was a pastor.
The danger of spiritual leadership is that if we don't stay connected to Jesus we'll become hollow shells, going through the motions, doing the things we are expected to do, and playing out the cultural script that is handed to us. We'll become manipulative mask-wearers doing whatever it takes to get what we want. Our ultimate goal will become satisfying whatever desire we have that is most prevalent, and we'll do whatever it takes to get it. We begin to view everyone around us as a means to an end—the end of satisfying our desire for power, achievement, love, a successful career or whatever.
Jesus taught his disciples that his relationship to them was like a vine to its branches. The roots of a plant shoot themselves down into the soil in order to draw up the nutrients and life of the ground to distribute it to the branches. Branches severed from the root quickly whither and die.
Staying connected to Jesus means cultivating a life of prayer. It means investing in getting to know Jesus as if you were getting to know a close friend. It means listening for his voice in your everyday life. It means reimagining a "relationship" with him in really practical "friendship" type ways.
Simply put, it means keeping in touch with him. We all have friends that we make it a priority to keep in touch with. We call once a month, text regularly and check in with them when we're in town. We consult them about major life decisions, we share meals with them, we invite them to our birthday parties. We stay in touch. It seems to me that staying connected to the Vine means keeping in touch with Christ, like we would a close friend.
So let me ask: have you lost touch with Jesus? To you long for your soul to have weight to it … to become someone with spiritual resilience and depth ? Take some time to reconnect with God. Catch up with him, find out what he's been up to and to catch him up with the secret struggles of your soul. Only he is able to expose the hypocrisy of our hearts and to show us the better way of vulnerability and trust.
Thankfully, Jesus is filling me again. Through pruning and discipline, he's leading me back to the abundant life. But for me, this process has involved stripping me of every security and every measure of 'success' my culture would value. As one author put it, "many of us will never know that Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all we have." Until we're stripped of all the things we were running to for nourishment and food, we'll never discover what ultimately satisfies.