“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. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15: 5, 8, 11-12
Exhaustion and long hours at work are fast becoming status symbols. Which of us dares admit to not being busy? In a workplace culture where self-worth and productivity are strongly linked, the pressure to fill every minute is all-pervasive. Have we moved from worshiping a golden calf only to rely on a red bull?
Not only are we exhausted, but we are often also lonely – disconnected at a meaningful level from those around us at work, our families, ourselves and God. Sue Bourne, writing in The Guardian, notes: ‘The loneliness epidemic is affecting people of all ages’. Whilst there are societal reasons for loneliness with the changing nature of family and community, our exhaustion certainly has a part to play. Relationship requires vulnerability and vulnerability is easier when we feel worthy of love and belonging. Yet, if we draw our sense of worth from achievement and productivity we become caught in a vicious cycle – a cycle where we work long and hard to prove our worth and are then too tired to invest in relationships. We over-connect on social media and under-connect with ourselves, with others and with God.
The fact of our loneliness tells us that we were designed for connection and feel its loss. Our need for connection reflects the relational nature of our triune God in whose image we are made. And so postponing connection until we have more time is not viable.
Jesus, in our passage, makes it clear that we were designed for fruitfulness not productivity and fruit is the result of connection – of remaining in a loving vital union with God. A union where our belonging and worth are already established and our part is to remain joyfully in God’s love without the need to earn it. When Jesus instructs his disciples to remain connected to both God and each other, it is accompanied by a warning of the hardship and persecution ahead (John 15:18-20). Their resilience in the face of these trials will depend on their relationships.
On 17 October, we launch our next prayer journey: ‘Resilience’. Together we will seek to adopt simple spiritual practices that help us, throughout the day, to connect with ourselves, with others, with our work and with God. Be encouraged as we share answers to our prayers. Join us on this prayer journey!
HBev Shepherd is the PrayerWorks project leader and an LICC associate speaker. As a management trainer and coach she specialises in the areas of leadership, team dynamics and stress, and is the author of Insight into Stress published by CWR.