by Caitlin Meadows
“Abide” is one of my favorite words. It is a calming, empowering word that communicates surrender and soul rest. Just hearing or reading that little word triggers my mind to slow down and gives me permission to take a deep breath.
Abide. Refresh. Let go. Trust.
Years ago while I was a church youth camper at the gorgeous Sis Q Meadows in southern Oregon, my now colleague and long-time mentor Amber Riggs was serving as camp staff. Perceptive as usual, she picked up on my heavy spirit that week. I don’t recall what was burdening me at the time, but I was stressed and sure that I had fallen outside the bounds of God’s love. A silly thought, to be sure. Amber introduced me to John 15:9 in which Jesus tells His followers, “I love you.” To be exact, He says,
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” (ESV)
With those words, Jesus is offering His followers more than an invitation. Rather, He gives instruction. Abide. Rest. Focus on Him and His perfect, never changing, never ending, all-knowing-and-constant-anyway love.
To abide or not to abide?
When I obey this instruction, I am at peace amidst the chaos of life. As Jesus ushers me into His presence and I lay down my busyness to rest at His feet, I experience joy, confidence, and contentment. What needs to get done still gets done. What doesn’t need to get done doesn’t. And amazingly, its okay.
Because Jesus is accomplishing the more important work of reining me in and reigning over me.
Unfortunately instead of obey, more often than not I choose to dwell on myself. Sure, it doesn’t appear that way. It appears as if I’m diligently conquering my God-given responsibilities. But dwelling on self is ultimately what happens when I don’t abide in Him and default back to relying on myself. Focusing on my endless to-do list, I lose sight of Christ as I chase after my on-the-go 10 month old. I succumb to the stress of managing finances and obsessing over the future. Resting in my Savior gets put off by meal planning, appointment keeping, and house cleaning. And in all of this doing, I forfeit relationship with my King.
As a follower of Jesus, I am re-created by Him to point others to Him. However, I cannot lead others to know Christ if I am not abiding in Him. Naturally I am a Martha – driven by tasks, justifying my distraction from Jesus. Because we can’t all be Marys, can we? But Jesus said that Mary chose better (Luke 10:38-42). Likewise, we – I – need to choose better. I need to choose to abide in Christ and His love.
Which begs the question, does it have to be an either/or situation? Either I abide in Jesus or I get stuff done? Are abiding in Christ and living life mutually exclusive? We cannot very well add “Abide in Jesus” on our daily to-do list and check it off after a good 10 minute Bible reading and prayer time. Nor is it practical or healthy to ignore our families, friends, homes, and work to live in quiet solitude like a monk in an effort to abide.
Let’s get real.
As of late, Jesus has been challenging me to contemplate my motivations. What is the driving force behind my obsession with to-do lists? Why do I make time for balancing the budget and household chores before sitting at His feet? Is it money? Control? What is the common denominator behind all of my busyness? In an effort to be transparent, I confess that my motivation is comfort. I want to be comfortable. I want to reach a point of no worry where the effort has been put in and the reward is relaxing and simply enjoying life. And as I admit this, I’m struck with embarrassment by how very temporal my goals are! They are petty and pathetic. Comfort is not wrong but finding it outside of Christ is. Because true comfort does not exist outside of Him. Which means that my efforts are futile and trifling.
As my gracious Savior King invites me to sit at His feet, He makes me uncomfortable with my temporal comforts.
Because when we obey Jesus’ instruction to abide in His love, what’s the result? Comfort that isn’t dependent upon accomplishment or financial security or accolades from others. John 15:11 goes on, “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” The results don’t stop there. When we abide in Christ and His love, He comforts us with His presence and peace and goes further, enabling us to bear His fruit and glorify the Father (John 15:8).
Let’s get practical.
Jesus continues on in John 15 with practical application. He’s telling His disciples that they must abide in Him to accomplish His will of bearing spiritual fruit, glorifying the Father, and possessing such a oneness with Him that whatever they ask of Him, He will do (John 15:1-8).
The result of not abiding in Christ is being thrown off by Him like a barren branch. That being said, this instruction and invitation is to be taken seriously and obeyed. Abiding in our Savior is a definite must!
The scripture then records Jesus’ “how-to”. To practically abide in Christ’s love we must keep His commandments.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” – John 15:10
Jesus goes on to define His commandment,
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:12-13
Love each other.
Pretty simple, right? But simple doesn’t always mean easy. I’m supposed to love others as Christ has loved me. Which means selflessly, sacrificially, patiently, and freely.
Jesus literally laid down His life for His friends. But the thing is, He did so before we were His friends. His laying down of His life enabled us to become His friends. We are to love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
So we abide in Christ’s love each day when we love others with His kind of love. At work we abide in Him as we love our co-workers, customers, and managers. While grocery shopping, picking up the kids, mowing our yards, and making dinner for our families we abide in Christ by loving all whom we encounter. The guy who cuts you off on the freeway? Love him like Jesus loves you.
The best part is, we don’t have to muster up this love from somewhere within ourselves. That would be impossible. This love for others is a gift that Christ fills us with all on His own (Romans 5:5). It requires our constant dependence on Him and awareness of Him. When we are obedient to this command, we must be dwelling in His presence to continually soak Him in so we can pour Him back out. [ref] I’m not speaking philosophically here. This is what He is doing in my life right now. There are individuals whom I have chosen to resent and harbor bitterness toward. That bitterness has eaten away at me. The Holy Spirit has humbled me and led me to repentance. I have prayed for Jesus’ love for these individuals because I am incapable of loving them on my own. To my awe and relief, Jesus is filling me with His love for these people and reconciliation is in order. [/ref]
Abiding in our awesome Savior, glorifying our Heavenly Father, and bearing fruit that goes beyond ourselves and our temporal comforts is an instruction that we cannot ignore. To grow deeper as followers of Christ and lead those of whom we have influence to know Him, we must abide in His love by surrendering ourselves, seeking His love for others, and obediently loving them as we go about each day. Amidst the chaos of life, we have the freedom to rest at Jesus’ feet. We have the freedom to be like Mary and choose better.