"If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you...As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love."
Abide in my love.
Abide in my love.
Abide in my love.
I have to write these words over and over again to truly hear them.
"Abide in my love."
It's become the kind of familiar Christian phrase that seems as pale and faded as the worn pages of my Bible. I admit that when I read this passage earlier in the week, I found my eyes skimming across the words. I had to force myself to slow down, to chew on the words, to register them like I was 13 again and it was my first time reading John, back when Jesus' words felt so new and radical.
Abide in my love.
What does it mean to abide?
To endure without yielding. To remain in a fixed or stable state. To simply remain.
Remain in my love.
Ah, now we're getting somewhere.
In our culture, we worship movement. We always have to be moving, doing, going.
We fit even our closest relationships in the gasped breaths between activities. Can't talk now, I'm running to a meeting. Can I pencil you in for Thursday at 11:00? That doesn't work? What does next week look like...
We even cram the most vital of human activities like sleeping and eating into the jammed spaces between the lines of our calendars. Think about it for a second. We are too busy moving to sit still long enough to eat and drink water and sleep. That doesn't strike you as just a little bit crazy?
In this context, Jesus' command baffles me.
The primary command we receive in this passage from Jesus feels--well-- passive. We are commanded to get in His love, and stay there. To remain. To sit still. To stand motionless.
But if you want a vibrant life, an abundant life, a life overflowing with the joy and fullness of God, abiding is one of the hardest things you will ever be asked to do. And it's the one vital thing to learn.
I want you to think about your morning. I don't know one person who wakes up and says, "My goal is to drift further away from God today. My goal is to be miserable. My goal is to be complacent. My goal is to watch too much TV."
No. In contrast, most people I know wake up with a fresh resolve that they'll do better than the day before, a hope that this day can be a good one, a mental declaration that today--yes today, finally--is the day I'll have the self-control to get to the gym, the patience I need with my spouse or my parents, the joy of the Lord in the face of nasty coworkers...
But what happens? Life happens.
The baby wakes up early and is already screaming. You miss quiet time. You're running late. There's no gas left in the tank so you end up even later. Everyone's in a bad mood. It's raining. Your mom calls about your brother, who is having issues. You talk to your spouse for five minutes on the phone, and you have a miscommunication. And this is all before noon.
You see, the hard part about the Christian life isn't getting into the joy of the Lord, or the presence of God, or the power of the Holy Spirit. It's remaining there.
We think it's easy to stand still. But what about standing still in the midst of the elements, in the face of time? Maybe the first or second inconvenience we can retain our joy and our gratitude--but by the third or fourth, our tempers are running high, our patience running low. Maybe the first time we respond to our children like we want--but the sixth time they talk back in an hour, they're getting a piece of our mind.
Think about a rock face that's being continually pounded by water. The rock's only job is to remain, to sit and outlast the ocean. Yet the ocean's continual pounding beats relentlessly at the rock's face, eventually wearing it down to sand.
Maybe that's what you feel like in your life right now. Maybe you feel like that rock that has just weathered one too many waves. Your resolve to stay in God's love is there, but each day it feels more and more exhausting. Eventually it's easier just to sink to your knees and watch Netflix than to remain standing.
"The hardest part of the Christian life isn't getting into the presence of God. It's staying there."
Abiding is hard. They say it takes hundreds of muscles in the human body actively firing at once simply to stay standing. Remaining, outlasting, staying in that stable state--it's the constant, daily battle we will be fighting the rest of our lives on this side of eternity.
If you've ever dealt with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety, you know this better than anyone. You know that simply staying stable, simply remaining in a state of peace or joy or stability--it takes work. It's not so simple.
We have a lot of goals, a lot of resolutions, a lot of things we want to change and do and achieve. We want to be healthy--to meal plan and get to the gym. We want to be successful--to network and start a business or land a dream job. We want to have great marriages and healthy friendships.
All of these things are wonderful in themselves. But focusing on a giant list of things to do and change about ourselves often only makes us feel like we're slipping further behind.
My husband Judd and I had our first baby this past year. Judah is almost 8 months old, and it's been an adjustment for both of us. However, it hit me a little harder. I experienced some late-onset PPD (Postpartum depression) that left me reeling. 1 in 7 mothers experience symptoms of PPD.
It's very normal, but I found myself drowning, caught between the expectations of work and family and ministry. I felt like I was failing to measure up--to keep up with the expectations I had for myself--in every area of my life.
Have you ever felt that way?
One day, I was listening to a podcast about personal growth. They were reviewing science that demonstrated people are only built with the capacity to focus on one thing at a time. That's right. Sorry, multi-taskers. Psychologically, we have to get one habit right before we can move on to changing another area of our lives.
To me, it was like a breath of fresh air. I was overwhelmed, but even overwhelmed, I could focus on one thing.
What's my one thing? I asked myself. What's the one thing that could affect every other area of my life like a string of dominoes? What's the one thing necessary to keep fighting day after day?
My one thing is to remain in the love of God. To use all my will to remind myself of His affection for me. To take a deep breath when a hard morning knocks me down and decide to keep standing in gratitude and peace.
At the end of the day, I don't care if I messed up, if I didn't get to the gym, if I embarrassed myself in a meeting. That day is a success if at the end of the day, I'm still at peace. If I'm still praising God. If I'm still one with His love for me.
Your one thing is to remain in the love of God. It's written on a sticky note in my home office to remind me: This is your job. Not to be the perfect wife, friend, minister, or mother. But to abide in the love of God from whom everything else flows.
So today, I ask you: What is your one thing?
I invite you to join me in simply standing. It will take all your will and intention. It won't be easy.
Yet in abiding, you will look down one day and find yourself standing in the deepest, richest wells of love, of energy, of passion, and of purpose that are possible on this earth.