As part of a spiritual leadership class I am co-leading, we are practicing lectio divina with different passages. It was John 15:1-17 this week, a passage with which I am very familiar. Now, I’ve been a Christian & studied the Bible long enough to know that no matter what I think I know, I still have so very much that I don’t know about God. Even so, I’m always surprised that he shows up in ways I didn’t expect.
As I went through my practice today, I was caught on the word “remain.” The most common translations for this word are “remain” and “abide.” “Abide” has a connotation of longsuffering to me. You’re withstanding some onslaught when you abide. “Remain” has a static connotation to me; you’re staying in one place and doing nothing. Neither of these words ever opened up this passage for me.
I was caught on a note in the NET Bible that said this word could also be translated “reside.”…Well, that’s a different word entirely. I immediately related residing to many things. Where you reside is your castle and your refuge. The place where you reside is home. On my final reading of this passage, every time I read “remain” I thought “be at home.”
“Be at home in me.”
“Be at home in my love.”
But it’s not easy to be at home in Christ or his love.
I thought back to my contemplative retreat a few months back. We were praying and meditating on the story of The Lost Son and were instructed to meditate on how we were like the lost son. Feeling like I’d lost my way so many months ago when I lost my job, I asked God in frustration “God, I feel like I started back towards you so long ago. It feels like it’s taking forever to get back to you and your grace. When will I make it back?”
And the answer I felt to the core of my being stopped me dead in my tracks:
“You’ve been back since you started heading in my direction again. I was scanning the horizon for you. I’m still celebrating your return.”
I sat and pondered those words for a long time. I wasn’t uncomfortable with being out of favor with God, but with being in his favor. He hasn’t asked me to do anything to prove I’m worthy of his love. He hasn’t made me jump through hoops. The surprising thing is that I’d prefer it if he did; then I could prove to myself and the world that I was worth it.
Being at home with Christ’s love, (i.e. his grace) is to also be at home with our utter unworthiness. It’s to be at home with our weakness. Our inability to save ourselves. Our continual need for a Savior. I don’t like to be at home with any of those things.
However, the more I am at home with those things, the more I am at home in the sweetness of God’s grace. I am still welcome in his home. I am still his beloved child. He still kills the fattened calf to celebrate me being back. He still chose me and called me so that I might bear fruit for his glory.
As long as I’m trying to build a home next door to God (close, but not close enough to steal my thunder), a home decorated with my accomplishments, my skills, and my righteousness, I will not be at home with him. I cannot be at home in his glorious, extravagant, and transformational love when I’m trying to earn it.
My prayer is simple: God, may I be at home in your love. May my life invite others in so they, too, are at home with you.