Lately, one of Jesus’ more cryptic phrases has been making laps inside my head. I came back across his words while reading the Passion accounts in the Gospels, this year quickly speeding toward the Lenten season as it is. These words were spoken on the last night Jesus was with his disciples: “Abide in me, and I will abide in you.”
Abide. That’s not a word we use every day. Personally, the word “abide” reminds me of the old Stamps-Baxter hymns I grew up singing in church. Those hymns were loaded with phrases from the old English, and we were forever singing about abiding, bringing in the sheaves, or that glad reunion day. The word “abide” also conjures up images of Jeff Bridges and Sam Elliot at the conclusion of “The Big Lebowski,” but I think I should stick with Jesus here.
With the invitation to “abide,” Jesus was welcoming his disciples to remain connected with him and to spiritually rely upon him. Jesus was simply saying, “Stay put. Don’t move away. Don’t abandon your relationship with me.” Eugene Peterson gets right to it when he translated Jesus words like this, “Make your home in me just as I do in you.”
Now, that’s not so cryptic after all; we understand home quite well. Home is where each day begins and where each day ends. Home is where we eat, rest, relax, take shelter, play, and love. Home is where we go when there is no other place left, and where we always return.
Home is that glorious place where we can walk around in our socks and underwear, scratch our backsides without worrying about who is looking, and lounge around on the weekend without showering or shaving if we so choose. Home is where we can drop all our burdens, barriers and coping mechanisms.
Home is sweet, it is where the heart is, and it is our castle. It is where we bring the bacon and where we wait for the cows to arrive. Home is like no other place in the world, and no matter where or how far we travel, home is where we always call, well, home. It is where we feel safe, secure, and ultimately, where we can be ourselves. Jesus said, “Make your home” – relax and be yourself – “with me.”
But have you ever had a home that really wasn’t home? Rather, it was a place of conflict, bitter tug-o-wars, fear, or even violence and abuse? Some of us have lived in these exact situations, and realize the liberating implications of Jesus’ invitation. We can quit trying so hard at trying so hard. We don’t have to work to keep the peace, we can simply enjoy it. We can set aside our anxieties and fears, and curl up on the couch and collapse in contentment, at home with Christ.
I believe that a large portion of our personal suffering stems from the fact that we often go looking for “home” in all the wrong places. The wrong career, the wrong person or relationship, the wrong ambitions: We are searching for that comfortable place where we can prop our shoeless feet on the coffee table and be accepted as the real, natural people that we are.
When that no-strings-attached acceptance is not forthcoming, we begin to work, worry, toil and sweat, manipulate and be manipulated, all in an attempt to get others to take us as we are. We end up being strangers to ourselves, living within the artificial structures we have created, but it sure isn’t home sweet home. It’s miserable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can give ourselves over to Christ, in total dependence, and find rest for our homesick souls.
European mystic, Francois de Fenelon, wrote to one of his students who had finally figured out a bit of this “abiding” business. He said, “Nothing makes me happier than seeing you peaceful and simple. Isn’t it just like paradise?” I don’t know about paradise, but it sure is a lot like coming home.