If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 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. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. (John 15:7-15)
What an emotionally-charged, amazing week this has been!
And I couldn’t have gotten through it without all those prayers that friends and family have been sending up on my behalf and the tears and laughter you all have shown me, truly abiding with me and my family in this time.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
This morning a dear friend of mine and I took some time to pray in silence together, and she misquoted the chapter and verse she meant for us to read, and so we ended up reading this one instead. And because abide is my centering prayer word, because my joy has felt so complete this week despite the pain and suffering, and because my friends have truly shown me the love of Christ, my eyes began to brim with tears.
We concluded that she was meant to misquote the chapter and verse, and we were meant to read this one together, to commune across an ocean in silent prayer, abiding with God, and then talking about what that looks like in our lives together.
See, I now realize why God lead me to the word abide in my silent prayer practice. Whereas my other prayer word grasp denoted the sense of grasping for God and being grasped by God, abide is a state of relative passivity.
There’s nothing we’re doing in abiding with God and with others outside of communing with one another in the presence of the Spirit, and I think that’s what God’s been trying to mature me into as a Christian–a woman who recognizes God’s work in every moment, and realizes that her joy is complete regardless of the turmoil that’s going on around her.
Now none of that is to say I’m above life’s struggles. I still worry, I still fear, and I still doubt, but since we moved to China, thanks be to God, there’s this real sense deep in my soul that God is truly omnipotent, that God has abided with us in the fullest sense here. And I’ve found that prayer takes on a new meaning, when the end goal is nothing beyond that communion, that abiding, and that release of raw emotion, imperfection, and anxiety to a God who can be fully trusted to carry and receive it all.
But abiding with God in prayer is not merely where my joy is complete. Rather, abiding has many faces, and it’s in the everyday that I learn more about what that means.
It’s the friends who have surrounded me in China to experience my joys and struggles in such a real way and to encourage me on this journey.
It’s the foster moms a few weeks ago in Anhui, with whom we sat experiencing their joys, their fears, their complaints in caring for special needs children despite their limited education and their limited means. Abide means there wasn’t anything that we as the listeners could really offer them beyond our ears and our hearts and our support, but I think in some sense God blessed that moment as one of deep prayer and communion.
And abide is an image my friend shared with me this morning in her ministry with elderly people at a nursing home, the recognition that while one may be aging and not able to do the things she or he previously could that God calls us all the same to abide, not necessarily to do, but to receive. She noticed as she spoke these words of truth an elderly woman nodding with tears in her eyes.
To me, that’s what it looks like to abide.
And so this weekend as I look forward to friends from the states coming to visit us here in China, I rejoice in the ways so many of these relationships in my life have bore fruit, have taught me about discipleship, and have made my joy complete in the Spirit.