Friday, January 16, 2009

"Defining Abiding"

During the cold New England winters us natives dream of warmer days and temperatures and start to make plans for summer vacations. Vacations are wonderful, aren't they? They give you a chance to get off the merry-go-round of a busy life; to journey to the unfamiliar places; to unplug the technology; to spend time with those you love the most; to relax; to gain a new perspective on life.

Last summer on my trek to Maine, I brought a book entitled I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt by Vince Antonucci. He starts out talking about vacations. How appropriate, I thought. I'm on one. He made a ton of great points but what stuck out to me in the first few pages was that we all love vacations for the same reasons I mentioned above: the adventure, doing the unordinary, the thrills and that's what most of us are lacking in our Christian walk with Christ. He says it this way, "We're missing out on the joy and fear and laughter and doubt and mystery and confusion of following Jesus, of taking great risks for God, of praying dangerous prayers, even of being spiritually attacked." (pg 17)..."And I think there's a solution. I think we need to go on a vacation!" (p18-19). He goes on to explain that, just like wearing a souvenir t-shirt does not give you the thrills of the vacation spot it advertises unless you've lived the experiences, our life in Christ can be just like wearing the T-shirt or what he calls a "souvenir religion". We can't experience the thrill or passion of living an authentic spiritual life with Jesus unless we "go on vacation" and experience the journey. He says, "A lot of us have been believing and behaving, just not following...missing out on the vacation, the journey, the adventure" (pp. 27-28).

Antonucci admits, like vacations there are exciting times, boring times and really bad times. But irregardless of the experience, vacations are still anticipated because the experiences are different. But, they are temporal and not a long-term solution to living a spiritually passionate life. In following Christ, however, there's the sense of the permanent reprieve from the ordinary life if we ABIDE in Christ. There it was again! That word...A-B-I-D-E! He says it this way, "To live life with Jesus, and to live the Jesus life." Abiding as living life in Jesus is experiencing the presence of Christ within ourselves; God impressing himself on us and changing us. Abiding as living the Jesus life is our outward life; God expressing Himself through us; God changing the world WITH us (p 28).

I love his description of living life in Jesus (p 68): "It's about following Jesus wherever he goes. It's about watching him closely, learning how he moves, anticipating what he might do next and keeping the space between him and me as small (and decreasing) as possible." And I agree! We cannot know Christ, abide with him, without stopping and spending time with his Word, in prayer and especially in listening. That means we have to plan a vacation...everyday! A time to get away from the busyness of our ordinary lives. It doesn't have to be a long vacation but it does have to be a time away. It's a time to refresh our souls and learn new things about ourselves and Christ himself.

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