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“Abide in Me” – Learning Active Stillness

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – (1 John 2:17)

Verb.

To remain.

To keep doing.

Continue.

Stay.

To remain steadfast or faithful to.

To dwell.

Abide. It’s one of those words that ever since joining IV has been thrown around without anyone ever really explaining what it meant, just another “Christianese” words lost in the sea of Biblical jargon, tossed around carelessly to the point that I used to cringe any time someone said it… (but that’s a frustration for a different post).

 So why am I not cringing at the use of abide now (or at least currently)?  Well, for one I understand it a little better in the context of what it means to “abide in Christ”  (though those three words together still have a lot of meaning still unlearnt) after reading some of the letters of John (1st, 2nd, and 3rd John) and also chapter 15 of the Gospel of John.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” – (John 15:4)

Before, I always pictured the act of  “abiding” being very passive.  If you don’t know, I’m very “let’s just do something now so we’re not just sitting around” in terms of actions. Sometimes that mindset is good…sometimes that mindset leaves me with a bigger mess to clean up than I originally started with. I was wrong though in my original connotation of “abide”.

Abiding in Christ isn’t passive at all. It’s not just sitting on your hands waiting for God to do some big miracle in front of you. It’s about staying close to Jesus, knowing him as a friend, brother, and our Savior. It’s about teaming up with the Holy Spirit and not just reading about Jesus but taking in who he was and is and having all your interactions positively colored by his examples.

“A life in Christ – a life lived in the light of the gospel – is one of active stillness.” – posted by Amanda Williams on  #SheReadsTruth

 Active stillness. Sounds like being a living statue, right? But not really. I’m going to let you in on a little secret to both you Christians and non-Christians alike: I don’t hear God all the time. (LE GASP!) I’m not walking throughout my day with Him narrating my life in Morgan Freeman’s voice. I wish, because that would be cool on several different levels but unfortunately that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to listen to God, because I either want to keep doing what I want to do, whether He wants it or not or because I’m too ashamed of my own brokenness to feel like I’m worthy of Him. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time, but soon.

Awhile ago, I learned about this study on attachment behavior in children and their caretakers. (Granted, replications of the study has had mixed results since the original 1972 study but using this example still works.) Essentially, the young child was brought to a room with their main caretaker, in this case their mother. After awhile, the mother would leave the room, leaving the child alone. Leaving the kid alone for long enough would result in them crying. Children with caretakers who were inconsistent in their responsiveness had children who when they returned would either not leave their mother for fear that they would leave them again or would totally disengage and not act as a normal child their age should after being comforted. The children whose caretakers had always been responsive, in contrast, calmed down as soon as their mothers returned to the room and went back to playing, showing no signs of their mothers leaving them and even bringing toys to their mothers to show them.

So what does this have to do with abiding in Christ? Well, when we abide in Christ we’re like the little children. Though we may cry sometimes when unexpected or difficult things happen, we can rest confidently in the knowledge that God has responded to us before and will continue to respond to us when we cry out to Him. And like the little kids with the good caretakers, we shouldn’t be always looking over our shoulders wondering when He is going to leave us (because He isn’t). Instead, we should be participating in active stillness, growing more in His presence and His word so that even when it feels like He has left us, instead of crying,  we have confidence in knowing He has something good in store for us. We can rejoice in the fact that our Daddy in Heaven didn’t leave us to fend for our own at all but is actually still watching us from a two way mirror, still present in our lives even when we can’t see everything He’s doing them.

Active stillness is realizing that it is now us of the study but God is. Our response, whether we abide or not in Him is an effect of whether or not we can be satisfied in his grace and the knowledge that when our wants and desires align with His, amazing things happen in our day to day lives and interactions.

We begin to bear fruit, or live in a way, that is pleasing to Him.

But how do we do this? How do we grow spiritually in our active stillness?

We remain and grow in His love for us while actively loving others. – “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” (1 John 2:10)

We dwell on His truth while actively seeking to live out that truth. – “…whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6)

We remain faithful and confident in His grace while actively walking according to His commandments. – “…I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (1 John 2:13-14)

We abide in Him and He abides in us, and His Spirit is at constant work within us. – “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, ad that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

For me, abiding in Christ is realizing that whatever I am currently worrying about is temporary. It’s realizing that I should try to love others, those close to me and those who are strangers like Jesus loved them, whether or not it’s reciprocated. It’s reading my Bible more and finding out for myself who God says He is and realizing His goodness and mercy for me, even when I know I don’t deserve it. It’s not letting the desires of the world get between me and doing His will and denying daily my sinful habits and temptations and seeking Him instead.

Simply, it’s taking a daily walk with my Father in Heaven, following Him through anything because I can trust in His sovereignty.

“…but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he [Jesus] walked.” (1 John 2:5)

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (1 John 2:28)

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