October 19, 2010

To Live is Christ — how to practice abiding

Tonight my husband has an appointment at 6:45 p.m.. I plan to make supper a little earlier than usual so he can eat before he leaves for that appointment. I suppose I could say no, that doesn’t work for me, but in my marriage, we realize a far greater harmony and pleasure by a little cooperation.

We also realize the importance of listening to one another. He told me about his appointment. Had I been preoccupied or indifferent, those plans might be ignored. Then he would be unhappy that supper was not ready when he got home, and I would be unhappy that he had to leave without eating it.

It is a choice. I can fit my life into the plans of my spouse and vice versa, or we can each do our own thing and pay no attention to what the other is doing. By acting the latter way, we make marriage look like a bad idea, and are certainly going to find ourselves annoyed at each other, or worse.

This is another way of explaining today’s verses from John’s gospel. Abiding in Christ is about relationship, and is much like a good marriage.

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:7–8, ESV)
Abiding is about paying attention to the will of my Lord and Savior. He certainly is in tune with me and my needs, knowing them better than I know them myself. He longs to walk in harmony, but He is never the one that is out of step. If anyone is, it is always me. (This isn’t necessarily true about marriage — but no illustration is perfect!)

In a marriage, harmony, communication, and even mind-reading take time to develop and perfect. It is the same with abiding in Christ. While John puts them in reverse order, a major part of learning this is making sure His Word abides in my heart. I have to read it, think about it, remember what it says. When I know Scripture, I am more apt to understand what Jesus is thinking and planning. When that happens, life becomes very exciting and I am eager to do my part and fit into the drama that He is directing.

It is the same in marriage. Communication makes abiding possible. If I don’t know what my spouse is thinking, how can I fit in with his plans? Impossible.

Abiding in Christ could involve simple things like timing. When my relationship with Him is close, I know when to do or say something (or keep still). It could also involve the content of my words or actions. In the case of my recent dental fiasco, I had some strong ideas of how to respond to this unfolding situation. However, the Lord clearly instructed me to simply trust Him. In the abiding, He is revealing to me His will on this matter. Had I done what my own mind first considered, I would have separated myself from the will of God. That would have been foolish and costly.

Today, I have a to-do list. However, abiding means that both ears are open to His changes in my plans. Jesus may have guided my pen when I wrote the list, but should He give me an unexpected chore or interrupt the list with a greater need, abiding means that I will go with the flow of His leading and adjust accordingly.

While this concept totally riles many women, some of them Christian, the Bible talks about wives in this kind of relationship with their husbands. We struggle because fitting in with our hubby’s plans goes against our old nature. Women want to be independent and do their own thing. Nevertheless, God asks us to do it. In my experience, abiding in Christ is impossible if I cannot learn this on a human level.

That is, following the leading of Christ becomes impossible if I refuse to shift my routine so my DH can eat before his suppertime appointment. God gave me this relationship as a parallel. If I can harmonize my plans to fit with what my husband needs to do, abiding in Christ is clarified and practiced on a day-to-day level. It is also becoming much easier because I am learning how an attitude of abiding looks and feels.

God is so smart.

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