Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Art of Abiding

How do we stay closely connected with the sacred dimension of life? This is a question the Johannine community of the first century asked and answered with the concept of "abiding."

In both the Gospel of John and the Letters of John, a key concept is that of "abiding." Christians are called to abide in God and promised that God will abide in them. They are to abide in Christ's love and Christ's spirit will abide in them.

The Greek word translated as abide is menein. This word also means "to stay" and "to remain." The idea conveyed by menein is that of a deep and lasting connection between two parties. This connection is close and intimate.

While this idea of abiding-- like all language about God-- is a metaphor, it is a powerful one. To abide is to be connected with another in the closest way possible. That's why early Christianity spoke of the "indwelling" (another translation of menein) of God's spirit. The idea here is that God is as near to us as our own breath.

In practical terms, abiding in God means living an intentional spiritual life. It means weaving into the fabric of life times of spiritual nourishment and reflection. Abiding is not science, but art. As art, it requires creativity and commitment. We learn to abide by painting on the canvass called life.

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