“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me…. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” –Jesus (John 15:4, 7)
Today, as I look out of my office window, there are the signs of life everywhere. A gentle rain is falling; the earth is slowly drinking the water; the flora of elm, maple, and oak trees support an animated fauna of robins, finches, squirrels, and the occasional white-tailed deer. Evidence of the night stalking of raccoons, skunks, and possums are left in the soft mud. Beyond what my eye can see, I also realize there is a vast unseen world of organisms thriving within that small patch of nature.
The ecosystem outside my little world is connected to the much larger world of massive earthly movements of seasons, weather, and people. They are all connected in this immense and vast place we call “Earth.” When we live and move and have our being in alignment and connection with God and his big world, we are truly blessed, enjoying God’s stamp of approval.
Perhaps we all feel some connection to this world because we originally came from the humus of the earth’s dirt. In an impressive display of creation, God breathed into the people he made and they came alive to their Creator and the creation which surrounded them.
We were born for connection. Inherent to our very design and nature, God made us in his relational image and his communal likeness. We exist to have meaningful and enjoyable connection with God, his creation, and his people.
Yet, the world, as we also see evidenced in innumerable ways, is fundamentally broken. Separation and anxiety rule far too many people’s lives and infect all kinds of human systems of institutions, corporations, and governments, and even families. The current separation of immigrant parents and children on the U.S. border is not only reprehensible and morally repugnant, but serves as an overarching metaphor for a world that experiences a profound disconnect with their Creator.
The work of Jesus on this earth was to reset the brokenness; restore the dignity of humanity; renew and revive body and soul; and, redeem lost persons from the bondage of misguided ways resulting in agonizing separation, division, and disunion. In short, Jesus came to heal his treasured people through helping others to reconnect with God.
To abide with Jesus is to remain with him, to be present with him. God took the initiative to foster healing by sending his Son to this earth. Jesus, in close connection with his Father, enabled and established a vital re-connection with God. The Father and the Son graciously sent the Holy Spirit to help us abide with Jesus and know the joy of genuine healing and spiritual health and vitality.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16)
Think about what you need most today, perhaps even this moment. Give some feeling to what they world is in desperate need of. Maybe you are in physical pain. It could be that your heart is broken over a severed disconnected relationship. Perhaps someone is abusing you verbally, or neglecting you. You might be separated from a loved one through geography or death. Or, you might just know in the depths of your soul that something isn’t right – that your banal mundane existence in the daily grind lacks any real meaning or connection to the earth and its people.
Peace in the world, if and when it ever gets any traction, is little more than two groups of people not verbally decapitating and/or killing one another for awhile. The earth is sick with dirty water and soil erosion, mirroring humanity’s erosion of internal virtue. Love is sought in all the wrong places and lands lonely people into spiritual brothels of pain and disappointment.
In all kinds of ways, we each experience some sort of issue(s) that are askew, askance, and twisted. We long for the ability to be a human Gumby who can bend back into some kind of normalcy. We hunger to be noticed in a world of division that seems to notice nothing.
The good news of Holy Scripture is that the satisfaction of basic human needs will come through abiding with Christ. Remaining with him enables one to ask and receive because God has conspired within himself as Father, Son, and Spirit to grant us deliverance from disconnection, and establish a loving kinship with those who have experienced the unlovely and ungracious elements of this world. Jesus said:
“You are my friends…. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
God, in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is laboring behind the scenes to make things right one human being at a time. We look for miracles, yet the work of God is mostly to be found in the spiritual flora and fauna of the unseen ecosystem of the soul. There, in the depths of our heart and our gut, the Lord does a wondrous work of connection which heals and restores to life. In turn, we become Christ-like, being a mini-Jesus who points others to the re-alignment of body, soul, spirit, and all creation.
Based upon how Jesus interacted with others, and how he deals with you and me, we are to bless the individual who is right in front of our face in three simple ways:
Acknowledge the person through being fully present with them.
God blesses us, and we bless others when we affirm the sacredness of the people around us. This enables us to provide focused and curious attention to the person God has before us. We are to be “present” with them, giving our full devotion to listening, asking thoughtful questions, and being okay with hearing their musings on life. As we abide with Christ, we learn to abide with one another.
Affirm the person’s inherent worth of humanity through validating their feelings.
Emotions are emotions. Feelings are feelings. You will not find an account in the New Testament Gospels of Jesus dismissing another’s feelings and telling them they shouldn’t have certain emotions. To invalidate someone’s feelings is to shut them down and create an even wider disconnect and separation from the source of Christian healing and wholeness. Instead, the human virtue of compassion sinks-into an abiding relationship when we affirm feelings as windows to the soul.
Act with the love and grace of Jesus toward the person through giving them the gift of fellowship and friendship.
Sometimes, maybe even most times, people just want to be heard. They want to know that someone is listening. They don’t want to feel forgotten, neglected, or dismissed. They want a friend who will give them the time of day. We all need friends. We all need love. The problem comes when too many persons have such a severe love deficit in their lives that they can’t give anything to anyone. When we are all just trying to take, we are on survival mode and we end up hurting others instead of healing them.
One of the reasons we have burned-out people is because too often 20% of the people are doing 80% of the relational work. Proper boundaries and a greater awareness of self and self’s needs is a much needed discipline today. Spiritually healthy people bring hope and healing. Spiritually sick people trying to do more is only a recipe for more separation, division, and disconnection because they’re running their engines with no oil of blessing on what they’re doing.
Abide with Christ. That is our first and foremost task. It isn’t our job to fix or save the world; that’s God’s job. Our work is to remain in love and obedience, and simply point others to the vine of life through the blessing of respectful acknowledgement, emotional affirmation, and gracious action. When our desires align with God’s desires, prayer becomes an organic response to basic human need, and those prayers will be honored. The garden of the soul can hold and sustain life. When it is shared with others it brings integrity and joy to all creation.