Have you ever known something because you were told and taught it, but then you experience it and just like that the head knowledge becomes experiential and you realize your hardly knew what you thought you knew all along?
I grew up hearing a lot of things about God and the Bible and I believed them to be true. And sometimes, because I haven’t experienced it or find my self struggling with a concept or command I catch myself questioning if I really understand what’s being said.
A couple of months when I was writing about growing like blueberries and understanding pruning in a new and comforting way John 15 made me consider “abiding” and reflect on how I am currently doing.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:9-11 (ESV)
The call to abide in God’s love caused me to evaluate my life in light of that command.
What is abiding? How do we do it? What does it look like? How can I do it better? And how do you abide with someone you can’t even see?
I was instantly reminded of Gunnar and when we were dating.
We met at Fresno State in spring 2005. I was finishing my last semester of undergrad and had already applied for grad school at San Diego State. He was in his third year of school and knew he had two more since he had two years of eligibility left for golf. We met at Fellowship of Christian Athletes, he was the president of the club and I was just going so my friend would stop asking. But once there I really enjoyed the study and was really impressed by the handsome leader. I started to hang out with the group more and was seeing Gunn all over campus.
A month later we had dinner just the two of us since everyone else bailed one night then went to a local church Bible study. On the way home I thanked him for a lovely evening, asked him not to make a habit of buying my dinner and dropped a bunch of hints about moving and not needing a guy. Bless his persistent heart for not heeding any of it.
We started dating in March knowing July meant long distance for two years. It was so much harder than I imagined! Saying good bye, moving to a new city while he got to continue life in Fresno.
That first year in San Diego was hard. I volunteered to quit often. I was home sick and not even sure for which home. My parents’? Fresno? With Gunnar?
It was lonely. I worked 40-60 hrs a week, I was going to school and traveling with various teams as the athletic trainer.
I had found a church that I could attend fairly regularly when I wasn’t traveling, but I wasn’t exactly making friends.
I felt like Jesus and Gunn were my only friends and neither of them could give me the hug I so desperately wanted.
I praise God for the new technology of texting that had recently started!
As the new school year started we started a routine of texting in the morning. Texting through out the day and maybe a phone call if we both had a few minutes at lunch. Maybe some more texting in the afternoon and then the first one ready for bed would call the other to check in, talk about day, what we read in the Bible that day, the plans for the next day. We would have a chance to talk through issues or miscommunications that happened that day and then we ended the night with prayer, where I would usually fall asleep and Gunn would call back just to say Amen.
In the first year of this we got to learn so much about each other. We talked about anything and everything. It was a time to learn each other- preferences, habits, communication and conflict style.
The first year was tough, but as it ended it was clear that God had grown us in amazing ways; in our faith and in our relationship and communication. We asked each other a bunch a questions and wanted to hear the other’s opinion and feedback on just about everything. Did I mention I got a card in the mail every Tuesday from Gunnar? A note telling me how wonderful he thought I was, and how much he couldn’t wait to see me. It was the best!!!!
The next year was significantly easier. We got engaged that summer and the count down to not only see each other regularly but get married and BE TOGETHER began.
Long distance was still hard but we got to learn more about ourselves and each other. We learned to anticipate each other’s needs and preferences. We got to be each other’s biggest fans and learn to say I’m sorry more often. We looked forward to every visit and every letter and every call and text. The anticipation was huge and exciting.
That two year time was a tangible picture of what it looks like to abide. To draw near and learn, to know and love.
I love that Jesus Christ came to earth and lived a perfect life that led many people to be interested in him. He died, rose and then went to heaven and there began the longest long distance relationship in the history of man kind.
What does it look like for God’s people to abide? To pursue closeness, to communicate often, to learn God’s character and preferences. To ask His opinion and live for His best. To lay down your preference for the one you love. Knowing that His best is ultimately the best for me.
Just like Gunn and I had June 23, 2007 to look forward to we have the wedding feast of Jesus and his bride, The Church, to look to with anticipation. No more long distance, no more misunderstandings or miscommunication, but real intimacy and closeness.
As we wait we must be engaged in constant communication. Little conversations here and there, lengthy dialogue with God about things that matter. Getting to know his character, his preferences, his habits and communication style. Right now we have the opportunity to know and be known by him. He has written us letters! There is love, wisdom, truth and strength to be drawn as we meet Him in His word.
And better than any earthly relationship we have his Holy Spirit in us. Meeting us where we are, speaking to us and empowering us to live a life of love. He tells us that it is by keeping his commands that we remain in his love and that is where our joy is made complete.
So where am I? How am I doing at abiding? These are sometimes hard questions to ask when you know you are not thrilled about the answer.
I am making daily time to communicate with Jesus, but it is often rushed and distracted. I am reading his word daily, but I’m not always putting forth the effort to understand it and apply it.
Praise God that he is a God who changes hearts which then changes action. In him is forgiveness and restoration, always. I love that He offers us himself in every way. And the only thing we have to do is humble ourselves to say we want and need more. To repent of the distance we create and to re-engage in intimate communication.
So as we live to make these truths realities in our lives may we continue to seek Jesus, to know him better as we wait for him to come and may we abide in his love, knowing that in it our joy will be complete.