Monday, June 29, 2009

A Man Who Made Me Think

I had the privilege of meeting a man in a doctor’s office last week. He came in, very humbly, asking for the use of a microwave. He could be the most polite person that I have come across lately. I had seen him on my way into the building. He was napping on a bench outside in a light rain. He was homeless.

My dad was checking out when he came in, so I was largely useless at that point. Immediately, there was that uncomfortable silence that happens when our norm is challenged. No one wanted to look at the door where this man was standing for fear of solicitation…perhaps, for fear of shame. I couldn’t stand the tension, so I struck up a conversation with him.

I did not have time to find out much, but I know this. He didn’t mind the rain and the clouds because it shielded him from the sun for a while. He loved being back home from all the places that life had taken him, and he was a patriot. He loves the USA. That is where he belongs and he is happy right where he is.

I have been reading John 15 this weekend. I don’t usually get stuck, but indeed, it took me a whole day to digest vs. 1-11. Verse 4, says, “Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

The thing about abiding is that it is symbiotic. One feeds the other. The more we abide, the more we are able to abide. Abide means to remain stable or fixed in a state, or to continue in a place. When I met this man in the doctor’s office, I realized that at any station of life one can abide. We choose to abide in a lot of things, also. I have chosen to abide in sinful patterns at certain times in my life. This man abides in the idealism of home. We can abide in many things.

He was content as he told me how much better life is now. I did not have time to ask him about his experience away from home, but it was clear that wherever he went, home was better. Abiding here, in this current state, is better.

This is my testimony, also. His story reminded me that the places I have gone make it clear that abiding in Jesus is better. I have been through times of which I am not proud. I have been in places that I never thought I would go. It is because of my experience, the places that I know I can take myself, that I say this vine is the best. This is where I want to be, to continue.

We face obstacles in abiding. This week I have had company, my dishwasher broke, my dog started having anxiety problems, and I caught a cold. These are our like our travel agents. Instead of helping us abide, they are planning our next trip far away from the vine. These little nuisances are the every day experience and these can take us away from the vine faster than any other thing.

With the help of travel agents, abiding is not passive. It is an active endurance. We say things like, “If I will just abide”. I would suggest that abiding is the most difficult thing that we do. To remain stable…as women we have hormones and homes that make this an ongoing chore. Our challenge, and I do believe that it is a challenge, is to continue in one place while the scenery changes. It is like sitting on a train in the same seat while riding across the United States. You will see the spectrum of scenery, events and people, but you remain in the same seat. This is our vantage point, our place in the vine where we experience life.

Every day brings trouble of its own, right? So, we need to learn this skill of abiding, being constant, and being stable. We have to ride through life with its changing scenery, identifying the vine and burying our branch roots there.

Father, thank you for grafting us into your vine. We pray that you would give us the endurance to abide in you. Give us the strength and grace to endure daily distractions and temptations so that we can stay fixed in your presence.

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