Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent, Day 18: Counting Christmases; and Abiding?

Today's reading: 1 John 4:13-16

You know those days when the things racing through your mind seem to be mostly questions??

This is one of those days for me. What is my body doing? (Not acting like it always has... is something changing?) How will my kid do with changes at school? (People move on; it's just that usually, it's US, not his teachers and friends.) Where is the baby's favorite dog toy?? (Okay, I ask this one a lot; Dog-Dog is often lost...)

And today's reading at Following the Star raises a big one in my mind: What on earth is it like to abide?

It occurred to me a week or so ago that this is my third year doing Shimelle's Journal Your Christmas class... and, in those three years, we have celebrated Christmas in three different homes. (Question: Is it any wonder that, even though I love this season, I find it to be fraught with anxiety and loneliness?) Today, as I read this scripture and thought about what it means to abide, I did some math: since the year 2000, we have celebrated Christmas in 8 different homes. Not just visiting, but places we lived... except one year, when we were literally in the middle of moving and didn't have a place we lived. (Question: Where is "home for the holidays"?) What's more, since we got married in very late December 1995, we have celebrated Christmas living in 11 different homes. That's 11 out of 13 Christmasses, including this one. (Question: Where is "home," period?)

Perhaps I should be encouraged that God's version of abiding has more to do with eternal things than temporal things, since my experience of abiding is (apparently) minimal. But one of the things that I think is true about us, about humans, is that our human, temporal, earthly experience directly relates to how we understand who God is and what God is doing in us and in the world. I think this is why Jesus's parables and metaphors worked so beautifully---when he talked about losing a sheep or a coin, when he talked about a woman cleaning up the house, when he talked about being bread/light/shepherd, it worked because people could understand him because they understood those things. Those earthly, temporal, real-life experiences spoke to them (us) quite clearly about the holy, about the eternal, about the Real.

So I can't help but wonder, Who am I to try to say anything about abiding? What do I know about it? I relate so much more to the stories of the Hebrew people, wandering around, moving slowly in the general direction of an eventual promised home.

Answer (not, perhaps, the one and only answer... but, for now, at least, an answer): That it's not just about where I abide, but it is also about God abiding in me. Now this is something I can work with; the wandering Hebrews were even able to do this, carrying the tabernacle with them everywhere they went. Setting up God's place in the middle of every encampment, in the center of their community and personal lives all along the way. Which begs yet another question: What might it look like in my own life, and in my family's life, if we became more intentional about how we signify God's abiding with us?

And now that I think of it, there's another possible answer: That maybe I can better understand God's abiding, and mine, if I think of it not as an expansion of my experience, but as a reversal, an alternative. Sort of a "do" to my "don't" (or a "have" to my "have not"). Maybe, for some of us, abiding is a promise as well as a command. Maybe for all of us, in fact, because in one way or another we are all transient. Our bodies change, our families change, our friendships and marriages change, our permanent addresses change. Life is change, and we are all moving forward (or sometimes backwards, or sideways), in the general direction of a promised Home.

Thanks be to God.

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