On Saturdays, I’m going writing my thoughts on sermons I hear. Today’s entry was inspired by Jay Utley’s sermon given at Irving Bible Church titled “Redefining the Power of Our Work.”
I had a friend ask me recently how things were going spiritually for me at that particular moment.
“I feel like there’s a lot of noise where there should be peace, quiet and stillness.”
Naturally, he wanted me to give him some more details. I did…and I gave it to him in the context of my life at the moment. Since I’m on the other side of those things, now I’ll give it to you.
A couple of months ago we got some advice from financial folks we trusted that now might be the very best time to sell the home we’ve lived in for 17 years or so. The market is great. Our home likely will never exceed the value it currently holds. And we’re in a life-station that allows for a bit more freedom in choosing our next place than folks with young children in the house and all that entails.
We began to prepare our home for “staging.” If you’ve never done this, it’s akin to getting out of your flannel pants and floppy t-shirt and dressing up for a night on the town…except you do this for your home. We went through all the closets and drawers. We got rid of junk and donated all the clothes we didn’t use anymore. We organized the garage. We touched up those little parts of decor we’d been meaning to fix. We got a storage facility rented out so we could put stuff we weren’t using in it so when strangers came and looked through our place, they’d see possibility rather than our stuff.
It was good for us to do that, for sure.
But every day there was something to “do” to “get ready for others to see.” This is a distinct contrast to the previous 17-year usage of our home.
See, most days, the home was just for us. It overflowed with all the tell-tale signs of a charmed life. A good book & a good Irish Whiskey or beer or wine on the back porch that my students and their families built for us. The roof that doesn’t leak because my church family loved us enough to pay for a new one when we didn’t have resources beyond pots and pans to catch drips before they ruined something. The couch cushions that our spoiled dogs wrecked with their long lazy naps. The fireplace that kept us warm when the rare snow days took hold. The extra bedroom that let us keep students who needed a place to stay become part of our family for a year or two as needed. The meals and laughs around the kitchen table (which happens to have a nice slit in it due to a little mishap when cutting laminate flooring). The Bible studies too numerous to count. The missionaries who’ve pulled out maps and eaten meals with us. The students in their prom attire who stopped by en masse before their big night got going. My wife and I have always preferred the joyful noise of a happy home to any of the other options available. An abundant life has happened in these walls.
So, when Jay quoted 1 Corinthians 15:58 and focused on “abounding,” well, I kind of get what this means.
The first word that I want to focus on is this word ‘abound.” We don’t use it too much but it was one of Paul’s favorite words. It meant to ‘overflow,’ to ‘excel,’ to be ‘full of energy for the work that God has for you to do.’ Eugene Peterson translated that same passage with these words, ‘throw yourselves into the work.’
See, that description of the abundant life is evident in my home. Our spiritual lives are supposed to have that kind of vibe to them: Overflowing abundance in whatever forms that may take.
And don’t even get me started on the people I love. The games of hide-n-seek. Hours of Barbies, Legos, CandyLand, Hi-Ho-Cherry-O. Loud music of all genres. The tears cried. The belly laughs. The snuggling on the couch (even with the goofed up cushions). The hugs. The knowing glances at my wife, who, on occasion, has been known to return them. The lazy Saturdays. Reading C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books in the hammock aloud with each kid. The movies watched. The meals lingered over. We’ve dwelled together. We’ve lingered with each other through good and bad and everything in-between.
So, when Jay quoted John 15:4 and discussed a little bit about what it means to “abide,” I kind of get what that means, too:
Jesus says we must abide in Him…it means ‘to dwell with,’ ‘to linger with,’ ‘to linger over.’ When Jesus says we’re to abide with Him the idea is that we’re supposed to live connected to Him in this life-giving, productive, energizing, intimate, loving, unhurried, peace-producing, ongoing relationship with God. To be with Him. To listen to Him…I want that. I want to abide with God…I don’t want to live my life at the frenzied pace of a world that is certifiably insane.
See, that description is evidence of abiding in my home. We’ve lived a lot of years here, with all the ups and downs that lingering with loved ones brings. Our spiritual lives are supposed to have that kind of intimate vibe to them.
So, when I told my friend that my spiritual life at that point was “noisy,” well, it’s because I wasn’t dwelling with Christ and experiencing the overflowing abundance. I was “staging” my life, to be sure. I mean, folks who don’t know me that well likely would’ve seen the clean rooms and organized garage, but would’ve had no idea about what was going on in the drawers and closets and storage shed.
But our spiritual lives are supposed to be based on the real stuff that happy homes are made of. Those “life-giving, productive, energizing, intimate, loving, unhurried, peace-producing, ongoing relationship with God” moments we have to have…and when Jesus says he came to give us life and life with abundance, well He means that. That overflowing natural lifestyle that richness of a life we’ve thrown ourselves into…that only happen as we abide in Him.
Because I can assure you that if you’re “staging” your life for others to see, well, they’ll notice exactly what you want them to notice. But if you’re abiding in Him moment-by-moment, you’ll experience the true abundant life…
…in whatever forms it may take. But you’ll notice them more acutely. And so will we.