Jesus, our Ascended Lord and Shepherd of our souls knows you, sees you, and loves you. (Smile.) You are the cared-for, belong-to, and ever-seen child of God.
Take a deep breath; you are the beloved of the Beloved.
That little girl, that little boy, wrapped in securing, settling Love. That is you.
Stay there with me for just a moment longer, if you would. You are beloved. I am beloved. We are beloved. We must stay for a moment more to truly hear it. You might join me in saying this out loud to drink it in:
“I am my Lord’s beloved;
it is my only, purest, and most essential identity.
I am my Lord’s beloved.”
Ephesians 3:14-21 will always be worth returning home to again and again until we pass from this life into light everlasting.
Staying in that place is not easy. If your life is like mine, you have many invitations coming to the door of your heart to leave that place every day.
Some invitations are surreptitious and insidious, while others are overt and aggressive. Some surprise us; we see them as they are, and we make a clear choice.
And some invitations are those to which we continually open ourselves by malformed habits directed by disordered desires that need tending and redirecting every day.
Our hearts are a garden. What did we expect?
We water and we weed. We must, for life to flourish in the little plot we call our one, wild, precious life (Mary Oliver). The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26)—but the Spirit does not do all the work.
We follow, and the Spirit helps us. The Spirit helps us, and we follow.
Following Jesus will always involve building habits of resistance as well as habits of presence. To disregard either will derail us in our emotions and our thinking over time.
We have straight-up spiritual work to do, habits to cultivate and reinforce our staying in Christ. If not, we drift. Oh, we drift. So easily. I drift.
We can’t blame life or God for everything disrupting our souls when we consistently make choices that uproot us from our belovedness, from our intimacy, with our Lord.
The Holy Spirit within us is not daunted, surprised, or anxious about the narratives unfolding in our time. The Prince of Peace transcends them, as always, and will accomplish His purposes in and through us as faithful women and men and children, His covenant followers—purposes that span all generations of human history and the history of the cosmos beyond us.
Our everyday and everynight labor, is to stay.
Feeding our desire to stay turns that labor into play, into delight. It takes time and planning and intention.
To stay—in Christ. In our time, as others did in theirs.
The saints of time stayed. My grandmother stayed. My grandfather stayed. I want to stay.
The pull away will always, always be strong. If we don’t feel it, it may mean we’re unknowingly giving in to the easier way (in the short term) of acquiescence and a lack of self-leadership. I’d rather my social feed lead me. It’s easier. And I laugh on occasion.
A wise woman of God would always remind me as a young Christian that we live in a very big Story; peace in heart, mind, and body comes in holding fast and true to its inimitable Protagonist and re-humanizing Gospel plot—the guiding chronicle of Christ that culminates, through Holy Love (sola sancta caritas), in union with our Lord (John 15:5).
“I am the vine; you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.”
The Greek word for “abide” is meno, and it means to stay in a relationship, in a relational locus or place—in Christ.
Stay in Christ. Stay in Christ. This is the way. Stay in Christ.
The Scriptures are truly, as The Bible Project puts it, a “unified story that leads to Jesus.” And that story is more than a Christian’s story; it is the human story, or it is no story at all. Love is the power that makes the human story go round; not power itself. The Scriptures are a Love story.
We must be led by Love before we can lead with love.
I encourage you to stay in Christ, by staying in His presence, staying in habits that lead you to His love rather than away, staying in the living wisdom of the Scriptures, staying with healthy devotional and time habits, and staying with worship habits that help you shake and wake from the confusing stupors we can get caught up in unaware.
I want to cross the line of this life into the next with all saying,
“This one stayed in Christ.
Christ was his Beloved, and he was the beloved of Christ.
Love led this one, and this one led by love.“
I want to stay in Christ—and I’ll do whatever it takes to do it, however hard or misunderstood I may be.
Stay. That’s the word I’m standing on today, and—if it’s your time, your season of holy reclamation—let it be your word as well.
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[cover photo by Jordane-Mathieu at Unsplash]