When I home schooled my kids the most overwhelming part of teaching them was not the energy it took to add “full-time teacher of four” to my already overly-busy life. It was not the enormous amount of patience needed to confront the daily barrage of stubborn wills, sassy mouths, or bad attitudes. It was not even my fear of teaching Algebra 2 when I considered my own low-level math skills.
It was the curriculum fairs. I would walk into a large gymnasium filled with 300 vendors each promoting their products as the “best.” As I walked the isles, I was bombarded with endless approaches to learning, teaching styles, student learning objectives, and “new” verses “old.” I wanted to stomp my foot and yell, “Just tell me which one is the best and I will buy that one! Someone please tell me what’s most important.”
With so many options within the enormous scheme of education, the fear of wasting valuable time and money, or worse, ruining my kids, was real.
How does one choose?
These are the same feeling I get in the spiritual life. It’s huge. It’s vast. And we have a 1,000 voices telling us how to live it. How do we narrow it down to something simple enough that we can get our arms around it without feeling like we have left something out? We all share the same fear that we might get it wrong. What if we chose the wrong “curriculum”? Add to that, there’s a lot of peripheral stuff that clogs our view or distracts us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised.
There have been many times I’ve wanted to stomp my foot and scream, “Just tell me what’s most important!”
Dallas Willard, philosophy professor and prolific author, after decades of writing about the spiritual life, teaching about it and profoundly living it, summed up the essence of the spiritual life in three words: Aim for abiding.
Aim for abiding. We’ve often heard this same goal expressed as intimacy with God. Many churches have that as part of their mission statement. I am not sure, however, how many of us could adequately define it so it makes sense to us. What exactly does that look like? Richard Dresslhouse offers the best definition I’ve seen: Abide in such a way that the life of Christ is released in you. In other words, it seems our real work comes in learning to abide, not trying to produce or manage the spiritual life on our own.
Notice this aspect of abiding as described in Ephesian 3:17, “…“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (NIV). The word “dwell” is derived from two words: “kata” that means “down” and “oikus” which means “house.” It means to settle down and be at home; the idea is training our hearts to stay at home. Thus the New Living Translation puts it this way: “I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.”
This is the same invitation from Jesus: “Keep company with me and you will live freely and lightly.” So what we begin to realize is out of this abiding, being WITH him….Jesus transforms us. Our transformation comes, not out of doing more or working harder, or acquiring more information about Jesus, but by training our hearts to stay home and recognizing and responding to His presence in us.
So what’s most important? Once we clear away all the peripheral “stuff” it seems being and interacting with Jesus in a real, life-giving, meaningful way is where our souls find their home and how our lives are transformed. If we don’t, we will continue to walk around in a haze, “buying” all the wrong things, always wondering and fearful that somehow we missed it.
How do we train our hearts to abide?
The 9-month Journey is a weekly, interactive, on-line resource/spiritual formation tool that helps us to learn to keep company with Jesus in such a way that the abundant life Jesus promised becomes a reality in our lives. It not more information about Jesus but about the practices that train our hearts, in our overly-busy, distracted culture, to stay home.