The Abiding Life Stream

The last few days we’ve been talking about the New Life.  Yesterday we heard John’s story.  Now we’re moving on to the second stream of Spiritual Leadership: the Abiding Life.

What exactly do we mean when we talk about the Abiding Life? 

Basically our main idea is this: Both the receiving of the sacraments (baptism and communion) and human intuition can be means by which believers experience intimacy with God; however, both sacrament and intuition can potentially lead to idolatry. Neither is a guarantor of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Ultimately God is the initiator, and we are respondents, not the other way around.  We are in this journey of an abiding life with God.

Included within this Abiding Life are the Spiritual Disciplines:

  • prayer
  • fasting
  • meditation
  • worship
  • and Scripture reading, to name a few.

We use vivid images like the Vine and the Branches of John 15.

Will you let me be completely real with you for a minute?

Note that these are my (Michelle’s) personal views and not necessarily the views of others within this organization.  I will admit that it’s hard for me to write about spirituality, especially the contemplative kind.  The New Life I get and the Empowered (“Spirit-filled”) Life makes sense.  Yes, sign me up for the Compassionate Life!  And, really, I’ve made it my life vocation to flourish in the Witnessing Life, albeit not always successfully.

But, this Abiding Life stuff? 

This Abiding Life thing isn’t exactly something that gets my knickers in a fancy or anything. I wish I could say that I wake up before the birds every day and write in my prayer journal and spend hours praying as a start to my day.  The reality is that most mornings I’m lucky to do anything at all. And meditating while sitting on top of a mountain in an effort to absorb the beauty of God’s creation leaves me swatting at flies most of the time.

Do you ever feel the same way?

I know what we’re supposed to say to this question, especially as spiritual leaders, but that’s not what I’m asking.

Simply put, this Abiding Life thing doesn’t come naturally to me.

And I wager that it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people.  That doesn’t mean we don’t need to work at it because we absolutely do.  It just means that maybe there’s more to this spirituality thing than quiet contemplation.

There is a story of this woman named Julian of Norwich. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. She lived in the late 1300’s, right around the time of the Black Plague in Europe.  She became what is called an “anchoress” – that is, someone who withdraws from society in order to lead an intensely prayer-oriented and sacrament-focused life.  She didn’t just embrace it as her lot in life, but she actually asked for the gift of suffering.  In her early 20’s she chose to live sequestered in a small room.  The room had three windows.  One window opened into the sanctuary of the church and allowed her to participate in the services.  Another window opened to the outside world, thus making her accessible to the citizens of her city who came to her to seek counsel. The third window was apparently used to communicate with her servant who helped her with chores. And she lived like this for the remainder of her days.

Pretty cool.  Or pretty extreme.  You decide.

I have much admiration for people like Julian of Norwich. I just don’t understand it. But, even in her doubts, questions, sin, and pain she is said to have heard God tell her time and again, “I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well.  And you yourself will see that every kind of thing will be well.”

Say what you will about Julian of Norwich and so many like her, but that’s the kind of confidence I’d like to know in this Abiding Life thing.

How do you go about embracing the Abiding Life? 
Do you think Julian’s example is a good model to follow?

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