“Abide in me.” What an invitation! In the abundant, generous, all-seeing soul of Jesus there is space, ample room, and each of us can occupy a permanent place there. That is where we belong.
“Our Saviour is our true mother,” says Julian of Norwich, “in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.” (Showings, long text, chpt. 57) The pierced side of Jesus is a womb infinitely deep, a womb in which we all always dwell, opened to hold us forever.
What does that mean? Isn’t it an image of psychological regression? Doesn’t it suggest an abnegation of our responsibility to be ourselves and live meaningful, independent lives?
Being ourselves does not mean being alone. In Jesus we are completed. We build a congruence between who we really are and how we behave in the world. Being ourselves means knowing we are loved, knowing we are held secure no matter what happens to us – knowing ourselves, in relationship.
Abiding in Jesus does re-calibrate the scale by which we weigh up what’s important. How we determine what is enough and how we measure success change significantly when we perceive that we have a soul home within the great Soul. We might pay more attention to the little moments of joy in our lives instead of the pursuit of permanent happiness. Ways of being of service to others and of ending oppressive practices might become very important. Exploring the landscapes of love rather than those of exploitation will certainly be our desire. As we understand ourselves to be part of a larger wholeness the center of our volition will change. In Jesus we act out of the Self rather than the ego.
How, then, do we accept Jesus’ invitation to abide in him? In a way it is simply a matter of noticing. We are already there, already in that roomy, nurturing womb. “You have already been cleansed by the word I have spoken to you,” says Jesus.
But the change in perception that allows us to really know that we abide in Christ is something that grows with practice. Every time we engage in centering prayer, lectio divina, chanting or some other prayer practice we firm up our experience of abiding. Communal worship helps, too. And when we are anchored in the present moment, attending to ourselves and what’s around us, we know we are in Christ. This is not a head knowledge; it is experienced in the whole of us, in our hearts.
So, let’s practice. Breathe out. Breathe out all your outer focus: your concern with the kids, the job, appointments, scary medical issues, politics and anything else that has your mind churning. And breathe in. Breathe in the awareness that around you is the womb of Jesus – huge, nurturing, soft, and warm. Around you is the womb of Jesus; breathe in the understanding that here is where you dwell.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: icon of Julian of Norwich by Laurie Gudim