A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with my six year old about September 11. She had heard whispers at school, and I am a big believer that she should be able to hear the truth about hard things from me and process it in the context of our worldview and secure relationship. So I held her. And we talked. She had a lot of questions and I bumbled my way through. But this is the truth that I needed her to hear that night: It was ugly. And God was there. The Man of Sorrows, the one well acquainted with grief, was present. I held my baby close and willed her to know this, to remember this, if nothing else. He was there.
It’s easy to look around and see ugly. But the truth is that sometimes we look inside and see ugly too. I’ve been there, and if you’ve been around long enough, I bet you have too.
I stand in front of my dear friend, begging her to pray away the sin that I thought Jesus delivered me from ten years ago. I kneel, intent on working this out, on getting through to God, and no words come. Literally, no words. I am doing everything right, and I feel nothing.
It is ugly. And God is here too. The God-Man, tempted in every way yet without sin, is present.
The word “abide” in John 15 can also be translated as “tarry” or “endure.”
When we look around and see ugly, when we look inside and see ugly and we choose still to tarry, to endure. When we choose not to run after a mountaintop experience that will make us feel better. When we choose to be present in the ugliness and to believe, deep in our bones, that God is here too. This is what it means to abide.