Moses begins his psalm, "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations..." Moses did not say that he lived in the palace in Egypt, nor the backcountry of Arabia, nor the desert and crags of Sinai, but the Lord was his dwelling place. It seems that if I could learn a little bit about what it means to dwell with the Lord, then I wouldn't get so tossed about in the turbulence of life.
Our journey is one of seeking to dwell with God, of drawing nearer to Him, of living in Him. God places this call within us and supports us with his Grace. Nevertheless, it is something we must do. "Dwell." "Draw near." "Abide." These are invitations to us to learn how to truly live.
We can learn how to live this kind of life, one that is so connected with the Father that it is as if we are living in Him, by watching Jesus. As Thomas a Kempis has noted, our imitation of God in this life, our drawing near and becoming like Him, is an imitation of God incarnate, modeling our life after Jesus.
C.S. Lewis continues the thought: "Our model is the Jesus not only of Calvary but of the workshops, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life, operating under human conditions." (Preparing for Easter, HarperCollins, 2017) What does the Divine life look like? What does dwelling look like? It looks like the everyday life of Jesus as described in the Gospels.
I'm reading the Gospel of Matthew this week with an eye to imitate Jesus on the journey, watching how He dwelt with our Father along the dusty roads and crowds and disturbances and annoyances of his very human life.
I've been struck by how compassionate he is. When he heard that John the Baptist had been killed, he wanted to be alone. But the crowds followed him, and when he saw the large crowd, "he had compassion on them and healed their sick."
After this very long day, the disciples offered to send the crowds away, and he said, "They do not need to go away." Instead, he fed them....5,000 men plus the women and children. After everyone had eaten, then he dismissed his disciples and the crowds so he could finally get away, going up a mountainside by himself and pray. (Matthew 14).
This is what the Divine life operating under human conditions looks like.
Our Father's invitation to all of us is to be on this journey, too, choosing to allow Grace to create within us compassion that we might authentically imitate our Lord as he served others. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant..." (Phil. 2:5-11)
Imitating, seeking to imitate, choosing to imitate, seeking Grace that I might imitate, reading the Gospels that I might watch Jesus and model my life after his -- this is in part what I think it means to dwell.
True humility, thinking soberly about myself, serving with compassion when I'm spent, staying engaged with people when I've been offended and everything within me desires to withdraw, not retaliating when I experience rejection, all require that I am living, not in response to what I am experiencing as I go through my day, but that I am living in the awareness and experience of God's love for me...that I am making my home in the extravagance of Christ's love. Henri Nouwen explains:
"I have slowly become aware of what my Lenten practice might be. It might be the development of some type of "holy indifference" toward the many small rejections I am subject to, and a growing attachment to the Lord and his passion.
I am constantly surprised at how hard it is for me to deal with the little rejections people inflict on each other day by day...This atmosphere often leaves me with a feeling of being rejected and left alone. When I swallow these rejections, I get quickly depressed and lonely; then I am in danger of becoming resentful...
But maybe all of this is the other side of a deep mystery, the mystery that we have no lasting dwelling place on this earth and that only God loves us the way we desire to be loved. Maybe all these small rejections are reminders that I am a traveler on the way to a sacred place where God holds me in the palm of his hand." ("!Gracias! A Latin American Journal")
Dwelling means that I am deeply rooted in the love of God and when something disturbs my peace, I learn to prayerfully return in my thoughts to the truths of Calvary that I might imitate the Divine life in my workshops, along the roads, with crowds.
"Lord, you have been our dwelling place..."