The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
Life and abundant life. One commentator I read believed that this verse is the pivotal verse in the book of biblical gospel of John. According to this commentator’s view, prior to this verse Jesus was telling us how to have life, by the necessity of following Him, becoming His disciple. After this verse, according to this commentator’s view, Jesus begins to tell us about abundant life in Him as His disciple.
So, I’ve been thinking about abundant life. Not long ago I was in a discussion with other Christians and the prevalent view of abundant life seemed to be that it was ahead of us. Some believed it is the life we have when we are resurrected with Jesus in the new creation. Some believed it was available in this life if only we could love God more, or pray better, or be healed of past hurts, etc. Others felt that abundant life came eventually from a growing intimacy with Christ. Most in the discussion felt as though they had not yet achieved this abundant life about which Jesus talked; their own lives seemed so hard. Abundant life seemed like a goal always before us, just a little out of reach.
That conversation troubled me.
I was troubled mostly because I have been bouncing around holding all of those views, and my own life didn’t feel particularly abundant. A single question kept haunting me: Are the promises of Jesus only for the future, or are they also for the here and now? I have to believe they are also for the present; if God in His fullness dwells in my now, then how can His promises only be for when I die or when I achieve some level of performance or status with God? Then, if this is what I really believed, what did it say for my belief about abundant life? Was it really an ever-distant goal?
A radical thought came to me: what if my life, as it is right now, is abundant.
That changes everything.
My life is typical of the American middle class. It is reasonably comfortable. I have a great wife, a nice house, two dogs (the good one and the bad one), hobbies, etc. I have a good job and I’ve accomplished some pretty terrific things in life. Then there are the “pesky” things: those things I say I wish I hadn’t, and those deeds I do I would really like to undo. And the temptations that continually pull, though I have to admit not quite like before. Can this be the abundant life of which Jesus talked? Yes, and it has nothing to do with any of the things I just listed.
I now see my life as abundant because God is in it and because, as I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, that I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit I am becoming one with Jesus in love; Jesus draws me into relationship with our Father. Said differently, the relationship that is available between God the Father and Jesus the Son is the same relationship God wants with me. My life is abundant now and becoming abundant.
How can life be both abundant now and becoming abundant? Back to the marriage metaphor used so often by God. When I got married nearly 25 years ago I thought I understood love. I was so in love with my wife-to-be, and indeed I was. But, as with many things, I couldn’t know what I didn’t know. I couldn’t know about love from the perspective of being in love together for 25 years. Now, I look back and realize how little I knew about love when we were first married as compared to my much deeper understanding of it now, and how little I really loved my wife as compared to how much I love her now. And, I expect in another 25 years my conception of love will be that much deeper and I’ll look back to this point in my life and realize how little I knew about it. So, I can say that I am in love with my wife and becoming more in love. Both are true.
I think the same can be said of abundant life. My life right now is abundant. As I look back on my life as a Christian I can see that I had little real understanding of this abundance, and I know I will look back in the future and see that even now I had a less well formed conception of it. But, like love, I can only have the understanding of it that I have right now. My life with God has been abundant, is abundant now, and is becoming more abundant. Abundance in life is a journey not a goal. And, given that growing in relationship with an infinite being–God–I believe the journey of abundant life will be an eternal journey.
So, what about all the stuff in my life that doesn’t feel so abundant? Well, regarding the material stuff I hope I would be content with or without it, to still view my life as abundant. And the stuff in me, the wrongdoing, the temptations, the…junk? Perhaps it is like the material stuff, it is just there and God is at work freeing me from it. However, God gives me abundance in all of it. My “abundance” comes from relationship with Him, not my material, spiritual, emotional, psychological, or physical stuff. The deeper my relationship, the more abundant my life
Author de Caussade, in his delightful little book, Abandonment to Divine Providence, says that to want anything in our lives other than what is happening and what we have in the present moment is to want something other than what God wants for us, it is to claim that we know what is better for ourselves than God knows. I believe he is right.
To live in the moment with God, to be thankful for all things knowing He is drawing me into an ever deeper relationship with Him, is abundant life. I have it now.