There is a phrase echoing around in my mind, easier to describe than to define. A sense of place.
It is warm golden pine needles carpeting the ground, spicing the air with each cushioned footstep; shafts of sunlight dropped down through tree columns, alive with dancing dust and insects; a rhythmic sound, swelling and receding, growing louder as the ocean’s edge comes into view; once beyond the trees, drawing in big breaths of salt-rich air, then kicking off my shoes and burying my toes in the sand, more fully alive here than anywhere else.
By the ocean is where I derive my strongest sense of place, a locale for joyful contemplation when all goes well and for comfort when solace is sought. I don’t live near it anymore but in some tender corner of my heart it will always draw me. I was happiest there as a child and dream of living near it again someday.
“Place is where meaning, belonging, and safety come together under the covering of our best efforts at unconditional love,” writes author Randy Kilgore. “Place beckons us with memories buried deep in our souls. Even when our place isn’t perfect, its hold on us is dramatic, magnetic.”
Place, that idyllic memory evoked by emotions connected to it. For me it has become more a person than a physical setting. Yes, my heart responds to some places more than others, where special memories have their roots or beauty stirs me. At some point those places may be changed or even destroyed, but the Person who gives me the most secure, eternal sense of place will be forever present.
Jesus Christ said, “Abide in Me, and I will abide in you.” (John 15:4 NIV) What a strange concept that must have been to the disciples listening to Him. Abide? Live in? Take up residence in Jesus? When read in context of the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15, abiding in Jesus makes sense. He is our vine, our source of spiritual nourishment so we, the branch, can bear spiritual fruit. Important as spiritual fruit is, it is not the main reason for Jesus wanting us to abide in Him. His desire is for intimacy with His beloved child, a sense of connection only achieved by living as close to Him as possible. Abiding — when our inner spirit, the truest essence of who are, takes up residence in the heart of Jesus. It sounds a bit spooky, even supernatural. True spirituality is a mystery, but the practice of it is simple. Spend time with Jesus. Seek, long for, thirst after, engage, know, hear and respond to … Jesus. Find Him in His Word, talk to Him in prayer, listen for His voice in your spirit, live in Him.
The ocean shore gives me a sense of place because of significant personal epiphanies occurring there. But I have learned that my truest sense of place happens in my spiritual abode, the heart of Jesus, a place of love. “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now abide in My love.” (John 15:9)
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