"Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me." - John 15:4
He doesn't know who he is. He doesn't know who anyone is. His silence is profound, but not the kind you yearn for in the midst of a noisy life. It's a far-awayness so complete it scares his visitor: Where is he if he isn't here? Who is he if he isn't who he was?
He doesn't respond to her voice, doesn't stir when she holds his hand. She feels helpless and anxious. She tries to remember what her pastor said, that it's enough to be there, one human being with another. But this is such a one-sided ‘with-ness.' Could it really mean anything?
She decides to say a quick prayer and leave. But she sings instead. A hymn, an old chestnut, she's not sure why. She realizes that she doesn't sing very well, and she's amazed that she's worried about that: he isn't judging her performance.
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide!
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
His hand moves in hers. She's not imagining it. Later she tells herself it was only the sound of singing, just a reflex, not because it was that hymn. It could've been "Shine On, Harvest Moon," and the same thing would've happened. She shouldn't let herself feel so happy.
But she is happy. Like when someone you love pays unexpected attention to you. Like when you touch the source of something, the root; which we so very seldom do.
Teach us to abide. To be with and in and for each other, O Christ, as you abide in us.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.