“One thing we should have learned from his first coming,” Pastor Tim reminded us, “is that Jesus never comes in the way we expect.”
I set out to explore the mystery of Christ in us—to find some boundary markers and peek at the view—and Jesus sets aside my desire for understanding and shows me first that the living of Christ in us—which is far more important than speaking about it—is a lot about love.
And then we creep a little closer to mystery—seeking to live it rather than define it (which, I’m learning, is the only way you can creep close to mystery)—and I find that the glory of Christ in us is not to be found first in the earthquake of His power in us, or the fire of His passion, but in the gentle whisper of His presence in the midst of our mess—our fears and our failures and a barn with a cow letting loose in the corner and blood-stained straw where Mary crouches, Christ in her giving Himself as a gift to the world.
His love is so beautiful here that my desire to explore has waned; what new view could be more beautiful than this love that becomes small and whispers Himself into our darkest corners, filling us with the certainty that right here in the mess we are accepted so deeply we are asked to host Him?
I understand, for the first time, maybe, David’s sentiments:
“. . .I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child with its mother. . .” (Psalm 131)
I could rest here, quite content, for a long time, here in this smallest, profoundest corner of the truth of Christ in me.
Maybe there’s rest here because His smallness makes space for my smallness: I’m welcomed to stop wrestling and rest.
Maybe the rest comes from finding that the hospitality He asks of me is always founded in the hospitality He offers me: Christ in us is always rooted in us in Christ.
Christ in us is mentioned ten times or twenty; us in Christ a hundred or two. And every time Jesus speaks of living in us, he pairs it with us living in him.
“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56)
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)
“If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)
It messes with my mind that likes to think in pictures. One person can live in another—a baby in a womb—but how do two people live in each other at the same time?
And then I remember the moment seven months ago when, as I was listening in the pew eight rows back, Darrell Johnson drew my attention to the remarkable truth: we, in Christ, are brought so deeply into the inner life of the Trinity that the apostle John speaks as though the Holy Trinity is the Father, the Son, and us!1
“On that day [when the Holy Spirit descends and fills you], you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:20)
“I have given them the glory that you [, Father,] gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. . .” (John 17:22-23)
“As we are one”—This flowing, belonging, difference-within-union dance of the Trinity is the love into which we are welcomed.
The same kind of joyful hospitality that the Father and the Son offer to each other, they offer to us: a real, living delight in each other. A full-of-life, three-dimensional enjoyment in which no one is swallowed up or merged, flattened or taken over, but each is uniquely himself, secure in the love of the others.
And as I read verse after verse, my image shifts. No longer do I picture “Christ in you” as a solitary person with another inside—a baby in Mary’s womb, say, or the Spirit living inside my body (though both are part of the truth).
The image now is more fluid, more like the interweaving dance of the Trinity in whose image we are made: Christ in us and us in Christ, a word-defying, image-defying mystery of love in which we are at once fully our small human selves and, through Christ, also loved right into the life of the Trinity where we are forever welcomed and held.
1Based on work by David Crump.