Amanda Woodiel discovered that learning about Jesus is not the same as being with Jesus.
In November of 2020, my spiritual director challenged me to spend 15 minutes every day “abiding” with Christ. I immediately asked how one would go about this. He didn’t give me a specific answer, which is probably what makes the suggestion genius. He told me to do “whatever brings you closer to Jesus,” whether it be slowly reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, extemporaneous prayer, sitting in silence with an image of Jesus, etc.
I felt very ill-equipped, but I started by imagining myself alone with Jesus. My brain talked too much even though I was striving for silent companionship. I fumbled. I felt like an idiot. Mostly I sat feeling like I was doing it wrong. A month later I was face to face with my spiritual director again, and I had to admit that I hadn’t felt like I had done much “abiding” despite my best efforts. Though I was chagrined, he wasn’t. He told me to keep trying.
I looked to Father Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast, which was beginning in a couple of weeks, to be a lifesaver that would keep me afloat in this strange sea of “abiding.” After all, he actually reads the Bible to you and then comments on the passages. What better way to abide with the Word than to hear the Word proclaimed? Episodes last at least 17 minutes, so I figured I was home free come January 1.
Do you know what I found?
I discovered that, while the podcast is absolutely terrific and one I heartily recommend, learning about Jesus (even through the Scriptures!) is not, for me, the same as being with Jesus. As much as I enjoy that podcast and as much as Father Schimtz explains things that have befuddled me for a lifetime, it engages a different part of the brain and soul than does simply sitting with Jesus.
Even my babyish attempts at “abiding” are, in their own way, more fruitful than studying the Scripture intellectually.
I’m not proposing that we choose one over the other: it’s the classic Catholic both/and. But if you are anything like me, you prefer to know Jesus intellectually. It seems safer, and He seems more manageable somehow. But knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus are two separate things, and we must be sure not to conflate them. Even the demons know about Jesus, and Jesus Himself says that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will be with Him in heaven.
I encourage you: even if you feel like an idiot, even if you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, try “abiding” with Christ for 15 minutes a day this year. I assure you that it is much more about giving space for Jesus to work in your soul than it is about anything specific you do.
The enemy does not want you to do this, and you should expect some spiritual warfare over it. You’ll forget; you’ll be too tired; you’ll feel like a fool; you’ll feel like it’s not “doing anything.” Make it your act of faith to keep showing up anyway ... and one day tell us how it (how He) has changed your life.
Copyright 2021 Amanda Woodiel
Image: Pixabay (2017)
About the Author
Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 11 to 3, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who believes that the circumstances of her life -- both good and bad -- are pregnant with grace. She leads a moms' group at her parish that focuses on simple and meaningful ways to live the liturgical year at home. Amanda blogs at In a Place of Grace.