‘Abide’ may sound archaic, but its meaning endures

Here’s a list of words to consider: verily, twain, forsooth, methinks, anon, quoth and hither. They are just a few of the 137 English words one literary website lists as archaic, that is, all but obsolete unless you want to sound like Shakespeare. And we could probably add one more infrequently used word to that list: the word “abide.” Abide has to do with staying, continuing, lasting, remaining, holding fast. Maybe we don’t use the word abide much anymore because its connotations aren’t very appealing to our modern tastes which lean more toward novelty, change and variety than toward, well, abiding.

Could that be why friendships and business relationships break rather easily? Why marriages are less likely to remain intact than to fall apart? Why treaties of cooperation between nations are mistrusted? In a five year period statisticians estimate that 35 percent of us will pick up and move. We don’t abide much anymore.

Elton Trueblood called us a “cut-flower civilization.” That’s an interesting way to describe us. Of course, cut flowers can be beautiful, stuck in their vases, where for convenience’ sake they’re portable.  But cut flowers droop fairly quickly.  They don’t have the resiliency of the ones that are rooted and thriving – the ones that are, in fact, abiding in their best supportive environment.

What do you think about abiding?  Have you found it to be important in any arena of your life? Have you witnessed the positive impact of abiding?

Abiding has a significant history in religious thought. The Christian scriptures make frequent use of the word abide.

If you read the New Testament from beginning to end you’ll encounter it around 26 times, often spoken by Jesus. He tells his followers, for example, that he is the vine and they are the branches and they must, therefore, abide in him to thrive. In other words, he’s advocating staying close, connecting, developing a vital, organic link so that his strength and sustenance can flow to them. And furthermore, when that happens, the branches will be most fruitful, he says.

Of course some might want to argue with that advice. Un-rooted lives can sometimes look productive, after all.  Our busy, rushing, bustling activity can appear pretty impressive. But take a closer look.  All too often, the result of un-rooted busyness is showy but unsubstantial, or you might say, all leaf and no fruit. Jesus’ insistence on abiding seems intended to assure our lives result perhaps in less leafiness, but much more fruitfulness.

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