Where we live shapes us. It shapes our loves, our likes and dislikes, our preferences, our desires, our hopes, and opportunities. It shapes how we grow and the person we become.
As a child, I was fortunate enough to grow up within easy biking distance of a great public library and some wonderful parks. This shaped me in some important ways. Living close to a library—and taking full advantage of its near proximity—planted the seeds of what would eventually become a career as a college professor. Living close to some of Cleveland’s beautiful parks—and taking time to enjoy them—developed in me a love for nature, the outdoors, and a contemplative spirit.
If we don’t like where we live, if it limits us in some way, or if where we live does not have something we need or want, such as love, or a career opportunity, or a school, then we are shaped by the decision either to stay and live with our unhappiness and dissatisfaction or to move on. Some of us, for various reasons, whether out of fear of the unknown, laziness, hopelessness, or lack of courage, continue to live in a place which makes us genuinely unhappy.
We might have a high-paying job, but it is not satisfying us. We might have a lot of friends, but they’re not the kind to help us become a better human being. When we are not living in the right place, we find ourselves deeply unhappy. We can continue to live in the place of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction, or we can move on. In an unhappy situation, whatever choice we make—whether to stay or to move on—will shape the person we are to become.
Some, although satisfied with where they live, move to another place in order to live with the one they love. They give up the familiar world they know in exchange for the promise of a life lived with their beloved. Others leave a beloved home to pursue a greater love. Some years ago, when I wanted to pursue graduate biblical studies, I had to move to a distant city that had the program I wanted, since my hometown, Cleveland, has no doctorate program in Scripture.
As much as I love Cleveland, and the family members, friends, and my religious community who live in it, another love moved me to live somewhere else. Of course, once my studies were completed, I came back home to live once again among loved ones.
Jesus invites us all to the best place to live, the place which is our truest and loveliest home, the only home that will ever make us genuinely happy. The home to which Jesus invites us also shapes us and our loves, desires, and preferences. Jesus invites us to live in Him, to make our home in His love: “Live in Me, and I will live in You” (Jn. 15:4,7,9). The Greek word used here, a form of meno, also has the meaning of “dwell” or “reside” or even “stay at home.” The home that Jesus offers is not for some distant future but for the here and now: “Live in my Love,” He tells us, “just as I live in My Father’s love” (Jn. 15:9-10). Jesus offers us His Love as our permanent home.
At the beginning of John’s gospel, two curious disciples of John the Baptist spot Jesus and begin to follow Him. Turning around, He asks them, “What are you looking for?” They respond with their own question, “Rabbi, where do you live?” Again, we see the same verb, a form of meno, that we see in John 15. Jesus’s answer to the two curious inquirers is an invitation: “Come and you will see!” (Jn. 1:37-39).
What they come to see, as the gospel of John tells us, is not so much the physical house where Jesus lived but His true home, His real home—the Love of His Father. John 1:18 tells us that Jesus dwells in the kolpos of the Father, that hollow spot on the chest next to the heart. In time, however, these disciples will discover that they are invited by Jesus to live in that same intimacy with Him that He shares with His Father. They will be invited to make their home in Him.
In fact, the kolpos of Jesus is where we first find the Beloved Disciple (Jn. 13:23). The kolpos is the place of greatest intimacy, tender love, and dearest friendship. The Beloved Disciple, resting in the kolpos of Jesus at the Last Supper, has no name in John’s gospel. This is so that, once we realize that Jesus’s invitation is for us, too, we each might put our own name for that of the Beloved Disciple as we find our true home in the kolpos of Jesus. Residing in the kolpos of Jesus, we are shaped by all the possibilities that living in His love offers us (Jn 15). Living in the kolpos of Jesus, we come to enjoy Jesus’ own peace (Jn. 14:27; 16:33) and joy (Jn. 15:11; 16:22,24; 17:13) as Jesus more and more inhabits us and fills up our own heart space (Jn. 14:20;15:4,9-10).
So, where do you live? And how does the place where you live shape you, for better or for worse? And who—or what—lives in your heart space with you? How are you being shaped by what inhabits your heart space?
No, I’m not talking about your physical location, the city or town where you live, or the street you live on. And I’m not talking about who lives in your house with you. But where do you live in your heart? Where do you live in your mind, in your soul? What do you fill your mind and heart with? What is that heart space that you inhabit? Are you happy in it? Are you finding joy in it? Satisfaction? Well-being? Are you finding peace? Are you finding joy? Are you finding love?
What inhabits your heart space? Is it worth your time, your energy, your attention? Is it making you a better person, a more genuine human being? Is what inhabits your heart space making you more loving, more kind, more generous, more genuinely human?
So where do you live? And where would you like to live?
And what will it take for you to live where you will find all that you are looking for?
About Sister Lisa Marie
An Ursuline Sister of Cleveland, Sister Lisa Marie Belz is a professor at Ursuline College where she teaches courses in Scripture, Christian spirituality, and theology.
Sr. Lisa Marie holds a Ph.D. in New Testament and Early Christianity from Loyola University Chicago as well as a Master of Theological Studies in Scripture from the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind., and a Master of Arts in Hispanic Ministry from Boston College and the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas.
In addition to her years as an educator, Sr. Lisa Marie served on the Cleveland Latin American Mission Team in El Salvador where she developed programs in lay pastoral leadership. Sr. Lisa Marie gives talks and retreats in both English and Spanish on themes related to Scripture, theology, and spirituality throughout Latin America and the United States.