Thursday, March 31, 2011

Embracing Love

I am struck by the notion that embracing Love requires much. I am unsettled. I am being deeply blessed by reading through Common Prayer daily and something scary is happening. I am faced with my own complacency, my own blind eye, my own short comings. I can't pray these prayers every day and not be challenged, and even more, be humbled. I can't feel good about my "spiritual life" knowing that I am not keenly aware of the work of the Lord around me that I am part of, or should be.

"Jesus looked on him with love and said 'one thing you lack'…" Mark 10: 21

This is part of the story of the rich young ruler who wants to follow Jesus but can't follow through on what Jesus tells him to do: Sell all he has and give it to the poor and "follow me". I have never before focused on the phrase "Jesus looked on him with love" but this jumped out at me. What an amazing thing to be challenged by Love. To be examined by Love. To be purified by Love. To be humbled by Love. To be motivated by Love.

Then yesterday I was driving and was struck with the notion that God looks on each and every single person around me, passing me in their cars, working in their businesses, people I only half-notice some of the time and will probably never see again, Jesus looks on them with love. I am not unique in that God loves me, and if I think about it for too long, any notion of pride or self efficacy in my being loved by God dissipates. God chose me. I really have no claim in the miracle of it. Each one of the people in their cars saw me – or not – as a nobody, an extra in their story. But looking at them yesterday knowing that to God they are just like me I was floored.

I've thought this before. I've thought this when wondering about salvation. There's something wrong with the debate when it is about "us and them" who gets in and who doesn't. That is a false dichotomy that I think is very well explained by Fowler's theory of faith development. With maturity comes universalizing faith (not to be confused with universalism): There is just us. All of us. No them, we are all in this together. And according to Fowler, the closest examples of Universalizing faith are Jesus, Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Following is Fowler's description of Universalized faith:
"Persons described by stage six typically exhibit qualities that shake our usual criteria of normalcy. Their heedlessness to self-preservation and the vividness of their taste and feel for transcendent moral and religious actuality give their actions and words an extraordinary and often unpredictable quality. In their devotion to universalizing compassion they may offend our parochial perceptions of justice. In their penetration through the obsession with survival, security, and significance they threaten our measured standards of righteousness and goodness and prudence. Their enlarged visions of universal community disclose the partialness of our tribes and pseudo-species. And their leadership initiatives, often involving strategies of nonviolent suffering and ultimate respect for being, constitute affronts to our usual notions of relevance."

And so I pray for the eyes to see "us". Not to be blind to the social constructs that keep people categorized and separated, but to become keenly aware of these. To see blatantly the lies that separate people by class, color, gender, religion, you-name-it. I pray to be an instrument of God's peace. And I see that this is not a fluffy feel-good prayer. This challenges me to my core.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me so love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not

So much seek to be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

    -St. Francis

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