Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Three Weeks, Three Wishes

January 3, 2017

Trump’s scheduled inauguration is only three weeks away now, and people who fear what may happen to the people of this country, and indeed the world, are anxious. It comes to me to remind them, and myself, that we all have the option of prayer.

Now if we are not sure whether there is a God who hears and answers prayer, now is a good time to experiment and find out. If our consciences feel so unclean that we shrink from approaching God, now is a good time to ask God to forgive our sins so that we may dare to approach and ask a further request, which may be – wait, I’ll get to Trump in due time – which may be that God wash us so clean of our sins that we lose the will to sin any further.

Now, if God has heard and answered us, we’re now fit to remain in the Holy Presence and make a third request. If my readers are nervous because this is reminding them of those folk-tales in which the main character is given three wishes and makes bad use of them, now’s the time to ask God’s advice as to how to proceed: should we pray for a change in the outside world or for a further change in ourselves?

Myself, I’m inclined to ask for a further change in myself rather than any outward change in the world. Before asking stones to be turned into bread, it seems wiser to ask for the patience to endure hunger. So I’ve asked to have my faith, hope, and love increased. There’s a precedent for the first one of these requests recorded in Luke 17:5, where the Apostles, as if out of nowhere, ask Jesus: “Increase our faith.”

But why not ask to have our love increased, too? If a Trump presidency seems to threaten a four-year rule of lovelessness, who can remedy that but ourselves? Let’s do an assessment of our present capacity to love: are we finding it hard to love Trump and the people he’s intending to install in positions of power? Remember, loving our enemy doesn’t necessarily mean wanting them to get their way: their getting their own way may be the worst thing that could happen to them. To me, loving Trump means wishing for his repentance, or his speedy removal from office before he earns any more bad karma for himself.

For those of my readers who may have voted for Trump, and who think of “the enemy” as the people opposed to him, are you having trouble loving your enemies? The same principles apply.

Myself, I can see that I need an expanded capacity to love, if only because I anticipate a lot of people getting hurt under a Trump presidency. A lot of us are going to need to start caring for our neighbors more – a lot more. I can’t count on a Trump government to care for them.

As for the gift of hope, I am praying for that very earnestly now. I think you’ll understand why. But I’m reminded that Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you.”

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Unfit to Worship

October 23, 2014

I woke up from a horrifying dream.

I was in a college library, smoking the stub of a joint in a secluded aisle. Fearing that others might smell marijuana smoke and come looking, I realized that I’d better conceal my little roach in my cupped hand and leave the library quickly. I hurried out the glass doors and onto the deserted twilit lawn. And then I realized that I hadn’t done my morning devotions, but had chosen to blow off greeting my God and Savior, my very Life, so that I could get stoned instead. How remorseful that made me, and how ashamed! And this choice that I’d made was no simple mistake that I could repent and ask forgiveness for, but one that had left me, at least for the moment, unfit to approach God at all, for I had just poisoned my mind with a drug that would leave me incapable of worship or focused concentration of any kind. As despair struck me, I snapped awake.

I won’t waste the reader’s time telling about my college years, now roughly half a century in the past, which provided the symbolic imagery for this dream and taught me the effects of marijuana on my own brain. I’d rather direct the reader’s attention to the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30; Luke 13:28; in my dream, the lawn outside the library), and the scriptural warnings against “finding no place of repentance, though we seek it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:17; so also in Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31). Shakespeare gives us a memorable portrait of a sinner who kneels, but cannot pray, in King Claudius (Hamlet, III.iii). But perhaps my readers have their own memories of being in such a case. It’s not that God won’t gladly hear prayers from the most hopeless of sinners in the most hopeless of positions! But there are things we do, on our side, to disable our own access to God.

Now I’ve been proclaiming, with joy, a God who forgives everything, heralded by a prophet, God’s unique son Jesus, who forgave even His own murderers, and convincingly claimed that His Heavenly Father was of the same character (John 14:7-11). But I fear I haven’t been paying sufficient attention to the predicament of the soul who puts herself beyond this wonderful universal forgiveness, locks herself out, and throws away the key. God does not damn us; we damn ourselves (John 3:19-20). This is not God’s will for us! God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11); God intends a universal reconciliation (Colossians 1:20)! God’s nature is love (1 John 4:8) and love wishes only good to every being (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Moreover, God tells us (please forgive the masculine pronoun, which I know limits the Limitless One) that there is nothing too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:27). Jesus tells of the good shepherd’s delight in rescuing the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7). But God, who created us with freedom of choice, can’t rescue a will that willfully refuses rescue. One must say “yes.” And we have ways of sealing our own mouths so that we can’t say “yes.” Adrienne von Speyr (in The Letter to the Colossians, commenting on Colossians 3:17) observes: “That is the most serious thing about sin: that, once chosen, it remains constant and sticks to the sinner. Unless help comes from outside, from above, unless he receives grace, man cannot get rid of it.”

I held the details of my dream in worship, and the significance of the act of smoking pot in a college library grew on me: what is a college library but a place where a student goes to acquire knowledge for the sake of understanding, and understanding for the sake of wisdom? In its essence it’s a temple for lovers of Wisdom, the bride of Love. But if one loves merely the empty mental pleasures that smoldering cannabis induces, or loves knowledge for purposes contrary to wisdom and love (say, the power to dominate, exploit, impress or seduce people), then one is not only an impostor with no business in the temple of Wisdom but a fire-hazard dangerous to its treasures. They and you don’t belong together. For your own sake it’s best to get out of the treasury of knowledge before the knowledge itself turns hurtful to you, as our misguided civilization is now starting to discover – but that’s another topic.

For the topic at hand is love: we’re given the Great Commandment to love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:37-40), as God loves us. When we love things incompatible with the love of God and the neighbor, like our own pleasure and profit, our own safety, our own preeminence and good name,  or the secret compartment we hide our lies in, then, and to the extent of these loves, we disable our own access to God. What foolishness! And yet we all do it, at least until we ask to have our hearts washed clean of loves for lifeless idols. But that’s the easiest and simplest thing to ask for!

So take this opportunity to pray with me: Lord God, Divine Mother, Higher Power, whatever You wish us to call You, show us the true nature of the objects we’ve given our love to; help us discern rightly what deserves our love, and what does not; give us hearts willing to love the good and the worthy; and then set them on fire with love! This we ask in Jesus’ name, who promised (John 14:14), “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Amen.