Thursday, September 26, 2013

Week of Love: Day 2

As important as it is for us to learn to love, perhaps it is even more important for us to learn how to be loved. While it may seem that this should be no struggle at all, experience has taught me otherwise, especially when it comes to the love of God.

While many religions teach of a loving God, how can I know that God is truly loving - loving of me personally?

Love is not something that can be taught from a book. All of the biblical teachings in the world do not, in themselves, give a person the experience of being loved. The stories of God leading His chosen people to the promised land or of Jesus healing a leper are stories of things that happened to other people, not me.

Furthermore, stories are viewed as just stories for many of us these days. It is a natural human tendency for us to trust our senses - though in reality, they are not trustworthy at all. "Seeing is believing" is one of many sayings that reflect our desire to have personal experience of something before we accept its truth. Thus, a story of something that someone else says happened a couple of thousand years ago often simply cannot get past our minds to make it to our hearts.

Allowing ourselves to be loved by God is especially hard for those among us who have seldom if ever experienced a true and abiding love from anyone. "If my own mother (or father) couldn't love me," words I have heard from countless suffering people, "then there must be something wrong with me."

And thus is born one of the deepest wounds a human being can experience: the belief that I am unlovable.

For those of us who have had the good fortune to experience consistent love early in life, the dilemma may be different. We may feel able to love and even feel called to love but fill our lives so completely with work or family or acts of service that we leave no empty space for Love to enter us. Hence, we may become depleted as we drift further and further from our love-Source, relying on ourselves instead of Him.

Either way, we are a people thirsting for love and we find ourselves in a seemingly dry and barren desert. We long for the experience of being loved, but we cannot find it - or are afraid to trust what we find. What can we do?

The only thing I can think of is to jump.

No - not from a tall building (!). Rather we must leap into the darkness and fears of our unknowing, with hope that the loving One waits in the light to catch us.

To leap is to call out into the emptiness of our uncertainty and ask to experience His love.

I remember this sort of prayer from my adolescent years. It was a raw, painful prayer but an honest one. To accept His love as real and true, I had to experience it for myself. I could not simply read about it.

And I told Him so.

In the many years since I began calling out to Him, I have experienced His love so many times and in so many ways: the person I most needed to meet appeared in my life in the nick of time to help me and walk with me through great suffering; "coincidences" have led me to spiritual sustenance that I didn't even know I needed; nature has showered me in images of His unspeakable beauty.

I have, over time, learned to experience His love in the dry and dull spells as well, during those periods when I was completely unable to feel His love. I came to discover, in those moments or even years later, that His love had been moving within me. He may have been clearing away protective walls I had built in the past or He may have been readying me for future risks and challenges. But, looking back, I see abundant evidence that His love was always at work.

I was being loved, even when I didn't know it.

And the same may be true for you as well. He may be actively loving you at this very moment, without you being aware of it. (He doesn't believe the lie that any of His creatures are unlovable.)

I invite you to take a moment with me now as I share an image that I received last month when walking with my camera. Allow yourself to leap into the unknowing of the raw, honest prayer that longs for love. Then take some time to be still and open, allowing yourself to notice and experience whatever comes...