Sunday, November 01, 2009

God "Loves" Me?

Simply saying this three letter word can conjure up different thoughts for different people these days. Thoughts that perhaps are hard to wrap our heads around, let alone our arms: A Bright Light, billowing clouds, a booming disembodied voice, a Force that is distant and yet somehow accessible, or even a kind of Cosmic Grandpa who some say actually hears us through a thing called prayer.
For others today, the word GOD seems small, antiquated, and irrelevant. Hasn't science disproved all that supernatural stuff? "We've evolved as a species and feel it no longer necessary to have a psychological crutch like GOD to get us through this life."
Finally, for others, (and this one perplexes the unbeliever to no end) GOD is as close and intimate and personal as, well, a person. God, they say, is above all a Lover, in fact, and He is crazy about us measly humans! So crazy that He came among us and has now and forevermore, a human face, a human heart! These folks believe Divinity married humanity in Jesus, forever.
Our first experience of God is so important, we either experience Him as the police guard that wants to punish or as Creative Love that awaits. - Pope Benedict XVI
I think in our American culture, so focused on ME that we too often forget about the OTHER, the idea of an objectively real and personal God somehow feels like an affront to our freedom, our reason, and individuality. God? Oh, right. Him again? The Big Landlord? Believing in Him means joining the rank and file and stifling the fun. It means losing your spontaneity and intellectual freedom because every Sunday you have to blindly "pay the rent." Or pay for "fire insurance," as some glibly joke. But this is ridiculously simplistic.
In our deepest being we all know that we were not made for laws. We were made for love.
I think this fear of losing ourselves in a love relationship with God is actually keeping us from true freedom. After all, when we close the door to the transcendent, we fail to become fully human. A caged, clipped bird can forget it was designed to fly.
Humans by nature are religious beings, made for the Infinite, made for the Bottomless Mystery of a God Who loves us. We have a longing for this unending love, truth, and a beauty that does not fade. Need proof? Just listen to your own heart's desires! (or the music of Journey or Foreigner, heh heh). We long to give ourselves to the Infinite, to lose ourselves in Love, but when we close our minds to the idea of it being really real, transcendent, responsive, immanent through grace, then we clip our own wings. Consequently, we discover that we cannot give ourselves fully to anyone.
“Once God is forgotten... the creature itself grows unintelligible.”
- Gaudium et Spes
When we deny or dismiss the Infinite as unreal or irrelevant, we end up eventually stagnating in a pool of boredom. or narcissism, or egocentrism. What is the meaning of life if the source of that Life is dead? We then fall back on ourselves, but without the real power to love, to get beyond ourselves, to transcend. Then we settle on giving part of our hearts but not all, or worse, we go through relationships grasping instead of trusting that love will be given to us.
So where is the truth that will set us free? How can we know if God is real, and really loves me? Read Scripture.
When we're quiet and alone with that book, we can get some pretty deep thoughts. You might even catch a thought like the one Augustine whispered to himself way back in the 4th century when he cracked open the Scriptures. "The deepest desire of my heart is to see another and to be seen by the Other." Is God Love? Is it just Law? Well, ask God. Let Him in, and you'll discover you have an infinite capacity for Him. And if God is truly a Person, a Communion of Persons, in fact, then how else could we actually know Him unless we let Him into the heart? I don't think my way through relationships with people, I don't reason out the issues at stake, mentally prep myself to fall in love. "On September 24, 2009 at precisely 9:37am I will fall in love." No, I reach out and speak words. I open the mind and let down the guard a bit with the one standing before me. I listen, wait, gaze long and let myself be looked upon. That look builds a relationship. Why should this be any different with God?
Prayer can progress, as a genuine dialogue of love, to the point of rendering the person wholly possessed by the divine Beloved, vibrating at the Spirit's touch, resting filially within the Father's heart. This is the lived experience of Christ's promise: "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
- Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte 33
Originally published in The Publican
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