“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of the bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ (1907-1991)
I did not grow up in a church that emphasized the Lenten ritual of giving up or taking on something during the forty days leading up to Easter. Although, it provides a nice excuse to give up Nutella or to open the Bible, for me, it’s really about trying to fall in love with God again.
I’ll never forget a professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School telling me that the secret of a great union is two people who spend their lives falling in love over and over again. Unfortunately, like many marriages where husband and wife lead parallel lives under the same roof, so too do many of us lead parallel lives with God under the eave of our hearts. We say we are committed, but our actions and loyalties often reveal otherwise.
Nothing compares to that flushed cheeks, warm heart, damp palms, “everything seems possible” feeling of being in love. God and I have been courting for as long as I can remember, but I’ll be the first to admit that I am the weak link in the relationship. I struggle to maintain that “burning love” fervor of first love. Daily, God courts my soul and I feign busyness. I am self-interested, spiritually aloof, easily enamored by our culture and vacillate hot and cold in my devotion. Oh, and I am shamefully stubborn. God appeals to me to turn over my worries, but I hold on to them until they exhaust my heart. God says follow me and I go off in my own direction. God says I have a plan, but I ordain myself ruler over my own destiny, even dare I say, my experience with God. God says I love you, but somewhere secret I wonder first, am I worthy of that kind of supernatural love. Second, if I dare to trust my body, my mind and my soul, my today and my tomorrow to God, will God’s love be enough…?
God says, “No one has greater love than this.” My soul knows this to be true. It’s my imperfect humanity that keeps me on this cycle of falling in and out of love with the leader of the heavens and the earth. I really don’t like the feeling of an aimless soul, or worse a complacent one. And there is nothing worse than feeling that you are facing the world alone.
The good news: God never fell out of love with me or you!
Falling in love again with God is much easier than falling in love with a partner, of the human kind. There are no hard feelings, resentments of where I have been or what I have done or left undone. All God desires is an open heart and a willingness, even excitement, to see where this Love will take us. God’s relationship with our soul is an “in the moment” affair. I’ll be the first to say I feel sheepish when I take that daring first step and reach back out to God, especially when there has been great distance and time between us. It takes great courage to fall in love. It requires us to let our guard down so that another can really know us, every little flaw, hope and intimacy.
Over the least few weeks, I have been reading the gospel of Mark and I have found it especially reassuring to witness the disciples falling in and out of love with God just like me. They too struggled to trust that God’s love was all and enough. My daily mantra this Lent is to be open to wherever the “Big Love” of God leads me.
I am trying to start each day with two questions for God: “Have I told You I love you today? Have I shown You that I love you today?”
It feels good to be courting God again. Nothing compares to the peace, the safety and the feeling that anything is possible for my life when back in the arms of the Beloved.
Live in Hope,