I'm trying to live out of love these days - and using a definition that has come from a friend of mine, Rebecca Adams. To love means that I desire the fullness of myself and those around me. This ties into a teleological view of life - I was created to become something, and so were you, and so were we. It also ties into a belief that deep down inside each of us are desires that are the key to fulfilling our life's callings. Martha Beck calls the locus of these desires "our essential self" and encourages us to be aware of this self when seeking discernment on living our life.
I can't live this way without another belief - which is, there is a good which is good for all of us, and if I wait and imagine and creatively engage my thoughts and the thoughts of others, this good will become apparent. Last summer I found myself asking the question "What wants to happen?" And a related question "Where are the energies leading me?" I trusted that if I wanted to do something (in this case, take a vacation to New England) that it would be good for my family. If it wasn't good for my family, the desire would dissipate and another option would open up.
A therapist I've met mentioned last week that there is a discomfort when you are waiting for resolution, sitting in the unknowing, unable even to imagine a solution. The discomfort that comes when multiple voices seem to be in conflict. To wait in the discomfort requires faith - faith that good is there to be found, and that you will be able to recognize it when it arrives. Faith that, if you wait, a new path will open.
So to love means that I live out of the hope that the person I was created to be is possible. I choose to believe that what is good for me is good for those around me, and vice versa. And I am willing to wait - even in the discomfort of the process.
This has been a challenging week. In seeking to discern the Spirit's guidance, the Lord has led through a definite lack of peace, stomach in knots, feelings of unease, which have made me stop and think - what's going on? What should I do next? Did I do something wrong or is it just that I need to pay attention? Now that things are finally calming down, I find myself asking - can the Lord get my attention through a little flashing red light next go around, and not my gut?
Making a decision in the midst of unease is difficult, believing that you can sort through it and get to a sense of peace seemed ridiculous at times, but it happened for the most part. Except for the period of a few days where I was asked to be uncomfortable. Lack of comfort is different than lack of peace. There are many reasons to be uncomfortable, a new situation, a new setting, lack of understanding, being stretched. Waiting for something to be clarified that is out of your control.
Lately I've been telling a friend, discomfort does not mean there is something wrong, it just means you feel uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to sit in it, give yourself permission to grow and learn. Eventually peace will enter, if you wait with expectation and openness.
Being faithful is at the core of following Christ. Not only belief, but action based on that belief. At times it is easy to be faithful, at times it feels like you're clinging to God for dear life. Last night I felt like I was clinging...
In the past, I have tried to exercise faith based on outcomes that I believed God was going to do. I'm not a "name it and claim it" girl in theology, but it had seeped into my prayer life nonetheless. I've learned over the years, that faithfulness is only properly placed in the character of God. You may discern what you think is the best for yourself or others, you may see pieces of a puzzle that look tantalizingly complete. But only God has the big picture. And even if the hoped for outcome was indeed a good and godly one, if it does not come to past, I can count on God to be faithful to Himself, to grant grace, extend forgiveness and work redemptively in the situation. His timetable is eternity, His creative power is unlimited, His grace is without bounds. He is faithful to Himself and I can rest in that.
Lately, I've been praying for the fruit of the Spirit in my life: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Self-Control. In the past I've thought of these characteristics as important in my struggle against a "sinful" world - traits of opposition against negative forces.
But, if they are truly characteristics of the Spirit of God, then they have been true of God from before the creation of the world - They are not in response to sin, but part of God's essence - what makes God glorious. I like where this takes me...
At the middle of the labyrinth, God and I had a conversation. It went something like this:
I love you, God.
But I don't always feel it, or feel like I'm really enacting that love.
Remember my conversation with Peter?
In case I needed prompting, Sunday's scripture reading took us to the breakfast by the sea and the very conversation that had come to mind in the labyrinth. In Peter's case, he was walking the long path uphill toward redemption and reconciliation with his Master and Lord. Jesus initiates the conversation of restoration. Peter, do you love me? Do you love me more than fishing? Do you really love me?
And when Peter, wanting so desperately to believe himself, and to have Jesus believe as well, answers "yes" and "yes" and "yes!"
Jesus responds: "Feed my sheep".
How do I prove to myself that I love God?
John says, "Dear children, do not love in words or tongue, but in actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenver our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." 1 John 3:18-20
I'm reminded that I don't have to "feel" that I love God to be loving God. I love God by bringing nurture and nourishment to those around me.