Icon of Jesus Dying on the Cross by Aleksander Kharon

Icon of Jesus Dying on the Cross by Aleksander Kharon

May all that is You flow into me.

My Central Lenten Question

“Can you, will you, allow yourself to believe in the depths of God’s love? Will you allow yourself to be won over by Divine Love, so that in return, your life may be more like his, emptied of self, poured out, given over, as love at the heart of a world in need?”

I am not sure who to attribute this question to. I found it in my journal just now as I was flipping through to find the first blank page on which to write. It is dated February 25th. As I look over it, I see that my journal is spattered with my desire to believe with my whole heart…to know the truth. I have reflected over this scripture for days and days…Jesus telling the apostles at the Last Supper, “if you knew the truth…”

What is this truth? I used to think it was doctrinal, the rote answer that we were taught as children—that Jesus is the Son of God—that Jesus died for our sins. But this week I heard something very different and now it is illumined in my own writings.

The truth is that God is merciful, loving and generous beyond all measure. The truth is as the French mystic writes: God looks upon me…and smiles.

If I knew this truth to my core, I would believe all things. I would trust life. I would accept, receive, allow, welcome all things. I would stop resistance and drop all those stones I carry around with me.

Rather than drowning in the list of things I am not and do not, I want to set sail with those whose faith is stronger than mine. I want to be counted with those who can say with conviction, “We have come to know and to believe in the Love God has for us.” (1 John 4:16)

The crazy thing is that I believe it for each of you. I believe it with every fiber of my being…that God looks at each one of you and smiles…is delighted by every last hair on your head, by every single move you make. I can see as clearly as I see this computer screen how God, unable to contain her love scoops you up and draws you to her breast.

Ever so tentatively, I imagine myself in that scene too. I make myself sit there and watch you being scooped up…and wait my turn.

This Lent I Hide

It is nearly the third week of Lent and once again I find myself filled with the resistance of a petulant child or like my dog who turns his back, refusing to see what he doesn’t want to see. I have such a resistance to spiritual discipline. I quit my centering prayer practice after three months. I forget to pray the examen often. I don’t journal regularly. I’ll easily skip my yoga class. I quit the Nineteenth Annotation (St. Ignatius’ rigorous spiritual journey of reflecting on the life of Jesus) after a month. I eat meat on Friday. I skip Mass. Resistance, resistance, resistance.

I hear the words: “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” And at the same time, God’s question in Genesis, “Where are you?” The answer is that like Adam and Eve, I am hiding. I am hiding from God’s gaze, generosity and radical acceptance. I don’t think I can bear it. I don’t think I can hold it. If I stare, like Moses, at the burning bush, will I smolder? If I submit myself to the necessary smoldering, how much will it hurt? How much of me will be left?

And so I hide. I hide behind my story, my sadness, my fear, my belief that I am never, ever enough—my functional atheism, not trusting in God’s abiding goodness.

The one thing I continue to do, pretty much on a daily basis, is read. I guess I can control that. This reading feels safer than being completely naked before God. I read the daily scripture. I read spiritual books and poetry. I seem to need to borrow other people’s words, to climb upon their shoulders to catch a glimpse of the Divine. In these texts I find a way to access Truth. Sometimes the words are empty and stale. But sometimes, sometimes the words resonate deep within. Sometimes leading to moments of silence. Sometimes prompting me to write. Sometimes to explore art. Is God finding a way through despite my best resistance?

I do recognize that underneath my resistance there is a profound longing, such a deep, deep longing. This longing seeps out. It brings me to tears. It makes itself known in my dreams. The longing brings me back over and over throughout the days, months and years to seeking. I seek the missing pieces, the rest of my story, the unfinished me, the ultimate resting place for my heart. I am not sure but I would like to believe that God peers behind the bushes…that God seeks me more and comes to meet my longing.