So far in these editorials on Love,
I have yet to really survey the Love of Christ.
Perhaps as a theologian, this seems overwhelming actually--
because I find it requires a sense of deep sensitivity and
detangling of threads and associations that don't belong,
a teasing and parsing out of what does,
and a deep grace and humility to say that
perhaps I am not the one to really be writing about this,
especially in a brief editorial!
Then again, as a lover of Christ, I know it is simple:
Love comes in many forms and perhaps the all-encompassing one
is the one he fully embodied and lived out from
because it filled all of his existence (reflecting his Divinity):
Agape love, or in other words,
the largest, most comforting Compassion
one can imagine.
I've learned that compassion follows on the heels
of deep understanding of one's own story
and this enables deep perspective of oneself, others, and I would argue, the world.
Sometimes, I can't help but wonder about
the perspective behind the heart of Jesus.
Perhaps as an adult who is recovering her child-likeness,
I can share what my experience of this journey has been like so far,
set in a more or less abbreviated, narrative context.
The more I learn about my own journey, the more my judgment of myself and others loosens and slowly turns into compassion. Over the years, first beginning 11 years ago when I made the move to Vancouver to start a master’s program in theology and culture, and continuing through today, I have had the rich gift of a journey of healing. I never knew I had so much to heal from! But seeking to live life in Christ has gently and slowly revealed my wounds. It has led me into a deeper sense of personal integration than I had previously known or experienced. What I have found in the process is that it is a journey full of ironies—joy coincides with pain, compassion with hurt, serenity is found in the face of adversity and anxiety, and relinquishment in the face of control—and that the God found within the Hebrew and New Testament Bibles is a big god that chooses to manifest himself to the most unlikely people of all: ragamuffins who desire personal change so they can receive love (that is, so they can actually believe they are loved) and act out from a different orientation inside themselves. All that is required is openness.
I have also been learning that this relationship with this big god involves my own participation in a way that transcends anything like the evangelical Christianity I grew up with, first as a child and on through high school and even undergraduate college (I went to a university where many evangelical pastors are trained!). The God of Love beckons, calls, and passionately invites me to disarm and unclothe myself, shedding the coping mechanisms I have so lavishly built up and that usually reveal themselves in blame, anger, or resentment to name a few. Sadly, they have the power to undermine my intentions or to brashly shout out observations that I need instead to recognize, love, and let go of. This ‘worldview’ of shedding coping mechanisms through healing in Christ is the only story I have encountered that envelops and captures the deep realities and resonances of truths I have experienced in my life so far.
I find that Christ helps me to detach but not to disengage and to individuate but not abandon. I am learning about how in surrendering and dwelling deeply with this Suffering Servant--the Christ that knows what it is like to be deeply misunderstood and judged even to his death!--there is, ironically, amazing empowerment and perspective. I find in this paradoxical moment only the purest opportunity to love, even for the most fleeting of seconds. As if a reality has truly opened. I have come to realize the power and health in choice--perhaps why God allows us to choose. He never forces, never manipulates, never coerces, never pressures, always waits, accepts, hears, and is present. Perhaps that is why the scriptures say he is Love. Jesus, more than anyone else, has helped me to see that a deep relinquishment of my life into his, is the only way to then actually individuate, detach, and love fiercely and compassionately, even if it comes across as an upside down perspective to another. In other words, it is not just about awareness, this kind of path is about radical transformation and radical hospitality--whether one is in your home or in your heart.
I am learning about how the beginnings of this transformative journey are not a transactional event per se but this journey is one that I must choose daily so that I have the opportunity to flourish and grow more fully into who Love sees me as. I think there is a reason why Jesus says in the Gospel of John--Remain in me and I will remain in you.
This choice only comes out from experiencing and seeing my emptiness and experiencing and receiving the warm, embracing Love of Christ. These are not abstract words but words very much arising from embodied experiences of this relationship. While this journey began as a child and continued on through high school and even college, and more so 11 years ago, in recent years it seems to have accelerated. Through God’s Primal and Living Breath, the Holy Spirit, I breathe, I wake up (sometimes slowly, sometimes ever so slowly) and, on good days, I remember the memory of all of this.
For the curious, open, and willing person, begin to pray, ‘God of Love, grant me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand,’ and be prepared to venture into The Land Where Great Ironies exist.