This column we call Ripples presents a wonderful opportunity. The task is, “Write about anything that is on your heart.” That is a pretty wide invitation. However, it can actually take a while to summon a topic because our lives go so quickly, from day to day, week to week, month to month and what is on my heart changes rapidly. Some things do, however, remain the same. Today, and most days, what is on my heart is Love.
The contemplative theologian Richard Rohr writes,
“All we have to do is receive God’s gaze of love and then return what we have received….This is our spiritual agenda for our whole life: “love returning love” as my father St. Francis put it.
The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved.
To love God is to love what God loves. To love God means to love everything . . . no exceptions.”
I noticed where love resides in my own life during this past week. Where did love receive love? Where was the fire of the Holy Spirit kindled in my heart? I found it to be in ample supply. For example, when our staff headed up to Rivendell retreat centre to be led by Tim Scorer last week, I found love receiving love when we gathered in the small, intimate chapel and held one another’s laments for our bruised and battered earth and for people and animals who are suffering. Deep love was received. In our prayers and through our tears, God’s gaze was held and returned.
On Wednesday, my best friend was admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery. It was a very serious, life-threatening event which brought me face to face with the reality of how deeply I love my best friend. We have been close friends since we met at the age of seventeen. She lives in the States and so all I could do was send her my love, God’s love, and sing to her from far away, “I am sending you light, to hold you. to heal you, … to hold you in love.” I trusted that my love, intertwined, supported and infused with God’s love, would suffice as what I had to offer my friend. When she was in surgery and I was praying for her and loving her from afar, I believed that God’s gaze was on her and deep love was received by her. She is recovering now. The space in my heart where she lives is very apparent.
Our lovely and talented STAW member Bob Collins came to play guitar and sing to the Breaking Bread group this past Friday, November 9. He played familiar tunes, touching ballads and even snuck in some Elvis! At one point he sang, Que Sera Sera and I surveyed the room to see beautiful, engaged, smiling faces, voices singing along, and hands clapping. Maggie McGee and I danced! Love received love. A spark was ignited. God’s gaze of love was received and our singing, clapping, and dancing was how we returned that love.
The beautiful thing about seeking God’s love is that once you begin to look–it is everywhere. It is in a comforting embrace to one who is broken-hearted; in a song drawing our attention to Beauty; in an animal’s eyes; in a hospital bedside silence…the list never is complete.
“All we have to do is receive God’s gaze of love and then return what we have received.”
Where did you receive God’s gaze of love recently? How did you return what you have received? It may be hard at times to notice God’s love consistently in our lives. We might be distracted or disturbed by life’s challenges. However, once your heart’s compass lands on receiving and giving God’s loving gaze, it may indeed cause you to gasp.
“You were within, but I was without. You were with me, but I was not with you. So you called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flared, you blazed, and banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance, and I gasped.” Augustine