Another great day with Fr. Ramon. Due to the typhoon (Typhoon Nock-ten — awesome name!), he offered to pick me up in town. Cool. He also bought me lunch at Subway (at a secret location, known only through private personal transmission; I am now among the Knowing). Cool. Then we chatted in his office for about 40 minutes before my Bible study. I learned three things (I get to keep the details):
1) Knowing that I failed my homework for last week (to experience God’s love like a baby), I have (been) recommitted to accepting God’s love apart from all self-legitimizing, self-respecting efforts to please Him. I have been reassigned to know, as the pulse and fiber of all reality, that love of God, particularly in its feminine and Marian dimensions.
2) I’m not very good, to say the least, at accepting anyone’s love and I am skeptical of happiness. I have for too long relied on “growing up” and being stable, when in fact I must “growing down” into the Kingdom. My “religiosity” must become authentically Christian, which is to say it must cease being performance-based and instead become love-based. Such is the life of children, where love abounds in scandalous disproportion to performance. Another part of being a child (again) means accepting happiness, rather than merely abiding it.
3) I know again, in the living tissue of my soul, that GOD LOVES ME! That may sound trite or triumphalistic or emotional or whatever. But for once, I don’t rally care how it “strikes the reader.” I haven’t felt the peace and sheer — how to say? — solid freshness of knowing I am loved. I am loved. I am loved from all time. I am loved despite my sins and even without my “best efforts.” I am God’s beloved.
I think Elliam Fakespeare said it best when he wrote, “To know God is to know you are loved.” Well, praise Him, I know God again. I am loved! I say that as openly and repeatedly as I have because it hit me tonight that such confidence is a rare gem in this world. Who, first of all, can confidently say she is truly loved? Can you — yes, you — say that without hesitation? Second, and more importantly, who can say with equal confidence that she is LOVED BY GOD HIMSELF. Can you say that? The center and author of all life Himself has directed his boundless love AT ME. That’s no small thing and it’s worth repeating.
It was with this unshaking sense of peace in my heart that I led my three faithful Bible study members to consider the fact that when Jesus calls us — and He is always calling all of us — He is calling us TO GOD’S LOVE. My students wanted to settle for a nice house, a happy garden, a calm mind, and the like. But Christ, God in Christ, calls us far higher, and thus along a more perilous path, TO HIS LOVE.
At that point, one of the students looked me straight in the eye. She was obviously pondering something immense. She asked me, very slowly, gravely, “Give… me a reason… to faith him.” My heart had begun racing faster and faster with every word. Give me a reason to trust Jesus. Wow. That’s what being a missionary is all about, to cross cultural and personal barriers in order to translate my reasons for hope into another person’s life. Go time.
Shedding as much theo-philosophical pretense as I could, I told her my three reasons for trusting Jesus. First, because I hear and respect the truth He speaks. Second, because I have sensed His personal loving comfort for me, both in prayer and in the fellowship of other Christians. Third, because of His Resurrection, Jesus is the only person I trust to guide to death — and beyond. It was a powerful time and I knew I really was making a difference for God, even if in only three young(er) lives. The Faith makes sense, I’m increasingly convinced, only in a mission setting. I thank God from the bottom of my heart that I can learn that truth in person.
Good night. I need my rest. I deserve my rest. I’m a man in love.
Although I didn’t address this idea in the study, I will do so here: personhood is an essentially loving condition, or mode, and the world is an essentially personal state of affairs. The key to every moment, and in fact every larger trend, is the culmination in knowing we are loved. God embraced the world in Christ and faith embraces Christ in the Spirit. Christ is the knitting needle that plunged the fabric of divinity into, and not merely atop, the mesh of the world. He plunged into the full range and depth of humanity — birth to death — and remerges to pull the whole mesh BACK UP to God.