Wrapped in the love of God

For the last several years, the concept of “feeling God’s love for you” has been swirling around my life and times.

First, it was because I was reading Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved in my small faith group. Some of my friends were wrestling with feelings of unworthiness. I could not identify with this. Certainly I have had moments—plenty of them—in which I am deeply aware of my failures. But to have a global sense of unworthiness is one cross I have not been asked to bear. (Yet, at least.)

At the same time, I didn’t feel “beloved,” either. Or IN love, for that matter, as so many people like to say. I have, in my lifetime, oscillated between jealousy of such a feeling and a jaded suspicion that such things are more for show than reality.

After Nouwen, I started doing contemplative/centering prayer, and Fr. Richard Rohr, as well as William Meninger, talk again and again about how it’s in the dark emptiness of centering prayer that you encounter and experience the love of God.

Well, I experience God’s presence, but I don’t feel anything that feels like love.

This theme keeps popping up, because I have an ongoing connection with the Center for Action & Contemplation, and every time it does, a little cognitive/spiritual dissonance comes up. Not troubling, exactly—just puzzling. Puzzle is a good word. It’s like a liturgical song text, when I’m working on it. I work on it for a while and then I have to walk away for a while, because I need some distance. And every so often I return to it to see if a fresh perspective has emerged.

Friday morning, I believe it might have done just that. I think.

I was out on one of my rambles, and I landed on an abandoned concrete bridge over a creek—one of my favorite spots to sit and be still, and sometimes to work. This particular morning it was a song text, in fact—one for Advent. I was scribbling in the dappled shade and I glanced up, and my whole consciousness lit up, because the transition between near-illegible scratches on a page and the sheer, heart-stopping beauty before me was so striking.

I set my pen down and said, “Thank you, God. This is You I’m seeing here. This is your gift to me.”

And this quiet thought whispered: This is how God loves me. This is what it feels like to be loved by God.

It doesn’t look or feel like what I assumed it would look or feel like, but it’s 100% me, and maybe that’s the point.

When your mind gets blown open, it can be hard to put into words

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I have had my mind blown in the past few months by a podcast from the Center for Action and Contemplation. I’m not normally a podcast person, but the premise was so compelling, I had to make time for it. It’s called “Learning How To See.”

Ever since I listened to episode 1— “Why can’t we see?”—I have been wanting to blog about it. But I haven’t known what to say. Why summarize it when I’d rather you listen for yourselves? In fact, everyone in the world needs to listen to it, because it’s about all of us.
It boils down to this: a Protestant minister who is involved in the interfaith contemplative prayer movement did a deep dive into research on psychology (and maybe sociology?), because he couldn’t understand what has happened in the U. S. in the last few years.

What he found is that there are thirteen universal biases that constitute the “planks” in our own eyes that prevent us from seeing the world as it really is. Biases that cause us to cling blindly to our own view of the world, and to find another’s experience and perspective threatening.

He called in Fr. Richard Rohr as one of his companions on the first season. That’s how I encountered it—because one of my choir members loaned me Rohr’s book Just This, and I was so overwhelmed by it, I signed up for his newsletter, which led me to the podcast.

As longtime readers know, I underwent a really profound shift in world view between 2007 and, say, 2014. Most of what baffles and enrages me now is particularly “angrifying” because it’s where I came from. It’s where I used to be, not so long ago.

Listening to this podcast–with people sharing their own spiritual face plants frankly–with its prayers for openness and eyes to see as God sees, rather than as my biases would have me see—it’s like hearing my own story told through brand new stories.

It prepared me for the rude awakening that has surrounded my daughter’s celiac diagnosis. The one that showed that despite all my spiritual growth, I have plenty of blinders left.

It caused me to ask what blinders I put on to replace the ones I left behind.

I’m not sure where I’m going to go with this. I might do my own reflections on each of these biases. Maybe. But for now, I just want everyone to go listen. It’s so, so worth it.