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.