The servant of the Lord said: The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
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My Lent so far this year has been characterized by a deepening in my understanding of the nature of God’s love. Morning by morning, He has wakened my ear, and I have been trying to listen as one who is taught, to learn the profound difference between God’s love and the love we exchange as human beings.
So often, I know not what I do. I react with behaviour that is found at the end of well-travelled pathways of emotion based on my limited, human experience of love. Even though it may only be in small ways, I’m rebellious and I turn backward from Him, all the time. The tremendous spiritual work involved in truly embracing His love for me as His daughter is daunting, but I am grateful for my Christian community for keeping me accountable and helping me along the way.
In his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, Henri Nouwen discusses how Jesus lives out of His true identity as Son of the Father. About Jesus, he writes: “He gives everything, and receives everything.” When we give everything, including our pride and self-focus, we become exposed and vulnerable to insult and spitting. For me, the hardest part of giving everything is giving away my fear — I need to come out of hiding, first in His presence, and then as my trust in Him grows, I emerge more fully as myself in the presence of others. God’s love is truly so much better than anything else; and when I both rest in it and live from it, I really have no reason to be afraid.
During our recent parish mission with Fr. Mathias Thelen, I sat in prayer, asking God the question “How are You loving me right now?”. What came to me first was the ocean; the depth, breadth, and awesome strength of the ocean. Interestingly, what followed soon after was a delicate, intricate, beautiful butterfly, light and fluttery and gentle — this image has returned to me as I write and reflect on emerging more fully as my true self from a cocoon of fear and pride.
As the season of Lent draws to a close, and even if our experience of Lenten sacrifice does not soon end, may we consider more fully the nature of God’s love and what it means for our lives. After all, if not from a Love beyond our comprehension, then from where else comes Jesus’ ability to give His back to those who struck Him?
Let us pray: Lord, may we grow in our ability to face whatever threatens our earthly lives by more fully understanding Your Love for us. Amen.