TODAY ENDS a very tumultuous forty days of exploration for me. During this period of Lent, I have been engaged in an experiment which replaced the word Love for the word God in my everyday thoughts, prayers, and contemplations.
The experiment began because of my interest in what is going on when we utter the term, God. For some time now, I have been deeply interested in what the referent for the word God is for different groups of people as a whole and specifically for groups of people who call themselves Christians.
What does the word God mean to them? What does it mean to me?
As I have previously written, my upbringing lead me to understand the term God as a literal *being* who is the best possible everything—the greatest conceivable being. We were very concerned with what NOT to do in our lives when I was growing up. That certainly does not discount the many wonderful things our community did and what that community continues to do.
I just remember being confused about what it meant when we said we “loved Jesus.” I remember feeling like I didn’t know who we were praying to, and wondering if smoking that cigarette or dancing in public was really going to count that many points against me on the cosmic abacus.
This Lenten journey I’ve been on has taken me up, down, and backward on a kind of rollercoaster I’m not sure I would have gotten on if it had been up to me. What I mean to say is, I don’t know if I would have chosen all of the things that have come my way, especially lately. At the same time, I fully realize I wouldn’t be in this present moment without them; and where else am I but right here, right now?
In my experiment where I substituted the word Love for the word God, I noticed a few things. One thing I noticed was when I was thinking about Love in even the most generic way, I could almost immediately see it in others—mothers interacting with their children, friends doing loving things for one another, drivers letting other drivers go in front of them during heavy traffic, stories of lovingkindness became the kind of story I decided to click on instead of hateful nonsense. This wasn’t true 100% of the time, to be sure, but I was noticing; I was present to these Love-filled moments.
A dear, dear friend of mine died in a split second on Wednesday, and I was so terribly sad. Loved showed me I didn’t have to try to say the right words to a *being* out there, living somewhere I couldn’t get to.
Love showed me it was okay to grieve, and that I could never even possibly be away from Love’s embrace. So many people showed such brilliant outpourings of Love, remembrance, and comfort.
Love proved to me we cannot even begin to realize the kind of influence our lives have on other people. There is no possible way my friend Erick could have known how many people loved him and how his life had made such a huge impact on so many. I believe he knows now.
Resting in Love itself, I believe he now knows fully what Love truly is.
My experiment also taught me we don’t truly believe in God. If we did, all we’d be doing all the time would be loving one another. To be true followers of God, we would do as Jesus instructed. If Jesus was God, then it was God who told us that the way others would know we were followers of God/Jesus/Love would be if we loved one another. I’m not making that up.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Imagine if we actually took that seriously? It’s hard as hell, I know; but can you imagine? It seems impossible to me sometimes, but taking Love seriously is what I have continued to come back to time and time again.
After all of the intellectual philosophy, after all of the theology, after all of the atheism and the throwing away of having to “get it right,” and after all of the trying to name the un-nameable, Love is the only thing that remains.
God is Love. Love is God.
One might argue, “Aren’t you just using the word *Love* to name God?”
I don’t think so. Can you explain Love? Can you predict where you will encounter it or what amazing things can occur in our lives when we become present to it? Have you ever thought you knew what Love is only to be blown away by a moment of realization that you never actually will?
When my daughter, Mikaela, was born I had never before experienced the kind of love I have for her. It was so different and new and remains that way to this day. I was sure nothing would be able to surpass that kind of love. I was too afraid to have another child—I didn’t think my heart could possibly contain anymore.
Then, four years and two weeks later my son, Connor, was born. Remember how the Grinch’s heart grew three times its size when he encountered Love? When the nurse first put him in my arms, I felt my heart grow and grow and grow. Love was not finished with me. Love had so much more to show me. Love is what we live for. Love is what keeps us alive, and we may not even know it.
When I say we don’t believe in God, I don’t mean *believe* in the sense that we affirm something to be factual; that God *exists*, for example. I mean believe in the way someone who loves you “believes in you.” As Rob Schneider would say, in virtually every Adam Sandler film, “You can do it!” You know, that kind of thing.
Do I believe in God?
Honestly, I’m not interested in that. Maybe I just don’t think it’s a very good question, anymore. Maybe there’s a better question—one worth asking over and over and over again:
Do I believe in Love?
I do believe in Love. Oh yes, my friends, I do! I’ve seen what Love can do, and I am here for all of it. Love restores; Love transforms; Love saves; Love never gives up and, most important of all, Love never dies.
I have only very recently realized that though I have been seeking God my whole life, what I have really been after is to know Love more fully, more clearly, more deeply.
Happy Easter to you all!
Love has become known to all Humanity, and even when we die, we continue to exist as a part of this world through the gift of grace, which allows us to remain in the very presence of Love itself.
Love is always calling us, sometimes gently, sometimes with great heaviness, to become present to how we are filled up with and surrounded on all sides by Love, every single moment of every single day of our lives. Our humanness makes us question and wonder if Love is real or a lie, but Love is the only light that illuminates Truth in what can sometimes be seen as a very dark world.
To believe in Love is to seek after it, being certain you will know it when you encounter it. Love is always right where you thought it might be, right where you expected to find it. You might doubt sometimes, and why not?
We’re only human.
Love is always there. Love never leaves. It can’t leave. Love is the very stuff we’re made of, and Love exists so that we might live.
I pray you will find Love. It is always right here, in plain sight. You’ll know when you’ve found it because you will instantly want to start giving it away, only to find the more you give away, the more you get!
Love is in every beautiful melody you hear, in every encounter with the poor, in every conversation with a friend, in every embrace, in every communication, in everything you can possibly think of and especially in everything you can’t.
Do we believe in Love enough to let Love fully reign over us, around us, and through us?
To quote the cast, as they sing to my stick-in-the-mud Harvard admissions director:
“Yes, we believe in love, how ‘bout you?”
Well, just like my Legally Blonde alter ego answers so shall I:
“Welcome to Harvard!”
Peace to you!
3 thoughts on “A Journey Through Lent with Love”
What would you say is the ultimate purpose of your life?
Hi Rob! Thanks for reading! I hope all is well with you. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the “ultimate purpose” of my life. If you mean to love others and learn to let them love me because in doing that, we become more present to Love itself–which is God? Then, yes; I do think that is the ultimate purpose of my life. I want to be where Love is, and I want that for every human being on the planet, whatever that looks like for them.
I think that you answered quite well. As a Believer in Christ I would say that my ultimate purpose would be to love God ( Hear oh Israel…Mark 12:29-31), and to love others as one’s self. You might simply this is love God, love others. In this we can derive those things which we ought do. I would argue that due to the idol factory that is the human mind or heart- that we are incapable of doing this devoid of divine grace or interference. Love makes it possible for us to love.