Keep Yourself in the Love of God
Discover Hope partners with other organizations that are committed to offering spiritual care. This month, we welcome Dr. Ted Wueste to our Reflection page. He is the founder and director of the Spiritual Formation Society of Arizona (SFSAZ), a local organization that is all about providing gatherings and experiences that encourage a deepening relationship with God, who calls us the Beloved. We're sure you'll want to read Ted's reflection through a few times to glean the beautiful truths. You can also check out what the SFSAZ is all about at www.sfsaz.org.
We are immersed in an intense, abiding, miraculous, powerful love story. Let that sink in for a moment. In a world where there is heartbreak and disappointment around every corner, isn’t that all we want to know? That there is someone there, loving us, waiting with us, companioning us without needing anything in return. We don’t necessarily need someone to fix our brokenness or give us advice. We need someone to be with us, to assure us when everything is not ok, to (in a simple but often misunderstood word) love us.
One writer put it this way: “John of the Cross says that God is the first contemplative. God’s gaze on us makes us irresistibly attractive to him. So it is not we who first loved God, but God who first loved us. We wake up in the middle of a love story. We did not begin it.” (John Welch)
Yes! We are in the middle of a great love story, but like the air we breathe in which we are usually unaware of the gift of oxygen filling our lungs and fueling our next steps forward, we frequently live unaware of this love story.
The greatest, deepest, most true reality in this world is that we are passionately loved and pursued by God. It is a life altering truth when we are able to take it in and consciously live in the midst of that story. All the storms of life, without denying them, pale in comparison to the reality that we are loved, valued, pursued by one who can love like no other. The God of this universe is crazy about me and He doesn’t stop in His pursuit of me.
The challenge is one of awareness. How much of the time am I living with my heart fixed on this love story? How much of my day do I put the events of my life in the context of the plot of this story?
In the first century, one of the writers of Scripture, Jude, challenged the first followers of Jesus to “keep themselves in the love of God.” (Jude 21) He wrote those words in the midst of a world where “there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 18-19)
There will be those who tell very different stories than the good story in which you are actually immersed. These stories center around competition and comparison, division and deception, selfishness and self-protectiveness. All stories which keep us looking at the circumstances of our lives and wondering why we don’t have enough, but of a God of love reminds us that we have all that we need and there is nothing that can take that away.
Over the last two and half years of my life, I’ve walked through circumstances that could make anyone question what story is being told. After battling two kinds of cancer, several surgeries, 6 different rounds of chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, months of hospitalization which included a stay in ICU for heart failure, pneumonia from Legionnaire’s Disease, Graft vs. Host Disease from the transplant, and more (but you get the point), I realize that I had been seeing all these things in the context of a great love story.
By God’s mercy and grace, He gave me the sense that all of what I was experiencing was a part of this love story, the reality that He is drawing me closer to Himself. The great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen talks about putting our brokenness under the blessing. When we are living with the awareness that we are God’s beloved, it changes everything:
“For me, this ‘putting of our brokenness under the blessing’ is a precondition for befriending it. Our brokenness is often so frightening to face because we live it under the curse. Living our brokenness under the curse means that we experience our pain as a confirmation of our negative feelings about ourselves … there is always something searching for an explanation of what takes place in our lives and, if we have already yielding to the temptation to self-rejection, then every form of misfortune only deepens it.”
“The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing. This is not as easy as it sounds. The powers of darkness around us are strong, and our world finds it easier to manipulate self-rejecting people than self-accepting people. But when we keep listening attentively to the voice calling us Beloved, it becomes possible to live our brokenness, not as a confirmation of our fear that we are worthless, but as an opportunity to purify and deepen the blessing that rests upon us.”
“And so the great task becomes that of allowing the blessing to touch us in our brokenness. Then our brokenness will gradually come to be seen as an opening toward the full acceptance of ourselves as the Beloved. This explains why true joy can be experienced in the midst of great suffering. It is the joy of being disciplined, purified, and pruned. Just as athletes who experience great pain as they run the race, can at the same time, taste the joy of knowing that they are coming closer to their goal, so also can the Beloved experience suffering as a way to the deeper communion for which they yearn. Here joy and sorrow are no longer each other’s opposites, but have become two sides of the same desire to grow to the fullness of the Beloved.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved)
So, in the words of Jude, “keep yourself in the love of God.” Reject all the other stories that tell you that your life is cursed or that things aren’t fair or that you aren’t enough. Keep yourself in the love of God as you choose daily to remind yourself that there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. (Romans 8:37-39) In reality, every circumstance of life is place in which we can experience His love in ever deepening ways.
Are you looking for this great love story? Are you noticing the ways the plot is being developed in your life? Keep yourself in the love of God!