Last week Margaret Smart-Wheaton wrote a very heart-warming goodbye article as she prepared to leave her ministry at the First Baptist church and move to Stratford and begin a new life. I will miss the wisdom of her writing. She spoke of the faith that we need when facing the unknown. It is always difficult when we face a major change in our lives, such as a change of job or a move to a new community. Yet, even without such a dramatic change, we all face the unknown every day of our lives. One day our life may be coasting along smoothly and the next day we may be hit with a big or little change. Nothing stays the same for very long.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what quality of faith helps us the most to navigate these constant changes in our lives? For me, the answer lies in trusting that God loves us with an unlimited, unconditional Love. Love is something that everyone agrees is important. All of us love someone or something – our parents, our partner, our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our plants or our pets. Our first lesson in love comes from our parents. Most of us didn’t have perfect childhood experiences of love but we still believe in it. The kind of love we have for our family and friends is an important base from which to build but it is drawn from a much larger and deeper reservoir – that of Divine love.
I confess my total inadequacy in speaking of this love which I can only see “in a mirror dimly”. (I Corinthians 13:12) We can ask to draw on this constant supply of divine mercy when we are in a dark place but it is not simply a one way street – we are also invited to participate in it for the benefit of the world. Jesus and other prophets invite us to love our neighbour or even our enemies the way God loves us. This is incredibly difficult for us to do. We are much more likely to judge our enemy and to project our own darkness on him or her. We have all heard many times about the Golden Rule and that God is love. As a minister, I have preached this many times and yet I struggle with the uncomfortable feeling that for many years it has remained an intellectual concept rather than a heart-felt experience. I am only starting now to really get what a radical and profound love this is. It is totally different from most human love in that God’s love is always there for us, no matter what we do or how far we separate ourselves from it. Foolish as this sounds, I would even go as far as to say that God is madly in love with us. I feel the truth of this more fervently now than I ever have. I believe that God sees us differently than others see us or even than we see ourselves. God sees us for who we truly are in all our amazing magnificence, even when our surface self may look very flawed and imperfect.
This God also invites us to love in the same way. First we need to start with loving ourselves – some of us have trouble with that. Next, it means loving all of the people we meet, even those who drive us up the wall. It also means loving and respecting all the non-humans aspects of our world – the sky, water, trees, flowers, animals and insects. It is a love based on intimate connection and seeing the world with the eyes of love as God sees it. If we truly saw ourselves as connected to all that is, rather than separate from it, there would be no need of wars, poverty, cruelty or destruction of our natural habitat.
When we are facing an unknown situation or threat, we are more vulnerable and are more apt to be aware of this Loving Presence, which (let’s be honest) we often take for granted or ignore during the good times. If we knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that no matter what is happening, we are loved totally, then I believe that would make all the difference.
May we walk in Love with God and all of creation!