The not-will of God can be a hard reality to accept, even harder to live out; yet ultimately, the fact that God’s will is beyond our individual preferences or desires is a good thing. God’s vision for our lives is not based on our prowess or ability.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but frankly, I don’t want to. My enemy is my enemy for a reason. Either the individual has hurt me in some way, insulted me and put me down, or they represent a course of action to which I am diametrically opposed. I don’t want to love my enemy; I want to put them in their place. I want to ridicule them and reject them. I want them to experience the hurt and discouragement they have brought into my life.
Bobby Flay’s cat has more Instagram followers than I do. This fact plays havoc on my self-esteem. As someone who battles the constant torment of comparison, the fact that a celebrity feline makes a bigger splash in people’s lives speaks only to my own self-judgement; I can’t help but condemn myself.
I once sat with an elderly gentleman who told me that whenever he would step out of line, his father would wag his finger and declare “God will get you for that.” He heard this phrase so often that it stuck with him, becoming the very basis of his picture of God. Despite his years in the church, the countless sermons he listened to, and the hours spent in prayer and ministry, he couldn’t unhear a message of condemnation. It was like a bell that could not be un-rung.
We can live our spiritual lives under a spirit of duty and demand. Our spiritual practices become burdens we must undergo, activities to begrudgingly plod through. When we live this way, our spirituality feels lifeless, and we can’t help but feel condemned. No matter how hard we try, we rarely perform our practices a perfectly as we would like, or as we believe they should be performed.
Henri Nouwen is one of the authors I read a lot from. His words plumb the depths of the spiritual life in profound ways. So, when I started dreaming of my parish's Lenten program for 2022, I knew that I wanted to structure it around the works of Henri Nouwen.
God’s love is not an emotion which colors our life with rainbows and roses. The love of God doesn’t produce the spiritual equivalent of a school-yard crush. God’s love is deeper than that, more expansive, and more transformative.
Labels sap our spiritual vitality because they mask our truest selves. They attempt to convince us of a reality that is simply not true. We are not our labels
Each time my wife and I stepped out of the house, I’d ask to how far she believed she could walk. We developed our own lingo. One day her goal would be “The red door”; the next day, “the black fence.” These mini-milestones marked her progression; they served as guides, leading her on.
Praying in love is not about masking feelings or denying discouragement. In Christ, God entered the fullness of humanity. This means that it is the fullness of our humanity that is offered in our prayer.