To follow Jesus Christ means that we become good at sitting/being in the presence of God, listening for His wisdom, and doing what He suggests to us. As we are able to sit in His presence, there is a definite spillover effect into the rest of our lives: we learn how to be present to others. To sit in God’s presence means we can set aside the power of our minds over our thoughts and actions and live in our own depths where the Indwelling Spirit of God resides. It means we have quieted those worldly voices within us, all the “shoulds” and “have tos”, so that we can hear the “still, small voice of God,” (1 Kings 19:12) the Indwelling Spirit of God, and respond positively to its suggestions.
Over time, as we are directed more and more by the Holy Spirit, we then can also be present to the people we are with, setting aside our assumptions, our judgments, our opinions about them and what they are saying, so that we can hear the deeper connections in what they are saying. This means that we can be captivated by what they are sharing, ask for more depth in what they have said, and that we can truly hear not just what they are saying, but who they are. Sometimes, it means that we are experiencing the Holy Spirit in that connectedness. Other times, we just feel the blessing of being with them and with what they are sharing. We have finally dropped below the surface of our lives and are living in and being fed by the depths of ourselves and the Holy Spirit as we experience the same in this person and that person.
This is what love is: being present to God, being present to another human being, hearing not just the surface stuff about a person, but hearing all that he or she is. Whoever loves, who truly loves, lives in God, because he or she is only a conduit for the love that God is, sending out His love to the other human beings in this world (1 John 4:16 ff.). Loving God with all of who we are leads to loving every person we meet with all of who we are.
I once heard a member of a church I belonged to say to others as they walked through the church: “I love everyone, but I don’t have to like them!” To me, this was not God’s kind of love, but a human being’s, someone who lives in the world, not in the kingdom of God. To love is to embrace, to value, to hold all the flaws even, to have the kind of love God has for each of us, all 7+ billion people on this planet. Instead of judging, we embrace them; instead of dismissing their opinions, we dialogue with who they are and we mirror their thoughts, so that we might learn something from them and they might be open to hearing what we have to say. Instead of insisting that they are wrong, I would be open to them. Instead of judging them, I would be loving toward them.
There is a book that is so illuminating about what love is: The Four Pivots: Reimagining Justice, Reimagining Ourselves by Shawn Ginwright. The Four Pivots are the changes we need to make in ourselves in order to love our enemies, our neighbors and ourselves. I highly recommend this book. Although is addressed to protestors of injustice, it really applies to anyone who would follow Jesus who hung out with the worst and the best in the society of His day, who would love God and others as Jesus taught us to do.
I am definitely not talking about the human kind of love here, a “love” that chooses whom it will love, a “love” that judges and dismisses certain kinds of people as not worthy. Human love is limited and steeped in prejudices and people of our own choosing, as our culture teaches us to do. God’s love is not limited in any way. He is not expecting any kind of perfection from human beings. When He gave us free will, He chose to let us come back to Him as we will. I believe that He wants us to come willingly to Him, not because we have to. Because of our free will, He accepts all our imperfections, and our choices. And yet there He is, offering us the way to love and forgiveness, to peace and joy. All we have to do is to choose Him over our own limitations. And then our life opens up to us, sustains and supports us, gives us peace and turns our human limitations into true love, faithfulness and humility. And we live in His presence forever.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I able to still my mind, quiet my thoughts, as I sit quietly, hoping to connect directly with God? Or do I avoid this kind of prayer, so that I don’t have to deal with the interruptions of my mind? Have I ever experienced the presence of God and the peace that He gives us? What would I have to give up in order to sit quietly with God? What would I gain by doing that?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are connected to God daily through Centering Prayer or other forms of meditation. May we sit peaceably with Him. May we enjoy the connectedness that this practice enables in me.
Check out my two websites: patsaidadams.com and deepeningyourfaith.com.
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at email@example.com and I will email it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.