"I have learned so much from God
That I can no longer call myself
a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew.
The Truth has shared so much of Itself with me
That I can no longer call myself
a man, a woman, an angel, or even a pure soul.
Love has...freed me
Of every concept and image my mind has ever known."
This poem resonates with me at such a visceral level that I am paralyzed by the intimacy of its ability to see through to the deepest places in my heart. Yet, I am also mobilized by the sense of community and shoulder-to-shoulder hope for humanity I feel when realizing that I am not alone in this sentiment. I have a brother in Hafiz and, I trust, in many of you.
I was talking with a young friend in my office yesterday afternoon and she asked me for my “take” on a particular social issue. I looked at her and realized that the old me would have tried to come up with one. I would have tried to articulate my position and shared with her how I had come to that place through research, reason, revelation, and personal experience. But yesterday it all seemed so pointless to share. God would lead her to her own conclusions in the way that would leave her with a more intimate sense of His voice in her heart…even if that path took her through “the valley of the shadow”.
In fact Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his recent book, The Lord is My Shepherd, suggests that there is a relational shift in the 23rd Psalm* from talking about God, to a more intimate sense of talking with Him…following the walk through the valley. Why would I ever impose my opinions, suggestions, or positions on someone if it might deprive them of their own journey towards greater intimacy with their divine Parent? So I told her I really didn’t have a take on how she might view the issue…as I was also still listening and praying for the moment by moment inspiration that would guide and direct my own choices and decisions.
What I really wanted to tell her was how much her kindness had meant to me in the past year. How much I looked forward each week to her eager smile and her gentle heart. What I thought about Iraq, same-sex marriage, tax reform, etc. held no real value for her…and it held but marginal value for me. What mattered in the grand scheme of things was that I loved and that she loved. And because God was the source and condition of all love and is all-powerful, we could trust God--Love--to be motivating others wisely and compassionately, thus freeing us to occupy ourselves with what, as Mary Baker Eddy says "we most need":
“…. fervent desire for growth in grace,
expressed in patience, meekness, love and good deeds.”
Ask me about my journey towards patience with myself and the surrender of self-certainly. Ask me about the effect that your kindness has had on my sense of what it means for me to be Christian in my behavior. Ask me what I am learning about the opportunities that we (you and I…not a faceless them) have for restoring hope through compassion and consideration.
What I am really learning is that my opinions about social and political, religious and relationship issues have but fleeting, if any, value…what really counts is Love. What does Love--God--tell me, directly and intimately, that I have the right to express, to be, to do? Directing the thoughts, opinions, paths or journeys of others? Well, I think I best leave that to Him. Even when the invitation to share my "position" is so genuine, my words will never give someone the real “bread of life”, the manna which fills the heart--His voice. What I can share are snapshots from my journey…postcards of what the view looks like from here, and a reminder that we each have our own sacred guidebooks for mapping out a travel itinerary that is unique ours.
I truly yearn for Eddy’s "Daily Prayer", my daily bread, to become an assimilated part of the body of my being. It reads:
"Thy kingdom come;”
let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love
be established in me,
and rule out of me all sin;
and may Thy Word
enrich the affections of all mankind,
and govern them!
Not my word or words, but His Word…
It no longer matters to me whether I “get it right” in this world…or whether you do. What matters to me is Love…am I letting Love be the one and only reason for my being.
So I told my young friend about how, one morning the previous Spring, it was her warm smile and generous hug in the college concourse that made a difference in the way I felt about myself and the work I do and love. I told her that her kindness was a gift more precious than gold to me.
It was enough.
*This is a link to my niece, Lily's, beautiful performance of the 23rd Psalm. I hope you enjoy it. The story that goes with this clip is linked here. "