More on changing faith

To continue my thoughts on ‘changing faith’: this reflection was initially a letter, written in early 2008 to someone who asked why I stayed at Church of the Apostles. I have since added and revised to reflect my current thoughts, not changing the main premise: I stay because of community.

I was raised Lutheran and felt quite comfortable in the Lutheran denomination and theology. Fresh in Seattle in Sept. 2004, it was my first time alone, outside of college, with the responsibility to find a church community. I found a progressive Lutheran church that I attended for awhile. There was however, something missing from this experience. Friendly for worship, I hungered for deeper connections with my church community. This might surprise you, but they were, in a way, too liberal. And by that, I mean no negativity at all, rather I was worshiping with folk whose theological issues left me a bit out of the loop. I’d consider myself liberal, but I approached church differently. Their issues were about not using “he” for God, which wasn’t an issue for me.  Sure, it excited me to explore varying names and expressions for God and be a part of a thriving social justice ministry, but the worship life, although musical and liturgical, seemed stagnant. This isn’t due to lack of variety, there was a hunger for community.
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To love and be loved

Falling in Love with God

Nothing is more practical
than finding God,
that is, falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you
out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you
with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

Loving and being loved is part of what it means to be human.  To reflect on my recent state of heartbrokenness, is to reveal that I do indeed love.  For, if I did not love, my heart would not hurt as it has this past month.  And If I did not love, I would not take as much joy in my life, even when sadness surrounds me and those I love—because I know love is there, too.

Love is not easy, nor does it guarantee sustained happiness.  Loving human beings hurts when we fail each other, and loving God hurts when it seems God has forgotten us.  But, ah, to love life and love God, are two sweet pleasures!

Recently, I heard John Bell from the Iona Community in Scotland speak.  While guiding the group in an exercise to recall significant moments in our early lives, he said this of love: Love demands tough decisions.  Indeed.  And he said this to define what it means to be in ministry: to love God, to love people, and to love language.

It is my love of God’s people that often causes me to weep late into the night.  Abuse, death, loss, grief, broken relationships…these I have wept for recently.  The tears of compunction that wash down my face come out of a deep love for humanity and those close to me.

Sometimes I wonder, upon observing the developing love between other people, when is it my turn?  Who will love me so deeply?  Dwelling on these thoughts sends me down a dark and lonely hole.  I have but to be reminded of the love that is in my life, and the love I have to share.  Perhaps it is meant only for God and for God’s people.  Though my prayer and spiritual life deep, I am not meant to be a monastic—oh, I have had moments of ecstasy where I lived as though I were monastic.  But I am meant to be in the world directly serving and loving God’s people.  This is tough, as often think I lack the experience of being loved.  Maybe I am, and I do not see it.  I, too, must remember I am loved.

So whom do I love?  I love God. I love my friends.  I love my sister. I love my niece.  I love my parents, and extended family.  I love my church community.  I love the homeless men and women I once served.  I love my housemates.  I love the woman who payed for a book with pennies.  I love the man who sells Real Change next to PCC.  And many more…

To return to the quote above.  These words, though only known to me for a short while, have been the basis of my life until now.  Love has guided my life, and it will continue to guide my life…whether or not I have a love who holds me at night.  This I repeat, three words I tell to many others but need more often to tell myself: You are loved.  Yes, I am loved.