I’m currently reading the book, ‘Nearer than Breathing‘ by Melvyn Matthews. This book is essentially a collection of mini-sermons on God’s love for us. I’m really enjoying reading this book at a slow pace and meditating on each chapter. The chapter I read this morning is You Must Change Your Life. It is inspired by a poem by Rilke as well as by Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. The theme is how we respond to God’s beauty, light and love.
Nicodemus doesn’t understand when Jesus tells him he must be born again (radical transformation) to enter the Kingdom. And this is after he recognises that Jesus is of God. Rilke, on the other hand, decides to change after seeing the beauty of a torso of a Greek statue. The beauty of the torso speaks to him and tells him ‘You must change your life.’ He gets it. Many of us don’t and I didn’t. For a very long time, I called my darkness light so I wouldn’t have to face the brilliance of God’s love.
Loving Our Darkness
This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were evil.
Gospel of John 3:19 WEB
It is starting to dawn on me just how radical God’s love is. The Song of Solomon is testimony to the fact God yearns for us as a lover yearns for his beloved. Another mini-sermon from the same book helped me see and feel into this. The title of that chapter is Are We Erotic Enough? It asserts what the Ancients and the Mystics have always known. And that is that God’s love for us is more Eros than Agape.
Growing up, I was taught not to trust in life. My parents had been taught the same thing so they passed that foundation of complete mistrust along to me and my sister. Then my mother left. I was three years old and this, of course, confirmed that this world is not a safe place. I learned to love the darkness.
So when I was faced with the cross and God’s love for me at age 17, I wish someone would have told me that this was only the beginning of a very long healing journey. Instead, I believed that salvation is something that happens in the twinkling of an eye after I say ‘the sinner’s prayer.’
The sinner’s prayer is like any other magic formula. It’s only words if you do not recognise the light of God within yourself. If you only know mistrust and darkness those words in and of themselves will accomplish very little. That’s not to say that God cannot radically transform someone in a second but for many of us it simply does not happen that way. And that’s okay. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He allows for unfolding to take place.
It is not because you are not genuine about believing in your own sinful nature (that part is easy); it’s because you cannot fathom the depths of God’s love for you. You hear the words ‘He died for you’ and you know it is true but only on some abstract level. That is because the Gospel is often presented as a mental construct, a moral and intellectual certitude, rather than the passionate love letter it is meant to be. And the person presenting it to you may not have had his own heart transformed from one of stone to one of flesh yet.
For me to regain trust in what I lost in early childhood, I would need more than that. Much more. And God had to keep pursuing me, over and over again until the beauty of His love for me finally cracked my heart open.
Learning to Love God’s Light
Learning to love God’s light is still hard but that is the path I’m on now. It means I will continue to have my heart cracked open until it is soft and tender and completely whole. It means continuing to humble myself. And it means that I give myself wholly to what is essentially the most passionate love affair of my life, holding nothing back.
This is hard because my mind (and its concomitant darkness) has been my safe hiding place. This is what made it so important for me to be right in the past. And this, to my great sadness, is how I have contributed to division in the world. I repent of this and I’m sorry. Please forgive me.
Thank you, God, for your everlasting love. Thank you for your patience. And most of all, thank you for Jesus. I love you.
Click HERE to read about my name change.