“I imagine her hunched over on the donkey, soiled robes pulled tightly for warmth around her swollen body. The weariness of the long pilgrimage is unspeakable. She rests one hand on her belly. Then the road becomes steep and her free hand grabs the rope lying across her burro’s flanks. She steadies herself. She thinks, but I understand so little about love. How will I guide this soul? And in that silent moment she realizes that consenting to love, love in this form – love in every form – is the journey she will take.
She’s very young but, like the rest of us, she will have to let go any prior ideas about love: what it is, what it should feel like, where it might have taken her. She will have to let go the securities that got her this far. This new love will turn everything around. Nothing she’s learned previously will apply; no knowledge applies indefinitely. I can’t lean on anything but the God within. It’s hardly a thought; it’s a knowing. There is nothing else.
She considers the great mystery of life and the straining to give birth to a baby, but also to give birth to something hidden deep within. Two births, really: the birth of her child and the inner birth, the total surrender to God.
In some deep recesses, we know her story isn’t important at all unless we can live in our own surrender. She is only pointing the way.” Paula D’Arcy
I wonder if any of us really understand love in our beginnings. I know I didn’t and 60 years later, I’m just beginning to have a glimpse of Love. In my growing up story, love was about buying gifts, being good enough, a reward for obedient behavior, appearance, security and control. And I found a way to work that system. In fact I was pretty fluent in the language of “merit love.” I worked hard, 24/7, to earn all that I felt I needed, to feel cared for and to secure safety for my world and me. In fact, I felt responsible for my world and making sure they felt “love” too – so I worked extra hard – thinking that I actually had some control over my little universe. Taking care of the universe keeps a person pretty busy. So, of course, when you are that busy – because there is a lot to do to insure everyone is loved, cared for, and safe – I didn’t have time to actually “be present” with those I loved. I remember a conversation with my middle daughter when she was about 6 years old. We were sitting on the couch and she turned to me and said “God doesn’t hear us when we talk to him.” She had my attention. I was present at that moment. She was trying to communicate that her experience is that ‘she is not heard.’ But it’s hard to present when you are trying so hard to keep all the plates spinning and the world running smoothly.
Years before, when I discovered God as a teenager, I began building my “God relationship” on this “merit” foundation and understanding of love. There was no mystery – I work hard and God takes care of me and mine. Love. Me in control. Safe.
And then something awful happened. That’s how it works. We and our egos create a world where we are in charge and we know the system because we created it. And our life strategy “works” for us (it probably really isn’t working well at all but we are committed to it and it’s familiar and sticking with the familiar is always better than change, right?) until it crumbles and as hard as we try, we can’t put the pieces back together. Usually none of us willingly change until, as Richard Rohr puts it “our own little salvation project” ceases to work. And my “merit love project” fell apart. God didn’t follow the plan. Love is: I obey and try really hard and then nothing bad will happen. (Ok, I know that is steeped in denial. Why do I choose denial? It is not a friend to me. I was wrestling with a recent choice I made to embrace denial – wondering why I chose it. And then I realized that denial is just another form of not being present.) and so there I sat, in the rubble – me and my ego. But I wasn’t alone down there in the chaos. God was there in the midst and I began to be able to hear and see the truth that has always been available to me. Love was speaking but now I began to listen.
“We can’t manage, maneuver or manipulate spiritual energy. It is a matter of letting go and receiving what is being given freely. It is the gradual emptying of our attachment to our ego so that there is room for a new conception and a new birth. There must be some displacement before there can be any new “replacement!” . . . Whatever God gives is always experienced as totally unearned grace and never as a salary, a reward or a merit badge of any sort . . . If we ourselves try to “manage” God, or manufacture our own worthiness by any performance principle whatsoever, we will never bring forth the Christ but only ourselves.” Richard Rohr.
Love broke in. But birth is painful. I realized that I cannot birth myself. It’s funny that letting go of pretend control is so scary. None of us are really in control . . . of anything. I want to say, “well, the only thing I can control is me.” Nope. Not even me. Rats. And surrender beckons me. Let go and rest is a message that invites me in a tender soft voice. Love wants to be born. And eventually I began to ask some questions and realized that I “will have to let go any prior ideas about love: what it is, what it should feel like, where it might have taken me. I will have to let go the securities that got me this far. This new love will turn everything around. Nothing I’ve learned previously will apply; no knowledge applies indefinitely. I can’t lean on anything but the God within. It’s hardly a thought; it’s a knowing. There is nothing else.”