LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
I walked the Rail Trail, past the cow fields, and through the mountain corridors of Upstate New York this morning and I asked myself this question: "Am I in love with Jesus?"
There is a lot talk about falling in love with Christ in Church and at spiritual trainings because, as I am told, that is the ultimate goal of a true disciple. As I walked on, I noticed spider webs that were cast like fishing nets in the branches of young saplings, illuminated by the culmination of early morning light and dew, and I identify my feelings for God: I know I am humble in the presence of our Lord; I believe in God enough to request that He “help my unbelief”; I honor and respect the Trinity; I admire and want to protect the God/Man called Jesus.... But am I in love with Him? No, I don't think so...at least not yet.
I had a dialogue with myself, considering this question and trying to discern what it meant to be in love with God. I began by identifying the prescription for being in love - something I have never done before because, too often, I just “fell”. Then, I reasoned that my lack of true devotion to God was based on my limited human-ness and I began to convince myself that if I am not in love with God, it is because we have never met!
Certainly, I have fallen in love with other men that I have never met, their reputations being enough. In my old life I was enamored with the writer, Henry Miller. I came to admire him - so much so, that I wanted to be reincarnated as the American author who was known as the pioneer of a type of autobiographical novel that involved character study, social criticism, philosophical reflection, sex, surrealist free association and mysticism. I often imagined what it would be like to take a walk with him, spend the evening in a pub with him, cook a meal for him, catch him misbehaving… watch him at his desk writing. I found myself searching for any information I could find about his life. I collected and read the words he wrote, studied his drawings, familiarized myself with memoirs written by his friends and associates, and I coveted the lilt in his voice captured in ancient recorded interviews. It was clear I had fallen for this man whom I had never met, a man who had died before I had even read the title of his famed novel, "Tropic of Cancer," aloud. Is this what causes one to fall in love? An insatiable curiosity? A fascination? An admiration? An attraction to qualities seen in another that one recognizes and appreciates in oneself? Lovable traits and characteristics that may go under-developed in you but are beaming from beloved?
And then, there was my preoccupation with the mystic, writer and Catholic priest, Thomas Merton. (I see Merton as Miller’s twin, if it were not for Merton’s open invitation to God. In "The Seven Story Mountain," Merton writes: “All I knew was that I wanted grace…and that I was helpless without God. It seemed that every step I took carried me painfully forward under a burden of desires….”) I read books by and about Merton. I studied photographs of him and I listen to his lectures, repeatedly, teasing out Merton 's own particular kind of brilliance. I chased after Thomas Merton in much the same fashion as I had Henry Miller. Merton died when I was 5 and not yet reading full sentences.
I mention Miller and Merton in contrast to my heretofore inability to fall in love with Jesus because my feelings for these “perfect strangers,” ironically, refute my explanation or defense: I never met Him!
I am thinking more about the task, no…the process…no… the act of falling in love with Jesus, the God/Man and I have come up with this: The obstacle to my pursuing Jesus as I have Merton and Miller, for example, may be the seemingly “un-godly” sexual implications involved with falling in love with God. That unspoken and understood place where lovers travel together to, seems inappropriate and wrong when Jesus is identified as the Beloved. Til now, for me, being in love has culminated with a union between lovers. I'm wondering: How is that possible for me to achieve? And must true love be realized only through the conjoining of the two who love? I am pondering all of this in my heart and I am realizing that a fear of intimacy and the surrendering what I know I want are the obstacles that keep me from a personal relationship with Christ.
I leave you with these questions to ponder as well and I ask you to apply the practices you exhibited the last time you fell in love as you turn toward God.