This week for Lent, I decided I would focus and meditate on the topic of love. Yesterday, I posted a link to a lovely essay my sweet 18-year-old wrote and, if I do say so (and unabashedly I will say so) it was poignant and truth-filled.
When I started out this 40-day journey, I had lofty, almost saint-like images of how and who I would be during Lent. You see, there’s an odd side to me that craves to be a monk. I read Thomas Merton with a touch of envy. From the outside peering through the glass window of his secluded hermitage, I see a spiritual being in touch with his creator, wrestling over the deep issues of the soul, taking long walks in nature in contemplative thought, and writing in his journal elegant and insightful truths. Yeah, I want to be that.
Here’s the irony of it, however. Ultimately, being that is more about the ego than anything. My ego wants to be this lofty, separated from the world, harmonious, love-filled saint. The thud-crashing reality, is what I'm really craving is a spiritual state that can only come from a lifetime of wrestling with who I am--grounded in this life with its disappointments, hurts, and confusion, and...oh, that's right...it usually includes a heavy dose of hard-earned humility.
After Mother Teresa’s death, correspondences were discovered revealing that during the last 50 years of her life, she wrestled with the very core of her faith, if God even existed. By then of course, she was cast in a high-profile role in life. Was she a fraud? I doubt it. She was, perhaps like most people in life, on a trajectory she began and perhaps didn't know how to alter. But I have no doubt she was truly motivated by compassion and serving, despite all the feelings being, or not being, in place.
Oh, that’s the sneaky, tricky part of love, isn’t it? The feelings aren’t always in place, and yet the actions must be. I doubt Thomas Merton’s feelings were always as they “should” be. He wrestled with life. It is, in fact, from this very place of doubt and despair most saints or great, spiritual thinkers probably travel through to become who they ultimately became, the place we get to pick up on in their lives and read about.
Attaining to an image is the fragile stuff of ego. We want a reflection. The truth is hard work, life, doubt, pain, hurt, confusion, and yet clinging to faith—these are the things that carve and form the images we often look up to. Like rushing water that little by little forms a canyon, the daily act of living carves us into humility and action, even when, and probably more so when, the feelings aren’t all in place.
So this week’s Lent challenge is to act in love--not to feel loving, meditate on lofty images of love, or pray with some abstract saintly love. It’s just to be love.