Thursday, February 12, 2009
Swimming in Love and Fear of God
Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!
An excerpt from a little spiritual book written by a Jesuit priest named Mark Link inspires today’s reflection. He happens to live at Loyola University in Chicago and I had the opportunity to meet him a few weeks ago! Needless to say, I was deeply honored to meet the person behind some of the spiritual writing I had read on his website www.staygreat.com. Check it out if you have an opportunity.
A woman said, “I always had a problem reconciling biblical passages that said ‘fear of God’ was the start of wisdom and passages that said ‘God is love.’ Then one day I read something that helped me immensely. It was this line from Rod McKuen: ‘I love the sea, but it doesn’t make me less afraid of it.’
-From Action, Praying Scripture in a Contemporary Way, Mark Link, S.J.
I’ve struggled with the same sort of thing the above woman describes…reconciling “Love of God” with “Fear of God.” In fact, I’ve wrestled with this concept numerous times. It seems to enter my life at awfully high or low points. When I am even keel, I don’t worry too much about scripture passage that suggest we ought to fear God. However, when I am feeling lonely or insecure, the last thing I want is a God who requires FEAR out of me. I am in enough fear in that state of isolation or loneliness. And when I’m feeling exuberant, on cloud nine so to speak, I could care little about fearing God. Why should I fear anything when I am joyful? In a state of great joy, the only thing I think I have to fear is fear itself!
When I reflect on Rod McKuen’s quote again about loving and fearing the sea, I think of people I know who love bodies of water but can’t swim. They fear the idea of entering into any body of water without a life jacket or water noodle or a loved one to protect them. Some probably are scared to enter the water period! As a child, I was incredibly apprehensive of entering a lake or pool. If pushed too deep…well…I think I envisioned drowning or really freaky horror movies (of the Jaws kind).
The sea, pictures of the sea, simply observing expansive amounts of water collected in that kind of way…it’s a beautiful, beautiful sight. Casting our net over the horizon and breathing in the life-giving image of a never-ending body of water can be a very surreal experience. It’s awe-inspiring and can trigger divine, awesome thoughts.
I, slowly but surely, have learned to actually love swimming. (I’m still a terrible swimmer with poor form and tortoise-like speed). Nevertheless, I really enjoy taking a nice swim. I’m still fairly frightened of being stranded in the ocean in the middle of the night with no boat to save me (I’m thinking of shipwreck movies…The Perfect Storm, Titanic, Poseidon, etc.). Still, I love bodies of water and actually having my body in the water. Bodies of water are so incredibly grand and so incredibly vast in area that they are impossible to fully swim or fully comprehend. No matter how much we might physically know about a sea or how often we swim in the sea, the sea will forever be larger than us.
For sheer power, a kind of lack of comprehension of the sea-at large makes me uncertain or even fearful of the body of water. However, the older I get, the more I appreciate the kind of relationship I have with the sea. It’s still larger, much larger, than I’ll ever be…and yet, I’ve learned that the sea can be one of my closest, dearest companions.
To say I should fear God is not say that I should be scared to try and fail. I think it is to be scared to say I never tried and to admit the magnitude of creation. The Creator is fear insofar as we never want to lose sight of our place in creation and all those people, places and things that share life with us in this place.
If I say I fear God on some level, I am admitting that I fear any limit to love–––a God who is love. I sometimes do indeed fear Love. Who can honestly say they don’t? Love is a beautiful thing, but it is the most powerful bond that we know to exist. In the end, it is a God who is Love who I desire to be united with. I fear anything that does not bring Love to my life. I fear God because I want to Love other people so badly. We fear God as a community because we want God’s love to work within each other so badly. When we are in love with another person, we are sometimes scared that that love will die or somehow fade slowly away. But, if that love points to Love, it is truly a real manifestation of Love as being here on earth in the now always giving without expecting anything in return…that love will become something so amazing to receive, something beyond the space and time that we can conceive. That love will be like staring deeply and intimately into an ocean that you can’t see the end of but can only hope goes on forever and ever beyond that odd line between the sky and the sea. Our horizon is endless when we put our trust in Love.
“Long to see God, fear losing God and find joy in whatever leads to God. Do this, and you’ll find great peace.”
-The words of Teresa of Avila–––a mystic, saint, spiritual writer.
I think Teresa was onto something.
A line of encouragement: go for a metaphorical swim today if you have the opportunity!
Peace and blessings~
your friend bob.
PS - (The pictures posted are compliments of my friends Rafael and Sylvia, taken in Brazil and El Salvador. I am blessed to have friends who take quality pictures!)