Love

When one who professes love is wholly in control of the object of his love, then the falsity of love is exposed. Love ins the activity for the sake of an other: and where the object of love is wholly under the control of the one who loves, that object is no longer an other. It is a part or extension of the professed lover. Where the object of love is truly an other the activity of love is always precarious … it contains no assurance or certainty of completion: much may be expended and little achieved. the progress of love must always be by tentative and precarious steps: and each step that is taken, whether it “succeeds” or “fails”, becomes the basis for the next, and equally precarious, step which must follow. Love proceeds by no assured programme.

W.H. Vanstone; Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense p46

>Psalm 78

>He remembered that they were but flesh ………… so the Psalmist (Psalm 78:39) explains the mercy of God and how God excuses the calamities of human history and human nature. Time and again God rescues his people, but repeatedly the people forget God and become so utterly absorbed in their own needs. But “we are but just flesh”.

This is immensely liberating – the realisation by God that we are just flesh. Who else, or what else, could we be? If we were anything else we too would be gods, and as gods, perfect. Perfection is not an option for us – and the imperfections (and the wrong doing) are the occasions for God’s love of us, and our love for each other. Is it right to think that we are loved only because we are imperfect? If we were perfect we wouldn’t be loved as much as worshipped – and we all discover sooner or later that those who are worshipped and given hero status – soon come tumbling from their perch and their feet of clay smash when they come down to earth. Similalry millions of lives are ruined by those who think themselves “gods” with their divine rights.

However, those who know God’s love for them – in spite of the shortcomings of being fleshly – seem to raise their game as a response to the lover. They become sanctified – or as the saying goes, “those who are loved become lovely – those who aren’t become unlovely”.

>Psalm 78

>He remembered that they were but flesh ………… so the Psalmist (Psalm 78:39) explains the mercy of God and how God excuses the calamities of human history and human nature. Time and again God rescues his people, but repeatedly the people forget God and become so utterly absorbed in their own needs. But “we are but just flesh”.

This is immensely liberating – the realisation by God that we are just flesh. Who else, or what else, could we be? If we were anything else we too would be gods, and as gods, perfect. Perfection is not an option for us – and the imperfections (and the wrong doing) are the occasions for God’s love of us, and our love for each other. Is it right to think that we are loved only because we are imperfect? If we were perfect we wouldn’t be loved as much as worshipped – and we all discover sooner or later that those who are worshipped and given hero status – soon come tumbling from their perch and their feet of clay smash when they come down to earth. Similalry millions of lives are ruined by those who think themselves “gods” with their divine rights.

However, those who know God’s love for them – in spite of the shortcomings of being fleshly – seem to raise their game as a response to the lover. They become sanctified – or as the saying goes, “those who are loved become lovely – those who aren’t become unlovely”.

Love is a temporary madness. It eruupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being ‘in love’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it; we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.

Louis de Bernieres – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

>Being loved

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We don’t hear much of what God (as Father) has to say in the gospels. He does say to Jesus “You are my beloved”, and then Jesus says to us “as the Father loves me so I love you”, so Jesus had the clear intention that we would know ourselves as “beloved”.
It is for us to hear this one voice above all the other voices that crowd our minds – all with the same basic message “Prove yourself. You are guilty until proved innocent” – so we try to prove ourselves through our image, through our hard work – and still those voices refuse to believe us, perhaps because in all our hearts of hearst we know that we are guilty. There’s always something of ourselves we need to hide away. “If they knew what I was really like they would never love me” – and so we bury our shame.
There is a beautiful story in Genesis of Adam hiding his shame. But God searches out Adam and his shame – and in the lovely story of the return of the prodigal the father embraces the shame of his son. (The picture is from the Poor Clare Colettine Community at Hawarden and shows the embrace of the prodigal)
When Jesus says “I love you” he means us to to know that God loves us. He knows that we all have a dark place in which we hide our shame. We do not have to prove ourselves before God loves us.
Henri Nouwen wrote of “being the beloved” and claimed that the greatest temptation is “self-rejection”, the flip side of which is “arrogance”. He wrote:

Both self-rejection and arrogance pull us out of the common reality of existence and make a gentle community of people extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain.

This video is worth a watch/listen – a sermon from Henri Nouwen.