Each person's life is lived from an inner core of values and belief, whether or not the core is acknowledged. The beliefs that have determined my choices in life include belief in a God who loves and pursues relationship with individuals.
For the past few years I have not sensed much of God's love in my life. Loss, bewilderment, loneliness, and lack of purpose combined to make me think that God no longer loved me or had much of a purpose for my life. A hard frozen icicle seemed to lodge in my chest, twisting a little every time I experience joy, adding hurt to the happiness.
I don't like that feeling. I want to "deal with the problem" and "get over it." I pray, I read my Bible, I go to church - all the things I've done for years. Nothing seems to help much.
In September I was at my sister-in-law's house and picked up a book she had. "The Furious Longing of God" by Brennan Manning is a slim book that seemed to speak directly to me. Little by little the icicle is melting as I contemplate God's love.
Manning quotes from a book by Antony Campbell,
"Originally, I believed the acceptance of a loving God involved a sufficient but relative minor shift of attitude. After all, it was on so many people's lips. The more I worked with it, the more I realize that the acceptance in Faith of God's unconditional love was not only hugely significant, it required a major change of attitude ... the major shift may be the images we have of God and ourselves. How radically is our image of God reshaped if we take seriously the belief in God as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loving us? How radically must we rework our own self-image if we accept ourselves as loveable - as deeply, passionately, and unconditionally loved by God?"
Manning quotes from the Song of Solomon, an allegorical tale of God's love and pursuit of his people.
"Come now, my love, my lovely one, come. "
For you, the winter has passed,
the snows are over and gone,
the flowers appear in the land,
the season of joyful songs has come."
These words, particularly those in bold, have been melting my heart. And they have been confirmed in other ways - in a sermon, casual conversations with friends and family, multitudes of stars in the sky, and the wind-tossed waves.
Manning goes on to say, "If we continue to view ourselves as moral lepers and spiritual failures, if our lives are shadowed by low self-esteem, shame, remorse, unhealthy guilt, and self-hatred, we reject the teaching of Jesus and cling to our negative self-image."
These days, the winter in my heart slowly melts even as winter in the world increases, and I reflect on the words of St. Augustine,
"Quia amasti me, fecisti me amabilem."
(In loving me, you made me lovable.)
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