Thomas Merton wrote, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” As I sat in the silence of our church in the wee hours of the morning, praying, watching and waiting, I read these words as a mantra.
Too often we want to make everyone like ourselves. Too often we assume that we would be happier if everyone was like us. Too often we hurt others when we judge them to be ‘less than’ because they are not like us. Painfully, I admit that there have been times that I have found myself working hard to fit another’s image. I have succumbed to the pressure to be what I am not to have another’s acceptance, friendship, approval, and most importantly love. The trouble is, upon further reflection, I realize that it is not an act of love for another to pressure me into being what I am not. I also confess that I have tried, usually unwittingly, but not always, to make others fit my image of right living, right life, right being. I have come to accept that desperately trying to change another is not a perfect love. We are at our best when we can accept who we are and live that fully, without fear of judgement.
The church, in stillness, offers me a place to safely name how I have been a stumbling block to others being allowed to be themselves. This sanctuary, lit only by the soft light or candles, allows me to admit that I have tried to measure up to another and have abandoned myself in the process.
Good Friday is now here. Today is a declaration that God has accepted us, redeemed us, healed us and forgiven us. Henri Nouwen reminds us that “God offers us gifts of forgiveness and mercy, but for some mysterious reason we find these hard to receive. Let’s try not to forget the wonder of being able to return again and again to ask for healing.” As I sit in this sacred place it is hard to comprehend how much God loves me, and loves us all; difficult to understand why God would take on all human suffering and all that human pain. It is reassuring for me to know that God knows me so well and accepts me for who I am since it is God who created me, God who redeemed me in the acts of this day, and it is God who sustains me by the Holy Spirit left to guide me after the gift of the Resurrection toward which we journey.
We love the place, O God,
Wherein Thine honor dwells;
The joy of Thine abode
All earthly joy excels.
It is the house of prayer
Wherein Thy servants meet;
And Thou, O Lord, art there
Thy chosen flock to greet.
Being is the church in the quiet and stillness I heard the words of that great old hymn. This is the house of prayer and indeed I feel that I have been greeted by Jesus. If you are in the neighbourhood, by all means come in and be greeted by the one who paid it all on Good Friday that we might celebrate the joy of Easter Sunday.