by guest blogger Leslea Linebarger | On this day when all over the globe we honor and celebrate those we love, I wonder if many people are thinking of God's love? Even perhaps more rare, are we aware of what it looks like to love God back? It's been said that the Bible is really God's valentine to us. It's one of the many ways he speaks to us and reveals his amazing grace, in one story after another. It's God's greatest desire, that all should know this love for themselves. And yet I find it's the most common yearning in those who come for direction: does God really love me, and if so, how can I know it?
In fact, I spend so much time listening to those who are desperate to be loved by God and often struggle to love themselves that I may have been overlooking the first commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and your soul and your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself." How do we follow these central teachings, upon on which everything hangs, when we're so in need of love ourselves?
In a book called "Meeting Jesus Today," spiritual director Jeanie Miley brings up this very question, "In what ways do I show love to God?" At first I was at a loss to know how to answer this. Miley writes that being loved by God and loving God are hard to separate, that they are both part of the abundant life Christ offers. She goes on to suggest that it might look like "sitting in silence, worshiping God, loving creation, caring for those in need, following Christ's teachings, serving God in ministry." As she filled in the blanks for me, I began to catch on. So when I'm listening to others, singing in the choir, giving thanks for answered prayer, serving the homeless, or practicing centering prayer I'm actually loving God? I hadn't ever thought of it that way. When I come to God for help, asking with open hands, trusting he will meet my needs, that's loving God as well. When I confess my failures and take an honest look at myself, that's exactly where God's love meets me. When I'm feeling loved by God, maybe I'm loving him back then and there. Maybe the best answer came from one of my directees. When I asked her this question, she said, "I feel like I'm loving God when I'm paying attention." Yes. Paying attention to our lives and to God's presence are surely primary ways of loving God back. I want to give attention to this new found intention, to love the God who loves me first with all my being.
Questions to ponder:
Pay attention to your life for a moment. What evidence do you have that you are loved by God? What are some of the ways you may have been loving God back, even without that intention? What would you like to say to God, either about being loved or about how you've been loving God back?
Leslea Linebarger lives in Southborough, MA. She offers spiritual direction at St. Mark's Episcopal Church where she leads a weekly women's discussion group. She is a member of the ENE Guidance Team and in her leisure time enjoys hiking, biking, cooking and doing anything or nothing with her grandson Jesse.