Forgetting my first love

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Photo credit: Alison Batley©, source http://shetalkswithgod.wordpress.com/tag/prayer-vigil/

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have perservered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. — Revelation 2:2-5b (NIV)

Friday was a rough day. A friend of mine has been very ill with something very serious. I helped her decide to skive off work Friday and go to the ER. She was waffling, and I told her not to waffle. She left Friday morning, and I didn’t have much information until after I got home Friday evening.

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Image Credit: Marie Ellenrieder, Kniendes betendes Mädchen, http://commons.wikimedia.org

Thursday night I was waffling on whether or not to come to an open prayer time scheduled before another event at church on Friday night; my friend was so sick I wasn’t waffling Friday morning.

So, there I sat in the church sanctuary.  I decided to begin with a few praise songs to empty myself and calm myself down, then I put on Hildegard von Bingen.  I wanted to read something before I started praying.  I decided on The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, not for any particular reason other than its topical nature.  Thomas à Kempis: practical mysticism at its best.

The e-book on my e-reader opened to the last thing I read, which was the following (Book 2, Chapter 5):

On the Wonderful Effect of the Love of God

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DISCIPLE: May You be blessed, O Heavenly Father, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, because You have consented to be mindful of me, poor sinner that I am. O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, I thank You that sometimes You are pleased to console me with Your gracious presence, though I am unworthy of such consolation.

I bless You and glorify You always, together with Your Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, forever and ever. O my Lord, God, most faithful Lover, when You come into my heart, my whole being is filled with joy. You are my glory and the joy of my heart; my hope and refuge in the time of tribulation (Ps 59:17).

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You know how weak in love and imperfect in virtue I am and how much I stand in need of Your strength and comfort. Please, Lord, visit me often and instruct me in Your holy teachings.

Deliver me from evil passions and heal my heart from all disorderly affections, so that being healed inwardly and well purified, I may become ready to love You, strong to suffer for You, and firm to persevere.

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Love is a strong force — a great good in every way; it alone can make our burdens light, and alone it bears in equal balance what is pleasing and displeasing. It carries a burden and does not feel it; it makes all that is bitter taste sweet.

The noble love of Jesus urges us to do great things and spurs us on to desire perfection. Love tends upward to God and is not occupied with the things of earth. Love also will be free from all worldly affections, so that its inner vision does not become dimmed, nor does it let itself be trapped by any temporal interest or downcast by misfortune.

Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, nothing better in heaven or on earth; for love is born of God and can find its rest only in God above all He has created.

Such lovers fly high, run swiftly and rejoice. Their souls are free; they give all for all and have all in all. For they rest in One Supreme Goodness above all things, from Whom all other good flows and proceeds. They look not only at the gifts, but at the Giver, Who is above all gifts.

Love knows no limits, but is fervent above all measure. It feels no burden, makes light of labor, desiring to do more than it is able. Nothing is impossible to love, for it thinks that it can and may do all things for the Beloved.

Therefore it does and effects many things, while those who do not love falter and fail.

Love is ever watchful; it rests, but does not sleep; though weary, it is not tired; restricted, yet not hindered. Although it sees reason to fear, it is not dismayed, but like a spark of fire or a burning flame, it blazes upward to God by the fervor of its love, and through the help of his grace is delivered from all dangers.

Those who love thus know well what their voices mean when they cry out to God with all the ardor of their soul: You, Lord God, are my whole love and all my desire. You are all mine and I am all Yours.

Let my heart expand in Your love. Let me learn to know how sweet it is to serve You, how joyful it is to praise You, and to be dissolved in Your love. Oh, I am possessed by love and rise above myself because of the great fervor I feel through Your infinite goodness.

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I will sing the canticle of love to You and will follow You, my Beloved, wherever You go, and may my soul never weary of praising You, rejoicing in Your love. I will love You more than myself and myself only for Your sake; I will love all others in You and for You, as Your law of love commands.

Love is swift, sincere, pious, joyful and glad; it is strong, patient, faithful, wise, forbearing, courageous, and is never self-seeking; for when people seek themselves, they cease to love.

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Love is cautious, humble and upright; not weak, not flighty, nor concerned with trifles. It is sober, chaste, firm, quiet, and keeps guard over the senses.

Love is submissive and obedient to authority, mean and despicable in its own sight, devout and thankful to God. Love always trusts and hopes in God, even when it lacks fervor; for there is no living in love without some sorrow or pain.

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Pietà, St. Martin of Tours Church,.Brentwood, CA. 19 AUG 2013.

Those who are not always ready to suffer and to stand disposed to the will of their Beloved are not worthy to be called lovers; for lovers must gladly embrace all hardship and bitter things for their Beloved, and never allow themselves to turn away from him by adversity.

This broke me, brought me to tears.  My silence has been the result of so much despair, so much sadness, so much lonely solitude, so much pain — deep, deep, deep pain.  I have no answers, and most of the time I have no words for questions either.  I feel lost, drifting, breathlessly screaming into the wind, enveloped to death by great darkness.  A dark night of the soul, indeed.  On a good day, I get out of bed.  On a great day I take a shower.  On a rare day I brush my teeth and leave the house.  Taking care is too much work, I am too tired.  I’ve been drifting very close to the “giving up” place, yet desperate to hide this — a wounded animal concealing her weakness…or trying.

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I walked into the church sanctuary not sure if I have any fight left (and to be fair, I’m still not sure).  Living life is hard, and so often without rest.  And yet, while I am not certain if I have the strength to fight on, what is clear to me — so much of what has been missing, broken, crumbled, shattered, dirty, and lost — is simply that, somewhere along the line, I forgot my first love.

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9 thoughts on “Forgetting my first love

  1. It’s odd and sad how there can be something very familiar about this sort of thing, even though people often avoid such subject—if they’re going through it or know someone they think might be. I’m sorry you’re going through this. The love of this Lord of ours isn’t always the easiest to experience—or the fastest to come discernibly to us when we feel we need it the most anyway. I hope the best for you in whatever remains of your trial.

    You know, St. Ignatios of Antioch commended the church in Ephesos for standing strong against heresy just a short number of years after St. John wrote down the Revelation: wrote to that church the warning of losing its first love. Hang in there, Val.

    • I love Christ deeply, profoudly, desperately…but I am very, very, very tired.

      And yet I look at a bookshelf full of books by people who lived — and in some case not only died but were killed — for their faith. Why can’t I just pull it together?

      The truth of the matter is that what has captivated me is one of the darkest branches of theology that exists. I tell myself it hasn’t, I couldn’t possibly think of giving it serious studay, annd yet? I have a friend whose favorite color is black. Her favorite color has always been black, even as a small girl.

      People used to tell her that her favorite color was yellow.

      It was black.

      That’s how I feel about all the people across the ages who were willing to look honestly into the theology of darkness to ask whether or not if who God is is enough, regardless of blessings.

      The only manifestation of God I have right now is the love of Christ through his people, and that needs to be enough, but there are six long days between Sundays.

      • It is indeed an easy question to ask, why can’t you pull it together when you’re so depleted—and it’s probably just about the worst thing anyone could say to you, to lay some kind of guilt trip on you for not feeling God’s love or getting it together and doing something when you’re so tired. Even when one knows one hasn’t the strength, one can still readily lay that insidious guilt trip on oneself. Thinking about the valiance of the martyrs can make that worse, if it means comparing your own state to their presumed flawless fortitude. Who knows what darkness any of them who didn’t give us an account of their inner lives suffered too?

        Anyway, no words I can say. Just, again, I’m very sorry you’re going through this. It’s good that you take some comfort in the Sunday services and its people at least. My best to you for those days in between.

      • Yeah. It’s just the way the mind works or how easily it’s deceived when you’re in despair. It’s worse when you have faith and all of the promises and expectations that go with it, or prayers that seem to tell you your love isn’t the perfect kind of love you’re supposed to have. You can’t force or bargain your way into feeling God’s love, and sometimes you don’t have the strength to do even what you want to expect of yourself. Yeah, It’s a pretty lousy deal.

  2. My head and the rest of me are on different teams. This is one of those places impossible to reason my way out if because everthing that’s wrong is going on in a different part of my brain. I’m trying not to rest in that as an excuse. I know I am loved, but I can be loved curled up in a ball just as easy as anywher, but I’m so very tired.

  3. I love the quote about God willing to heal the brokenhearted but in order to do so we have to surrender the broken pieces.This reminds me of two stories I recently read. The first story relayed was about a priest performing a mass and the altar boy dropped a glass vessel accidentally and it shattered into hundreds of pieces. As they looked at the shattered piece the priest commented, “isn’t it beautiful…now that it is shattered, it sparkles like diamonds”. I recall a time in my life when I thought that loving Christ meant that I would never be shattered again. That being made whole in him was a once in a life time act. The day I realized that I could still be broken and love God was a more powerful day than the day I knew I was first whole in him. Life is like the Eucharist, which we celebrate over and over again, Christ’s suffering and resurrection. It is the rhythm of our lives, the continual suffering and the continual resurrection.The second story recalls that Jesus is the potter and we are the pot he is sculpting. As the sculptor works, pieces are scraped off and drop to the ground. Jesus doesn’t throw away the pieces he removes, he carefully works them back into the pot in a way that he finds beautiful. Am I willing to trust that Jesus is able to find the beauty in my brokenness?

    • I’m not sure I’ve ever in my life felt whole…in anything. I do know that my only hope for any wholeness, peace, love that won’t go away, unbrokenness, is in Christ. No idea how to get there from here.

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