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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.