14 November 2009

Ascending the keep

While away on the Kairos retreat earlier this week with the senior boys from St. Anthony's, I gave a talk on the love of God. In the course of the talk, I shared with them how I came to know God's love through the deaths of my parents.

I said to them,

Those castles I had built with Legos were somehow quickly built of my own emotions. It seemed as though all of the people I loved were being taken away from me, so now I would be very careful whom I loved so that I would not be so deeply and profoundly hurt again. This was a necessary thing for an eight-year-old boy to do, but very unfortunate as well, because it kept me from experiencing the love of countless people – as it continues to do today - and it stopped me from sharing so much of the love that is within me, struggling to be set free.

I did, however, notice something slowly changing inside of me: someone was trying to break through my defenses and it seemed the intruder was successful. I began to feel, ever so slowly, a little bit more at peace.
This undetected intruder was Jesus Christ. I do not remember explicitly inviting him in, but I also did not refuse him. His all but sudden appearance in my keep was the best thing to ever happen to me.

Others were allowed - ever so slowly - to enter into the castle, as it were. The closer the friend the farther they were allowed to enter. This remains largely true to this day, though I am trying, with God's grace, to chip away at the walls I have constructed.

The next day another adult on the retreat gave a talk on obstacles to God's love and used Simon and Garfunkle's song, "I am a rock" to introduce his talk:

Not being one to get out very much I'm not sure I'd heard the song before. If I had, I certainly never paid it any attention.

Before the song ended, one of the boys leaned over to me and said, "It sounds like the song was written for you."

Since the retreat I've listened to the song several times and it has grown on me. With the exception of the line, "I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It's laughing and it's loving I disdain," I think I agree with him; the song suits me well.

I've always known I have a need of friendship - as does everyone - and that friendship causes pain because it entails love (which always is a willingness to suffer), but I've never disdained laughter or love.

I've always been aware of the contradiction - perhaps paradox is a better word - of both retreating into the interior castle and of yearning to love and be loved; the two move in opposite directions. The walls are built up for proctection, yet these very walls cause pain because, as Rich Mullins sang, "There's a lot of love locked up inside me I'm learning to give."

For those who have suffered the loss of a great love, allowing oneself to be vulnerable again to love and be loved can be a great difficulty. For one reason or another, this has been the topic of several conversations with people lately, not simply in my own life but in theirs, as well.

If we consider the life of Christ Jesus we see two principle ways in which he made himself vulnerable to love: the Incarnation and the Crucifixion.

In taking flesh and being born of the Virgin Mary, the Second Person of the Trinity risked being vulnerable for us. He risked our rejection of his love.

In suffering death for us, the heart of the Savior was pierced, signifying his overflowing love that could not be contained, so fully did he give himself for us.

As we follow after him we, too, are called to make ourselves vulnerable to be loved by him and by others. We, too, must allow our hearts to be wounded so that the love of God may flow out from us to those we meet each day.

To do so requires abandoning ourselves to him, trusting in his love for us. It requires a union with the Cross of Christ and a willingness to suffer with and for him.

Naturally, some days are easier than others. For some, being a rock and an island may be a necessary thing. Now if we can only allow ourselves to be a maleable rock and an island that does not kick off the visitors.

These are just a few thoughts on my mind lately; I hope they may be helpful to a few of you.

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