I’ve been experimenting with an app lately called Daily Prayer. Designed to help develop spiritual rhythms of prayer and reading, it reminds me to stop, pray, read and reflect four times daily – morning, noon, evening, and late evening.
There are scripture passages to read and varied forms of prayer throughout each day – sometimes written, sometimes guided, sometimes spontaneous. But every morning when I rise and every night before I retire, I utter the same words of confession: I have not loved you with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry, and I humbly repent.
On the first morning, these simple words startled me. That evening, they disturbed me; the following morning, they agitated me, and by nightfall, they had pierced my soul. Truth rose to the surface and wounded my heart. As I recited these weighty words, I worked my way down, down, down to a place of sorrowful reflection.
I have repented many sins throughout my life, but I don’t think I have ever said sorry for not loving God with my whole heart. I’ve always considered myself an abandoned follower of Christ who lives to be, as Hildegard of Bingen so beautifully put it, a feather on the breath of God. But living out this greatest commandment to love God and love others requires much more than lofty desires and impassioned utterances. It calls for a holy dying.
Wholehearted, agape love for God is sacrificial and unconditional; selfless, self-giving, self-denying and self-forgetting. It says your will, not mine; your desires, not mine; your plan, not mine; your purposes, not mine. You are the center of the universe, not me. More to the point, you are the center of my universe – not me.
As I reflect on the commandment to love others, I see again how far short I fall. Easily distracted, frequently harried, I am too often filled with self-concern to consider letting death work in me so life can work in others.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 has been done to death at weddings, and over-familiarity has robbed the words of meaning, but I linger once again on this passage from The Passion Translation and find new life here:
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving.
Love is a safe place of shelter. I sink into these words; I let them sink into me.
A strange peace settles as I look full in the face of my failings. I can’t fix myself, nor can I fix anyone else. It is a relief to admit that I am a flawed woman, floundering in a grace that is more than enough for me, buoyed by a perfect love that banishes all fear.
My phone vibrates; it’s time for evening prayer.
O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength. By the might of your Spirit, lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.