“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.” St. Augustine of Hippo
As I was praying, this morning, I sensed God saying, “Your calling is to love and be loved.”
When I “hear” things from the Lord, in prayer, I’ve learned to simply receive, as humbly and gratefully as possible, without too much skepticism, over-confidence, or over-analysis. I try to be equally open to the possibility God has actually spoken to me, and that I might just be talking to myself. I try to pay attention, listen, and receive. Time tends to reveal what is of God, and what isn’t.
But, this morning’s word, “Your calling is to love and be loved,” feels like something God would say. I wasn’t praying about “my calling.” The words just came. When a word comes, that clearly lines up with Scripture and Truth – like the Great Commandment, say – why wouldn’t I accept the possibility God has spoken?
But, God took it further. As I heard it and received it, I first assumed God was talking about people – love and be loved, by people. Let’s be honest, that’s not always easy. Some people are easier to love than others! And, some days, I don’t feel very loving. But, God wasn’t talking about people. He was talking about my relationship with him.
My calling is to love God, and be loved by God.
That probably sounds pretty obvious. Truth usually does!
My calling is my vocation, my life’s purpose, my destiny. My calling is how I am to use my time, energy, talents and abilities. My calling is giving all I am to all God has given me to be and to do. My calling is my first priority.
So is your’s.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
I think it’s easy to forget that. If we care about love, and I think we all do, I suspect most of us focus more on how much, or how little, we love or feel loved by others. And, if we don’t love, or feel loved, by people, we might assume God doesn’t love us much either.
We might wonder why certain people don’t, or can’t, love us. We might show love to others, and feel rejected when they don’t love us in return. We might try as hard as we can to love certain people, and feel like failures when we don’t.
But, if our first love is God, and we allow ourselves to be loved by God, the degree to which others do or don’t love us becomes less important. If we can grasp how much God really loves us, that’s enough. Thankfully, others – some others – will love us, too. And, that’s wonderful. And, I truly believe God often loves us through the people who really love us. But, dare I say human love is just a bonus, if we already know how much God love us?
And, if I really love God, in return – with all of my heart, soul, and mind – am I not more capable of loving the people God loves? Do I not have a greater capacity to love as God loves, even if they are hard to love, or don’t love me in return?
If my first task is to love God, and be loved by God, and I am faithful to that task, won’t my heart gradually become more and more like God’s?
As I pastor, I think about my calling a lot. Calling is a pastor’s modus operandi. But, I tend to associate my calling, primarily, with a particular role, or place, or mission, or set of pastoral tasks. Those are not insignificant. They are part of how one responds to a particular calling. But, I am realizing they are secondary.
My primary calling is to love God, and be loved God.
St. Augustine writes,“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”
I suspect love is your calling, too.