pouring tea

Just Let Me Love You

This silent prayer was a surprise. We had just finished Vespers, the sixth time of prayer that day, and frankly I was tired and anxious to get back to my laptop waiting for me in my room.

 

The abbot tapped his knuckle against the choir stall signaling the end of the service. We all bowed, as was the routine, and then I turned expecting to exit the chapel as usual. I was surprised when everyone sat back down. I sat back down with them more than a little confused, and then I recalled that one of the monks had mentioned something about an optional period of corporate silent prayer after Thursday Vespers.  By the time I remembered that it was optional it was too late: the body of Christ was already on the altar, and it would just be rude to leave at that point.
So there I was. I had much to do and hadn’t accounted for this extra time in the chapel. And so I asked the question to no one in particular, “What do I do now in the midst of this silence?” I heard an answer as clear as the chapel bell, “Just sit here and let me love you.” The voice was unmistakable. It was my Savior and I had been given a command, so I laid down my mind and obeyed. Much to my disappointment I lack the skill and courage to describe what followed but in short in that 30 minutes of silence I caught just a glimpse of some the many God is always loving me

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Reflecting upon the experience I thought about my fellow resident members of the Community of St. Anselm. When our community had come into a bit of a desert space our leaders wisely decided that it was a good time for us to talk about our different love languages. We all had various degrees of familiarity with Gary Chapman’s 5 love languages, so our leaders gave a brief overview of them and then we went around in a circle – all 15 of us, from 9 different countries and backgrounds, discussing our love languages, how they related to our cultures and families, and the various ways they might manifest. During that extraordinary conversation I was stuck by two things. First, that at our root we are creatures who want to, and in various ways are always trying, to love. Secondly, I was astounded by how many ways love can be manifested in the world.
I’ll make a confession here: I am not always someone who feels loved or even worthy of love. It is at times hard for me to receive love either because I see that it is love and I feel I don’t deserve it or because I am suspicious of motives that I see right past the love. It would take way more than a blog-post and a month at a monastery to swim through all that murky water, but I lay this out because I am coming to know how central Love is on our journey with God, and I suspect I am not the only person who struggles to love and allow oneself to be loved. I once heard perfectionism described as “a heightened sensitivity to signs of failure in the environment.” The perils of perfectionism within the Christian tradition are well established at this point and need no further critique here, but I do believe that there is something important in this definition. Perhaps part of what it means to be Christian is to develop a heightened sensitivity to signs of love in the environment.

Towards this end I propose, at the very least for myself, and maybe it could be helpful to others, to routinely ask the question, “How is God loving me?” using Chapman’s 5 love languages as a sort of checklist or meditation guide. I would suggest that in any given week, or on any specific day, or at any particular moment God is loving us in so many ways and it is our work to develop the sensitivity to this love and to fully embrace it. To illustrate this point I will use this method to review just a small portion of one of my days at Mucknell Abbey just to have peak at how God has been loving me.

Words of Affirmation
•The scripture readings which told me I am beloved
•The encouraging words from the brothers and sisters
Acts of Service
•The food I ate but did not cook, or grow, or harvest
•The many cups of tea offered and poured with care
Receiving Gifts
•The body and blood at Eucharist today
•The wooden cross made for me in the workshop

Quality Time
•The silences in which God embraced me
•The prayer and worship which uplifted my spirit

Physical Touch
•The feeling of firm wet earth underneath my boot
•The smell of rain, the tickle of wind

God’s love is a certainty and yet when we truly start to look for this love, it is always a surprise.

 

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Demarius Walker

Demarius J. Walker is a resident member of the Community of St Anselm. He spent a month living alongside the Mucknell Community in April-May 2018.

He blogs at https://soundofthegenuine.wordpress.com