Ending the year, feeling like a failure-knowing it wasn't completely without merit-just not as perfect as I would have liked it to be...I'm ready for a fresh start, longing to leave the past behind, ready to begin going DEEPER-- DEEPER into His arms, His heart, His love...
I look at St. Bernard's Four Degrees of Love once again and decide I want to begin going deeper right here, want to look at those degrees more closely, want to challenge myself to move through those degrees with more intensity--
1. Love of self for self's sake.
2. Love of God for self's sake.
3. Love of God for God's sake.
4. Love of self for God's sake.
I begin with why God should be loved:
St. Bernard says: "the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable love."
And I think of his great love, choosing to become one of us-frail, weak, human-dependent upon the care of others. He knows. He knows what we suffer. He knows our joys. He is not a distant creator, but a God become one of us in the form of a helpless baby. And even more significant, he didn't take on human form just to understand us, but to die for us. He was born to die. For us. Because He loves us.
St. Bernard goes on to quote the famous line seen along country roadways on the sides of barns and held up in football stadiums everywhere. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
EVERLASTING LIFE. That life that includes EVERLASTING LOVE. This is the fourth degree of love that I am after, that we are all after.
O God, on this threshold of a new year, a year in which I want to go DEEPER into knowledge and love of myself so that I may grow DEEPER in knowledge and love of You, I ask You to guide me, slowly, patiently, gently into the DEEP where I will openly receive every good gift which You desire to bestow upon my weak and fragile heart, even the gifts which don't feel so good at first, those that might cause me pain in the growth. Open my heart to love of self for Your sake, not for mine. And along the way, when I stumble and fall, as I am sure to do, remind me that I am not a failure as long as I remember to take all of my efforts and place them into Your loving hands as an offering of my self, the very self that You have always loved. Amen.