I ask myself is “Do I love God?” I wouldn’t have been able to think of that question myself but over the years, and especially reading the lives of the Saints, I’ve found myself asking the question on more than a few occasions.
I think there were times in my life when I was afraid of God. There were times when I tolerated God. Some times I needed God like an alcoholic needs another drink. If the truth were told there were times when I felt like I didn’t much need God at all. As many possible emotions and states as there could be I suppose I’ve felt that way about God at one time or another.
But do I love God?
For the Saints and holy people of times past one of their qualities was a genuine love for God. They wanted to be in relationship with God. They wanted to be present to God. They valued God’s company and craved Him when they felt He was distant. It was at that point where they went from tolerating God, or honoring God out of fear, or seeing God as some kind of escape from the painful realities of life that they began to love. It was also at that point where they began to be transfigured into something numinous and holy.
So do I love God?
The answer is “I am trying.” I would like to move from lesser relationships with God to love and though there are often fits and starts I would like to think that one day, perhaps, I can return to God a tiny fraction of the love He has for me and for the whole creation. Even the attempt, I suppose, to do this is considered by God to be a kind of love but often it seems so little returned for so much given.
Still, the answer, however feeble it is some times is “Yes”.
In our American context the word “revival” has a special kind of spiritual significance. If you watch Christian television there will always be some kind of “revival” planned or happening or coming and much of it has to do with some kind of charismatic speaker and people becoming emotionally charged as a sign that they are being “revived” by the Holy Spirit.
These moment, more often than not, are temporary and when the shouting and singing are done and people leave the arena very little may have changed. In fact, sometimes people actually wander from place to place seeking out the latest “revival” almost like an addict seeks the next fix. The spiritual life becomes, in a sense, a series of mundane days only broken up by the next big thing and so on and so on.
That’s not really revival, though, because any good speaker can get you to jump up and down but only the Holy Spirit can help you change your life towards Christ in the day to day world that marks most of our existence. It’s actually more of a mark of revival in the Church not so much when people fall on the floor in an emotional outburst as it is when the entire moral tenor of a place is transformed. Real revival means bars have less customers, business people are moved towards ethics, and the people themselves become holy in a deep, profound, and long lasting way.
At it’s core revival is really about a rediscovery of love for God and all the good things that flow from that love. This isn’t love the emotion but love, rather, as an act of the will where the person who loves seeks the genuine good of the other. If we love God our hearts will be drawn that way and our life will be colored and transformed by that love. And when our love tires from time to time because we are human we need to do that which rekindles it in ourselves whether that is our love for a person or for God.
If there is to be true revival in our culture it’s not going to be about emotions per se but rather about a rekindling of something more important, our love for God in response to His love for us. Those caught up in the emotions of a moment are transformed for that moment. Those who are caught up in love for God are transformed for eternity.
I would leave the house in the wee hours of the morning. A little latch release here and a small push on the screen and I was out.
I meant no harm. I simply walked the streets of my town and enjoyed the alone and the quiet. The dark was cool and pleasant and while the rest of the world was asleep I was awake with my thoughts, my dreams, and the shadows.
Often I still wake up in the earliest part of the morning and while I most often don’t leave the house I will quietly slip out of bed and think about the world. It can be a time of prayer as the stillness of the hour lends itself to such things. I think of people, they dance in and out of my mind, and I mention them to God. Some are close to me and within my day to day life. Others I haven’t seen in decades. Yet the names come to me and I think of where they are and what they’re doing and how life has been for them and give God their name. He knows what I do not and He can care for them in ways that time and distance prevent me from doing.
This may be one of those nights, a night when God nudges me awake at a time when the cares and noise of life are few and far between and there is time for us to talk. While the quiet settles over St. Paul and the old day becomes the new is a holy hour, a gift better than any dream and rest beyond sleep.
in a post truth culture. We can frame our positions and arguments for the Orthodox Faith by the strictest rules of logic and people will say “So what? That’s your truth.”
We live in a post authority culture so simply saying “This is what the Church has always taught” may have little or no weight with the larger society.
We live in a post knowledge culture and people may not even have the slightest idea of the words and terms we use or their context. How will we be able to speak of, for example, “Salvation” when the average person may have little understanding of what that word means, and especially how we mean it?
But people will, if they see what we believe demonstrated by the tangible outworking of our lives, at least have something solid to grab a hold of as they try to understand what we are saying in a world without truth, authority, or knowledge as they have been formerly understood.
In the end, therefore, perhaps one of the most profound and useful things we can do as Orthodox is to actually be, Orthodox.
like Alaska and Uganda before, their beauty, their people, the Faith we share and the service we can give.
The bags are almost packed, every vaccine has been given, and there are gifts waiting to be shared. It’s a week and change at a youth camp, the first of its kind in a country where Orthodoxy is young and the horizons are vast and broad. Everything we have is needed and much of what we carry will be left there.
In days the planes will take us from across the country to Florida for a brief stop to meet and make plans. Then on to New York, Amsterdam, and Accra, all in one airborne day. One night’s sleep and we’ll already be about our tasks, sharing our lives, and building relationships. Just servants, I guess, to something larger and greater than ourselves, and servants, too, to people we have yet to meet and whom we’ll never forget.
In time faster we can imagine we trace the route back, Accra to Amsterdam and then departing each back to our home in separate ways, one long last flight home to those who are holding the fort while we were gone. Yet having done this before I know all of us will never quite be home in our entirety again. A part of us will remain in Ghana, people, faces, emotions, memories, and a bit of our heart. Once having gone you can never completely come back but that’s how it’s supposed to be.
The bags are on my living room floor, just a few more things to pack before everything starts in motion. Nervous? A little. Excited? A lot. Ready? I guess as ready as I’ll ever be.
Godspeed, and in your mercy, Lord, watch over everyone I leave behind.