I returned from my eight-day retreat carefully cradling my tender heart. In the coming weeks, I will talk about what happened. It’s changed how I see and hear God, myself and scripture.
Yesterday I read Matthew 7:21-27 and heard it in a new way.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
What if the kingdom of heaven Jesus has in mind is less about where we go when we die and more about the reality of God’s love for us here and now?
What if our thoughts about God and our prayers to God only lead us to the door of this reality but not in?
What if entering into that kingdom of love requires vulnerability? That means not just naming or talking about our emotions with God but feeling them?
What if seeing and doing the will of God is less about completing tasks or assignments and more about allowing Jesus to express the full extent of his love for us and allowing ourselves to experience the full extent of our need for him?
What if remaining firmly on the rock despite the storm is not a portrait of strength but a revelation that we are held in God’s heart?
What if the words Jesus wants us to put into practice that grant us entrance into his kingdom are not: stand firm, be perfect or leave your life of sin? (Jesus knows these are all impossible unless we are already in the kingdom of vulnerability.) No. I think Jesus has one word for us: come.
“Come,” God says, “let me wipe your tears, and let my mouth come close to your ear and say to you, ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.'”
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Henri Nouwen should be canonised the patron saint of love-mischief makers. Through his life and writings, his vulnerability enabled us to welcome both our brokenness and God’s love. The last paragraph of today’s post is from this quote of Nouwen’s from Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings. “God does not require a pure heart before embracing us. Even if we return only because following our desires has failed to bring happiness, God will take us back . . . ‘Come,’ God says, ‘let me wipe your tears, and let my mouth come close to your ear and say to you, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”'”