I pushed the question aside, but it kept coming back. Should I really be co-facilitating both offerings of Living from the Heart that will be held in B.C.’s Lower Mainland in 2019? Even though I had carefully discerned with the other facilitators that this was the way to go, I began to second-guess myself.
I know a number of people who would love the opportunity to facilitate. And training new facilitators would enable SoulStream to offer the Living from the Heart course in other locations. Was my selfishness getting in the way of progress?
My spiritual director invited me to bring these questions to God. I closed my eyes and imaged myself again as a bird held tenderly in Jesus’ hands. But this time, instead of being snuggled into his chest, I was lifted up to his face. He was looking into my eyes and smiling. I heard what he was thinking: Don’t worry about taking someone else’s place, I can give them what they need in a thousand different ways.
“I get the sense that this is a gift for me,” I told my director. “God will love others through it because that’s the nature of love, but it seems important to God that I know that facilitating this course in this time and place is a gift given to me, for me.”
When I said that out loud, it didn’t sound selfish or greedy. It sounded honouring to God. God, who knows me inside and out, knows what gives me life and wants me to receive it.
A week later, Fred and I are on the Sunshine Coast. In the early morning, I zip up my jacket and, with coffee in hand, go outside to pray with my eyes open. Low clouds cling to the hills along the shore. I hear a tinkle and three dogs emerge from a sailboat moored at the marina. Then a man gets out and closes the hatch to keep the warm air in. The dogs stretch and scamper up the wharf; the man follows.
I reflect on something I’d read in Gerald May’s book, The Dark Night of the Soul. May talks about how God brings freedom by transforming our desires. He writes,
The twelfth-century abbot and spiritual writer St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains one way in which this happens. We usually begin, he says, by seeking gratification and fulfilment through our own devices. He calls this “love of self for one’s own sake.” When life teaches that this doesn’t work, we then turn to God, a higher power, and seek the consolations that are given through grace. In Bernard’s words, this is the “love of God for one’s own sake.” Gradually, we find ourselves falling in love not with the consolations of God, but with the God of consolations: the “love of God for God’s sake.” In the atmosphere of this love, Bernard says we finally begin to discover how loveable we ourselves are: “love of self for God’s sake.”
I’ve read about these four ways of loving before but never liked them because I’d always understood them as stages of maturity. I felt disheartened because I never seem to get past loving myself or God for my own sake. But May says that transformation doesn’t happen in a linear fashion.
The dogs and their master return. It’s silent again, then I hear a creature break the surface of the water, exhale loudly, and submerge into the deep. I scan the sea beyond the dock and hear it again. A sea-lion.
This is my gift to you, for you, Jesus had said. I remember the joy it gave him to see me receive it. Now I know why. I was loving myself for God’s sake.
Jesus, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills the breast;
but sweeter far thy face to see,
and in thy presence rest.
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux
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I’ve taken up the challenge of keeping a gratitude journal for thirty days. Every morning after my silent prayer, I record at least three things I’m grateful for from the previous day. If you need a little inspiration to join me in this love mischief, spend five minutes watching this video by Brother David Steindl-Rast.