Tuesday, November 23, 2021

IN GOD’S EYES – An Accounting of Loving and Being Loved

I’ve just had an epiphany. Actually sort of a compound epiphany.

The soil in which these realizations took root was tilled several years ago by a friend's telling me of the vision Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton experienced on a busy street corner in downtown Louisville in 1958. 

While standing there, Merton suddenly saw all the strangers around him in a perfectly clear, unfiltered light, not with assumptions or judgement, but simply as innocent children of God.

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”

How would it feel if Sylvia were dying in my arms?

So, the other day I’m lounging in my Lazy Boy with our adorable mini-schnauzer, Sylvia, cradled face up in the crook of my arm. I had little to do but contemplate her being…and mine. I thought about how much I love this precious little creature, how deeply that love possesses my heart and soul, how utterly complete and without condition it is.

It may sound a bit gloomy, but it’s hard for me to process such profound gratitude without considering the prospect of loss. How would it feel, I pondered, if Sylvia, instead of basking in a nice tummy rub, were dying in my arms? 

I had this perfectly clear image of her eyes, fixed on mine, that opalescent chestnut brown a marbling of fear, pleading, trust. I could see right into her heart, and I think she could see into mine. Everything in and between us was love.

Tears welled up; my throat tightened.

In that very last exchange, what could Sylvia see in my eyes? Would it be anything close to the outpouring of unconditional love I was feeling?

     It’s a perspective that could change my life…

It was at this moment of swirling love and grief that I realized—and here comes the first epiphany—even at my ripe old age, I don’t think I ever have, and quite likely never will, experience that kind of pure, uncomplicated, unconditional love.

Recognizing that void in my life made me very sad indeed…but just for a few seconds.

Until, that is, I realized—and here comes the second epiphany, which refutes the first—that the perfect love Sylvia and I shone on each other in that heartbreaking vision is exactly how the God I believe in sees me. And you. 

IMAGE: Sotheby's

It’s just how Thomas Merton found himself seeing everyone on that busy street corner back in 1958. And it’s a perspective that could change my life…if I let it.

Now I know I have been, and still am, loved perfectly. Not just by my dog, but by God. 

Of course, that begs the question: are we human beings capable of such absolute love? Other than catching a fleeting glimpse of the concept as Merton did, is it even possible for us to love without expectation or prejudice? Do we love ourselves enough to love others that way? 

I believe very few of us do, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Even if I should never receive such love from another person, at least I can try giving more of it. After all, isn't love the only thing in life where the more of it you give away the more you have?

And, since I’d like to have lots and lots of love, I guess I’d better get busy. Giving that kind of love, God's kind of love—not just to Sylvia, but to my amazing wife, Sally, my kids and grandkids, and a few special friends. And, just maybe, to strangers.


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