Live From Your True Self (Monday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Luke 7:44-48
God will love you if you love others.
It sounds true enough, doesn’t it? And yet, it’s a version of the same lie the serpent spewed in Genesis and Satan spewed in the wilderness to Jesus: You can attain. You can achieve. Climb the ladder of good works to the top, and you will have proven to God that you’re worth it.
This is Evil’s twisted lie. You see, love is not an achievement game, it’s an act of intimacy. Love is easy – amazingly easy – when it emerges from one’s deepest core. Think about one’s first glimpse of a newborn. That kind of love isn’t forced, isn’t willed. That kind of love is a surrender to the grace and givenness of God’s extraordinary gifts.
I don’t know where religion twisted loving God into a performance game. I see this beautiful picture of a so-called “sinful woman” whose love is reckless and free, and wonder why we’ve turned loving God into a checklist of behaviors. We too often look more like the Pharisees than this prodigious lover.
Loving God is an act of intimacy, not of moral performance. It emerges from our heart’s longing for connection. The most common language for this intimacy throughout the history of the church has been sexual, a fact that surprises and even embarrasses many. Think about it. The enjoyment of sexual intimacy isn’t predicated on following a to-do list. It’s not a burdensome duty. No, it’s an encounter bathed in longing, satisfied in mutual surrender. That so many writers found Song of Solomon to be the best picture of this kind of intimacy is not shocking.
The “true self” in Christ cannot do anything but love. Its vocation is love, compassion, and connection.
Our false selves, with their fig-leaved propensity for hiding and scheming, demand love, manipulate love, sabotage love.
And Jesus sees through to the core. Jesus sees our heart’s desire. Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “To love someone means to see them as God intended them.”
Jesus seems to know how you and I sabotage and manipulate and scheme and demand, and yet…and yet…he offers grace, releasing us to live from our hidden life in Christ in fullness and joy. He sees us to the core. And he sees his image, alive with dignity and goodness.
While the religious leaders competed and compared, a woman loved. Sitting at the feet of Jesus, she bathes them, drying them with her hair! She kisses his feet. Can you imagine the scene? As the religious men tower over, she sits in the dust of Ash Wednesday, connected to the ground, not just physically but spiritually.
Can you imagine the gossip among the onlookers? And yet, Jesus recognizes prodigious love when he sees it. That’s faith. Unfettered and free. Surrendered and intimate.
In a season where many typically tidy up their behaviors and tame their passions, might we instead take some time to reflect on who and what we love? Perhaps, as we give up trying so hard, we might just allow ourselves to fall into the goodness of this sacred intimacy, returning to the gracious ground in humble, prodigious love.
God our Prodigious Lover, you give and give and give. You seem at ease with a kind of reckless intimacy that tends to embarrass me. I prefer rules and checklists, ways of knowing that I’m actually pleasing you. Could it be that love is much more simple, intimate, and available? I’m ready to find out. Amen