Wednesday, January 2, 2019

infinitely suspended patients

The main task of the religious life with its discipline of prayer, scripture reading, and reflection is to peel away the many desires and wants that cover over the desire for unconditional love that is primitive, that is our last and first love. — Cyril O’Regan

I think I too often try to make God in my own image and likeness, not when I'm trying to be bad, but when I'm trying to be good.

In my attempts to be good and loving, I usually try to appease a scrupulous deity—a God who is overly concerned with the right and the wrong and not being mired in the wrong one.

I am challenged by a God of the psalms who desires mercy not sacrifice. For, I suppose, that means God desires to be merciful at every possible moment. There is not a single moment God desires to offer retribution rather than mercy.

That is not my deepest desire. My deepest desire is to remain unhurt for my entire life. I know that it is good to be forgiving, but I do not think my deepest desire is to forgive. It's a medium-depth desire, for sure. But, when offended, I often fixate on the fact that I have been offended. It is hard to see anyone else when you are only examining your own heart and taking stock of only your wounds.

But God, I am told by God's own self or by divinely-endorsed prophets in the words of scripture, desires in that exact situation not, like me, for the offending party to do something for one's self so that I may be unhurt or may find my way back towards being unhurt. Rather, God desires, even in terrible moments like the cross or a betrayal by an intimate friend, to grant mercy.

If my deepest desire is not to have mercy, then it seems that I am still denying myself the most fundamental desire—love. Unconditional love is not an imprudent love, a love that denies or ignores reality. It is not unconditional in that it does not have a form or it erases the demands of our own personalities. But it is, perhaps, unconditional, because it desires mercy, not sacrifice. It desires, at every possible moment, to offer mercy. Even if mercy, like some severe medicine, stings. 

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