As I have been intentionally walking through Advent this year, this verse caught my attention. I’ve been thinking about it in relation to this last Sunday of Advent being about hope and John the Baptist preparing the way.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor. 13:4-7, NIV).
This love is a welcoming love. Previously, I would strive toward being this kind of love. Maybe we all have journeyed that path. How do I love this way? How do I become an invitation to this kind of love?
These are really good questions. Yet, as I ponder this, I believe they miss the point. As I have sat with these words, it has become more and more clear to me that God is this kind of love. God is patient, God is kind…
This is the invitation, isn’t it? It is in experiencing this God of love which transforms us into being this kind of love. This is the invitation to love both ourselves and those around us. It takes an openness within our own hearts to love like this - to love so freely and in humility.
Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun from the 16th century, spoke about our transformation being like the wax used in a seal. The wax cannot impress the seal upon itself, or even soften itself, it can only be there to experience the transformation from a chunk of wax to a means of expressing the officialness of a document or letter.1
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:1-2, NRSV).
Notice, in the second verse, Paul uses the passive verb tense of be conformed and be transformed. Much like the wax, Teresa of Avila spoke of, we can only be there in the transformational experience. It is something that happens to us as we allow ourselves to experience God as love, this bold, humble, gentle, and kind love.
This transformational love is so completely outside of our own understandings. It is a true and fierce love. It seems this true love is being believed in, seen, heard, and known. In realizing and experiencing this true love, we are reshaped and made new.
As we think about Christmas coming, this beautiful gift of incarnation, we are invited to consider the implications of God breaking into our world. God broke in as fully human and fully divine, to show us a new way to live, a new way to love. This new life is outside of our own imperial worldview of power and self-protection which creates division both inside us and with those around us. This gift of God breaking into our world to bring us back into right relationship with Love transforms us, integrates us.
Preparing the way of the Lord is being this invitation to Love. We are invited into being this love, being the invitation to this Love. We are invited to hold the one in front of us, regardless of who it is. Every. Single. One.
This work of becoming the invitation is the transformation which happens to us, to me. It isn’t something any of us can earn, but only fall into. We are invited to be still as the wax and to allow, follow, and love. We may be passive in the process but we are also invited to be very bold. This boldness within ourselves is a place of being vulnerable, to allow our own perceived frailness of humanity to be seen by God.
Who we believe this God to be, affects how vulnerably we can allow ourselves to be seen. This is the journey of transformation - we are invited to experience this God of love and to allow our own perception of who we think God is and who we think we are, to be changed. It is in this process, this journey, that we are invited both to be seen and to be the invitation of this love toward others. May God bless you on your own journey to experience the transforming power of Love.
1Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, translated by E. Allison Peers, (New York, NY: Start, 2012), 74, Kindle.
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!