As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.
John 15: 9-12, Common English Bible
The season of Lent is traditionally used as a time for sacrifice and contemplation, a time to delve deeper into our own inner workings with the goal of finding God. In Global Soccer Mom I tell a story of wrestling with finding God in suburbia. I stumble on to a convent where I meet a nun who has profound words about God, my life, and the need around me.
Nuns fascinate me. Not only do they live a life of contemplation and prayer devoted to finding God, nuns are women of action. They serve. Henri Nouwen explains how these two things go together, “Here we are touching the profound spiritual truth that service is an expression of the search for God.”
As I search for God in my own Lenten practices of contemplation, reflection and service I am struck by the verses in John. It seems somewhat full circle. If service toward those in need in my world is an act of searching for God, and I find a loving God, I respond joyfully and love others.
Arloa Sutter, a woman I respect and who founded Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago, says it this way, “Scripture sheds light on the why of poverty by addressing issues of greed, disobedience, isolation, and discrimination, but ultimately the power to overcome poverty and disease lies not to much in assigning blame as in learning to live the Jesus way; to follow him in how he interacted with the poor and suffering, to take up our cross of loving generously, kindness, and tenacious advocacy for the poor and oppressed.”
Sometimes tenacious advocacy for the poor and oppressed is not easy work and can be very discouraging. The world screams for our attention about a million other things. It seems as though we are doing nothing. The need is too great and I am so small.
Results are important. Changing lives is important. But the reason for remaining tenacious is equally important. Because the Father loved me, I am to remain in His love and I am to love others. Somehow this bargain, this full circle, seems to be the recipe for joy–even with setbacks, roadblocks, and times of confusion in life and in service.
Sometimes, lofty ideas come down to a simple truth, a simple thought of relief and thanksgiving, which brings meaning to the depth of God’s love and how I am to treat others. This is the sentence going through my head this Lent: God is very kind.