Saturday, January 17, 2015

Where There is no Love, Put Love; and so Draw Out Love

St. John of the Cross famously said, "Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love."

I've learned something about this maxim. It involves a leap of faith and moments of something between awkwardness and crucifixion. There's also often a bonus feature of purification involved for the lover.

There's a situation in which I learned some of this almost by mistake. Several times a month I frequent a certain business in town, and I interact with a rotating but small group of employees. One day I approached the employee du jour in the effervescent manner that I tend to reserve for those few moments a day when I am interacting with strangers. I chatted to said employee happily about something or another, animatedly paid for my business, wished her well, and left. And all the while she stared at me, expressionless and business-like.

I left, feeling ever-so-slightly awkward. Because there is something disconcerting to me about using my little bit of effervescence and watching it be met in that stoney way.

But a funny thing happened when several weeks later I was there again, with the same woman. By now I was realizing she is simply reserved, and reserved people are often mistaken for being grumpy in general or upset with given individuals. But this new day on which I approached her, she made a welcoming gesture and spoke in not exactly a bubbly way, but in a comfortable and friendly way. And I realized that almost by mistake, I proved St. John's maxim true: when you invest with love, you will find love available to draw back out.

We all just need help in different ways and to different degrees.

There's also that moment where one's motives in loving are treated as suspicious, when a soul is not able to trust for whatever reasons. I am reminded of the sorts of people who insist on hugging people at a greeting (when it isn't culturally mandated). While this may please that person's sense of herself as loving, it does not always respect the sense of the person who may not be interested in or open to that hug. There is little that is more distressing to a loving heart than watching a gesture of love be rejected, but God does this with us all the time. His offers of love are rejected and ignored by His own children over and over. He insists our love response be free, and so He does not force His way. But He does wait for that cracking open of our hearts, that moment of vulnerability we offer His love.

If we go about with acts of love like children who throw leaves or flowers into a stream, enjoying the flinging part and not too concerned with the where-they-end-up part, God can do many things. With a morning offering prayer, we make each day like a handful of these leaves or flowers. We can present God with the normal sorts of human means He likes to use to bring His supernatural graces to hearts that are dying for His touch.

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