Peacebang asks us to reflect on how we know God loves us. What a great and difficult question. Right now, it’s hard for me to articulate much, as I am tired and deeply sad. But sometimes, when something is hard that means it is exactly the right thing to do. And so, let me try to speak to my experience of “the Love that will not let me go.”
I’m sad today because my friend and congregant and his family are still suffering. I’m reminded how quickly life can change. A few weeks ago, Hank was singing in the choir with his signature mix of seriousness and joy. Now his family is trying to discern when it may be best to hold tightly to hope and when it may be best to let go. Life is a riddle and a mystery and sometimes it is not kind. I grieve for Hank, his family, our congregation, and myself. I grieve that life is so brief and can change in an instant. Today, I resist. I am feeling the suffering of my attachments.
And yet, in the midst of this, such Love. When Alice came to church on Sunday, she was enveloped and held in the arms of her community. Even in her grief and pain, she knew that she needed us. And we needed her. I was in church for the same reason, though I am officially on vacation. I needed my church. I needed to see the people gathered, placing their trust in each other and in Love. I needed to hear someone’s thoughtful reflections on life. I needed to lift my voice, side by side with others who sing in spite of pain. I needed to touch, feel, hear, see, and breathe in Love. I was not disappointed. This Love truly will not let us go.
Sometimes I am drawn to the simplicity of Hosea Ballou’s understanding of a Loving God. Ballou had a wonderful father and was a wonderful father. He was fondly called “Father Ballou” and he was known for his kindness, his ability to attend to people fully, and his passionate belief in a God so loving that He would never let a single soul go. Ballou could not bring himself to believe that God would condemn anyone to eternal suffering. After all, he reasoned, if his own father was so loving, and he himself knew how much one could love one’s children, how could he imagine a God that was less loving? That makes sense to me. I have seen such Love in this life. How could God love me–or anyone–any less than that?
Of course, I don’t often speak in terms of a personal God. I am more comfortable saying that God is Love than that God loves me. And yet, in some ways, it is the same thing. I too, am enveloped by Love. I am given more than I deserve every single day. Do I deserve the sunrise? my children? even the devotion of my dog? No. And yet, with a generosity I can hardly fathom, Life pours out blessings on me. Love will not let me go.
Yes, there are times of pain. And yet, in a way, that pain is also Love. I am sad because I love Hank and his family. I love my congregation. I don’t like this change that has caused us to suffer. And yet, in the face of suffering, Love has multiplied and grown and become clear and accessible to us in new ways. In the face of pain, we have grown stronger. We have become a part of the blessing. We are hand in hand with Love, even as we face this new day.