Saturday, January 31, 2015

Love is My True Identity

- in my meditation garden -

Many years ago I began reading the works of the celebrated monk and author, Thomas Merton. He was  a "mystic," a "contemplative," a "poet," deeply rooted in the Christian tradition and yet profoundly influenced by Buddhist teachings. Thomas Merton opened my mind as well as freed my soul to see and understand "God" and my relationship to "God" in fresh, new and different ways.   Brother Merton would have turned 100 today and he continues to influence me at this stage of my life as much if not more so than he did when I was much younger.

As I think about the the writings of Thomas Merton on this his 100th birthday, I quite vividly recall the very first time I read something he wrote  - it literally changed my worldview:

To say that I am made in the image of God 
is to say that Love is the reason for my existence,
for God is Love!

Love is my true identity.
Selflessness is my true self.
Love is my true character.
Love is my name.

When I first read this many years ago it was as if "scales fell from my eyes." In an instant I moved away from understanding God as a divine super being up in the sky into understating "God" as the universal energy of abiding love. It was a major breakthrough for me.

Like most children raised in a Christian household, from a very early age I was taught that human beings were made "in the image and likeness of God." In order to explain just exactly what that meant, my elementary school religion teacher brought in a picture of of Michelangelo's famed "creation fresco" painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. 

There it was in living color for all of us to see - an actual picture of God, a wise old grandfather with flowing robes and a long beard reaching out and touching life into the extended finger of Adam, the first man. And indeed it was true, Adam was a spitting image of God. He was younger than the old man, no doubt inferior to him,  but you couldn't help but recognize the family resemblance. 

And yet, throughout the scriptures, we are told that God is "Love," - not a distant super hero living far away, perhaps accessible, but still distant. No, God is Love -abiding Love, intimate Love, passionate Love flowing in us and through us.  And once you accept that truth everything changes in an instant.

Yes I very much believe that we human beings are "made in the image of God." In fact I believe that everything that "is" reflects "God's" image - the earth and the sky, birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and the flowers growing in my meditation garden, all images of God -all beautiful reflections of the universal abiding Holy Presence of Love. 

Love is my true identity.
Selflessness is my true self.
Love is my true character.
Love is my name.

Happy Birthday Thomas!





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4 comments:

  1. Thank you for these thoughts. I've struggled to understand what this 'love' means. I was taught the traditional things about being a sinner and having to pay the penalty but that Jesus paid it for me. It didn't make sense. In fact it horrifies me to think of that.

    Today when I think of the love of God I think of the creation he made which is designed to fulfill our earthly needs which are physical and spiritual. Now that is love and I can see that. It makes sense to me.

    I also know that God didn't just make me, he made other people too. Since we are created in the image of God we are meet each others needs in a way that resembles the way God looks after us. This does make sense to me.

    I just noticed your podcast. I'll check it out. Thanks again Paul for reminding me what God is all about.

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  2. "... I moved away from understanding God as a divine super being up in the sky into understating "God" as the universal energy of abiding love."
    There is a deep wide chasm separating the Fundamentalist Evangelical indoctrination I unquestioningly absorbed years ago and the God of your and Thomas Merton's understanding. I'm awaiting the scales to fall off, soon I hope :) This post provides ample fodder for further contemplation on the matter. ..Thank You for this..

    (mike)

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