I often experience serious grievous reasons to doubt what I am going to say, but let me tell you what I secretly really believe.
My mate, Mike Riddell, says that ‘everything alive is moving, even that which appears to stand still. Call it evolution if you will. Call it creation if you prefer. The engine that drives the universe forward is not natural selection but the dreaming of God. God’s dreams pervade the world as a song haunts your mind; summoning, luring, calling. Where they find resonance, there is movement. God calls the tune; some of us dance. This waltz between God and the world is the source of all that is, and more importantly, what is yet to be.’[i]
Mike, as he does, goes on. He says ‘the word that defines God, which carries through when all the others have stumbled and fallen, is “love”. Love is God’s essence’. Love is who God is and what God does. Mike concedes ‘the word itself is, of course, sloppy. Teenagers are convinced the rush of hormones flooding their bodies is “love”. The mindbenders have used it to sell chocolate and perfume. Love has been trivialised – like Bach played on a kazoo. Never-theless’, he insists ‘genuine love exists. The river of love between two people is at its deepest point an intimation of the heart of God. (And) the heart of God has gone out from itself to envelope the universe. Love is the source of its exi-stence, love the energy streaming through it, love the end to which it moves’. On a roll Mike cries ‘God is the one who dreamed you into being, danced with joy at your birth,(and) tracked you down the backstreets of your life, whisper-ing to you in the night, calling you (back to your self) from the darkness.’ [ii]
Author, James Olthuis, reaffirms the fact that ’love is the basic design plan for the universe. God’s love is the source of all that is. Because God is love, and human beings are made in God’s image, love is who we are. Love is not first and foremost something we do. It is who we are. Love is the essence of being human. To live is to let love well up and stream through us as the pulse of our lives, connecting us to ourselves, our neighbours, the whole family of earth’s creatures, and God, the alpha and omega of love. To love is to be seeking, fostering and sustaining connections with that which is different and other – without domination, absorption or fusion – in delight, in care, in compassion.’ [iii]
We are like fish, in a Sufi story, who anxiously swim around looking for water – till they realise they are swimming in it. Once we realise that we are immersed in ‘the river of God’s providential love,’ we can learn to ‘float in it’. To ‘float’ we don’t have to do anything but ‘let go’. ‘Floating is putting our full weight on the water trusting that we will always be supported.’ The confidence we need to have in order to let go – and float in the river of God’s love – comes from let-ting God’s love wash over us’ and ‘from soaking in the assurances of that love’ which come our way every day – ‘not from trying to believe them’. [iv]
In the Abrahamic traditions faith involves ‘deep trust in the watchful love of God for all God’s children. According to the prophet Isaiah, even in the midst of the most terrible circumstances, those whose hearts are centred in God’s faithful care “shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint”.’ [v]
David Benner reminds us that ‘while human love can never bear the weight of our need for divine love, it can teach us about divine love. Human love can communicate divine love. Experiences of human love make the idea of God’s love believable. The relative constancy of the love of family and friends makes the absolute faithfulness of divine love at least conceivable.’ However, Benner repeats, again and again, there is ‘no substitute for learning what love really is by coming back to the source. God’s love is the original that shows up the lim-itations of all copies. Only God’s love is capable of making us into great lovers [vi]
Wayne Muller says ‘it is not the fact of being loved that is life changing. It is the experience of allowing (ourselves) to be loved’. [vii]This experiential knowing of ourselves, as deeply loved by God, deepens our thoughts with new data about our world, and deepens our feelings with new attitudes to-wards our world. In the light of our knowledge of God’s love we know we can trust God, take risks and embrace the world that we live in courageously.
God’s love connects us to all of God’s creation and all of God’s creatures. It moves us ‘from the isolation of self-interest to a connection with life that can-not allow any ultimate divisions. It does not allow (us) to limit (our) interest to those within (our) tribe – whether those tribal boundaries are understood in religious, ethnic or national terms’. Instead it involves us in a ‘movement bey-ond the hardened boundaries of the isolated self to the selves-in-relationship that make up community’ leading to ‘a sense of (our) oneness with all’ life.[viii]
Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, ‘God’s dream is that all of us will realize we are family – we are made for togetherness. In God’s family, there are no outsiders. Black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, Jew and Arab, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Buddhist – all belong’. Now, more than ever, we need to remember that ‘God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion. People are shocked when I say that George Bush and Saddam Hussein are brothers – but God says, “All are my children.” It is shocking. But it is true.’[ix]
And this is what I believe.
[i] Michael Riddell Godzone Lion Oxford 1992 p30
[ii] Michael Riddell Godzone p23-4
[iii] James Olthuis The Beautiful Risk Grand Rapids Zondervan 2001
[iv] David Benner Surrender to Love 61-63,79
[v] Wayne Muller Legacy Of The Heart p27 (Isaiah 40:13)
[vi] David Benner Surrender to Love p84-5
[vii] Wayne Muller Legacy Of The Heart p27
[viii] David Benner Surrender to Love p93-4
[ix]Desmond Tutu Desmond Tutu’s Recipe For Peace www.beliefnet.com 2004