How often do we fall in love, the sort that turns us around, strips us and re-orientates us, shakes the foundations of what it is to relate and be with another? Not very often, mostly we are too guarded. But at times it happens, and I have come to take this as a call, our feelings leap forward and say follow me.
A person I loved died this week. He was an old man, though he did not feel old to me. I just loved him. He had been a training supervisor when I was becoming a psychotherapist, so I came to know him in that particular way. This man stretched me. He was shy and very private, but he knew the way the human heart worked, and what it needed to grow. Mostly he worked with children, and they are great teachers, open, and available to their needs. This man taught me about my ‘duty of care’. Sounds clinical, but it was far from that, it was his relationship with me that showed me what this means. He mentored me into the depths of what another really needed of me, and then what I needed to do/grow within myself to get there. This man knew how to keep an opening for the other.
What does love, mentoring and passion have to do with the story of Jesus and Easter? Could they be the template for relationship, how love shapes us if we let it? We are many things. Parts of us do not move toward love, they resist and fear, but there is a part of us that leans toward the light. We desire love and it is in love that we are again ‘little ones’, vulnerable and in the moment. In the story of Jesus we are shown how.
Today, mostly, we are concerned with ourselves, interested in our psychology, health, security, and what will become of us. We feel safe with certainty, and threatened by the unknown, by mystery, unsure of the idea of giving over to another. Yet paradoxically we thirst to feel that we are known and loved by another.
The story of Jesus walks in through the door that the thirst opens, touches us where we condemn ourselves, inviting our needy, desiring hearts into a passionate love response, which will shape us entirely. Our needs and our stories are particular to us, and it is mostly how we understand others, but not only so, we also need to walk in the shoes of others, being stretched out of ourselves into the bigger family.
God longs for us, and Jesus stirs us to an intimacy, a closeness, which cracks our self-absorbed protective shells and gentles us to pay attention. The light can shine in. We can be many things, shy, resistant, stunted in love, and this is what we learn, and these wounds he will carry for us. This, our smaller self, and often the only picture we can form for ourselves, is transformed by love, the falling in love, being loved. The possibilities expand. He calls us and we are awakened, our heart quickens, he draws us, stirs our senses, excites our interest, and we find our desiring selves, our deepest desires. The Sufi poet Rumi says ‘Your longing for me was my messenger’.
Desire then is what St Ignatius uses in his spiritual exercises to invite the pilgrim into the discovery of God’s love. It is our own story, but we walk beside this man Jesus, discovering ourselves in this relationship, finding what moves our heart, breaks our heart. It is a human story, nestled in the divine, and our story with our God.
The power of the exercises is that rather than sealing off from what is happening inside of us, we use our feelings to grope forward, toward the light, walking with him, through the gospels, and inside our own imagining being, the being that is loved and desired by God. In the weeks of the exercises we walk his entire life, being shaped and becoming aware of ourselves in this relationship. But here too, this is the small thing, the big thing, is what we will do, desire to do, for this great love we feel and which we are given. There is a longing to get out of our own way. We are given ‘duty of care’, such abundance of love it must be shared.
How blessed we are each year to have the ritual of Easter. From ashes we proceed to ashes, loved into life and loved into death that brings life, stretched into the mystery of all of this with Him, His way.
Caroline Coggins works as a Psychotherapist.