Jesus, Thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art; visit us with Thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.
I love the hymn. The sound swells over His name, and the melody – something called Hyfrydol, trips lightly through the sanctuary, playing with our voices. I love the music, the sweetness in it, the tenderness.
But, still. Enter every trembling heart. I know what that means, I think to myself. That means hard.
It means forgiving the unkind words.
It means keeping my mouth shut when I really want to say exactly what I think about that.
It means giving up the things I want to spend an era in a desert, wandering around with no water.
I list these to God this Sunday, heaving a pious sigh. Well, alright then. Let’s get this over with – I’m getting confirmed after all. I guess the hardship begins now.
God laughs. I can feel Him laughing at me and my idea of piety: a long face set towards a hard road, the assumption that if I’m confused and in agony over something, I must be seeking harder, waiting more carefully, discerning with more wisdom. If I look like I am really struggling, I tell myself, people will think I’m really deep.
There it is. People will think I’m really deep.
In the midst of my confirmation journey, I find myself stuck on this. I want you to think I’m deep. I want you to think that I walk near to Him, that I listen close, that I love with a big wild love. And there are so many foolish things about that. It isn’t about what anyone else thinks, first of all. It never is. I can’t convince any of you by anything I write or say or do that I love Him – because my love for Him is only really visible when I’m not rushing around trying to prove it to anyone. Love is like that – the harder we try to prove it, the more it slips away, to be made known outside our efforts.
But the most foolish (and maybe the funniest) is this: that I thought to be deep, I had to be gut-wrenching.
There is depth there. There is depth in the gut-wrenchingly difficult things we face. There is a unique kind of life there, a well of wisdom… But, still. God laughs at my feeble attempts to show off to Him, and to you. Look, look at how hard I’m making this! Look, look! I’m walking the difficult way!
God answers me with the words of Elder Prophyrios. In Wounded By Love, he wrote: “There are two paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce assaults against evil and the easy path with love. There are many who chose the hard path and “shed blood in order to receive the Spirit” until they attained great virtue. I find that the shorter and safer route is the path with love.”
Oh, how I have devoted myself to the hard path, all while the easier path has been at my feet. “That is, you can make a different kind of effort: to study and pray and have as your aim to advance in the love of God and of the Church. Do not fight to expel the darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light to enter, and the darkness will disappear. The same holds for our passions and our weaknesses.”
We reach the end of the hymn, and a smile brighter than any I have worn this long week spreads over my face. God keeps laughing, as He offers the easier way: the way of love. Open a tiny aperture for light, and the darkness begins to disappear.
I drive home singing.