all loves excelling (on being confirmed)

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.

Love,

hilary

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5 thoughts on “all loves excelling (on being confirmed)

  1. You wrote it! I’m thinking of our conversation, as I read this now, yesterday when I read an essay by Simon Schama, last weekend when my sister and I caught up over the phone. The grace of God is evident in your life, and in your words. He is opening depths in you by His gentleness, mercy, and tender love, more like a gardener working dirt loose so roots can stretch down than like a miner swinging pick-ax and lighting dynamite to get the ore hiding in the depths of the mountains. Stretch your roots, and smile your flower-face at Him. He is making beautiful things in you.
    ~Sz

  2. Yeah, how the heck did we come to prize gravitas so highly?

    I was grinning through this entire post, along with God, I guess, and at us both.

    Look out! You’re becoming wise…And hilarious!

    Love you, Hil!

  3. 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.”

    I loved this, thanks for sharing!! I am in this place, too, where I am just walking the path of love. There is only one way To God, but I know what the author you quoted is talking about, and I have just been asking God to take care of my issues, my stuff, because I am tired of thinking about it, and dealing with it and He is doing just that. Opening up for Light is beautiful and it’s wonderful what happens when you do that. He floods my soul with light and darkness is taken from me. I love it. I am praying for you!!

  4. Gosh, Hilary, you are speaking right into my life today. I know there is this belief sitting at the back of my mind whispering regularly, that unless I suffer, my faith is not as legitimate, as deep, as tested. It doesn’t help that all the “conversation stories” I heard as a child and teenager, were of people who’d been struggling with addictions and eating disorders and terrible family situations or worse, coming to know Christ. And there I was, the good little Christian girl, struggling to relate.
    But this “easy path of love” that you write about, that’s something I know a bit about, something I need to rejoice more in.
    Thanks for writing today friend.

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