Big picture love

Union with God: we pray for it, long for it, work for it. But, are we prepared for what it can do to us? How much could we be transformed if, for example, we start to see the world as God sees it? And, what does love got to do with it?

Last night I renewed my temporary vows for two more years; I am now starting my fifth year of vowed life with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and it’s truly awesome. I marvel at all the abundant blessings that embrace me and the numerous ways that I am enriched by life in a community of phenomenal women. God is so good and I am blessed!

One of the amazing ways that life in community (and in many ways, life in general) enhances me is the gift of love that is given: I am constantly held by Love’s power. Through love I feel accepted and appreciated (celebrated, even) and it’s energizing. Plus, the love I experience is overwhelming because it is so big, huge, deep and wide.

And, I shall confess, it also feels a bit unfair to experience so much love. I am thankful but I do also squirm in the awkwardness and get a tad uncomfortable. Somehow it’s uncomfortable when I realize that it’s deserved–that I am indeed love-worthy. (In fact, we all are!)

Being loved–understanding how loved I am–feels unfair because I know many, many people do not understand they are loved by God or feel loved by others. I don’t like it when someone is wealthy in a goodness that others lack, and need. Some of the youth I have worked with especially do not understand that they are beautiful, loved, precious and valuable children of God. This breaks my heart. Also, many of the people I know who live in tough poverty have to struggle with homelessness or insecurity simply because they are not blessed with a huge circle of supportive, loving relationships like I am. This is not their fault, it’s their situation.

In another element of society, I have encountered ministers–yes, ministers–who do not feel worthy to be loved by God or used as an instrument of God. It’s different than an appropriate humility or minority (so well described here by my Franciscan missionary friend). Why do we see love right in front of us and then not accept it? I wonder if it’s worse than having low self-esteem or being insecure.

As humans we fall into traps of categorical and hierarchical thinking way too quickly.

When we’re really free–when we’re really united with God–then we get to step back and see things like God does. We gain a big picture, a full-range view of what’s really up. Then we realize that God doesn’t ever think anyone or anything is ever better than another. Love is not unfair, love is always wide, deep, detailed, and full of freedom.

I wonder if it looks something like this:

"Dubuque from above" photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“Dubuque from above” photo by Julia Walsh FSPA

The other day I enjoyed a beautiful plane ride over Wisconsin. From above, I could see the hot humidity hanging over the land, even though I knew those on Earth couldn’t see what was causing them to feel as they did.

There’s a bit of a paradox in what goes through my mind when I’m in airplanes. Looking down, I wonder if I’m seeing the world as God sees it. But, then I believe wholeheartedly that God is not just above us, looking down, watching over us. Nope, God is totally, intimately with us, even in the littlest, tiniest things. I remember having a totally profound dream about ten years ago in which I discovered the nativity scene on the tip of a tiny thread. I think God is also like that.

Love is like that too. After all, God is Love.

So, right, love is fair, good, awesome, wide, deep, big, detailed–it encompasses all things. Just like it says in St. Paul’s old love letter:

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinth 13:7)

This is the sort of thing we must remember and recommit to when we’re frustrated or discouraged, when Gospel living feels too messy for our liking. Love bears even the ugly, the injustices, the violence, the sin. We get to lean into God’s love, we can trust God even when the suffering is too intense for us to have hope in redemption. I believe all this but can admit it’s easier said than done.

One of my favorite names and images of God is of God as The Great Artist–the one who is still creating, making the masterpiece of the universe. Only God can really know how or why the mysterious colors of suffering are needed or fit into the big picture.  (Fr. Barron explains this quite well in Episode 3 of the Catholicism series.)

So all in all, God’s love is both big picture stuff and tiny thread stuff. I get to experience it in my vowed communal life and I hope you’re experiencing it too. We are loved and God is love; this is very good! Together, let’s savor it and dwell in it and share it–and then together, we shall be more transformed by it too. Amen!

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  1. So all in all, God’s love is both big picture stuff and tiny thread stuff.

    Yes! Before I knew any theology i used to say that God is source and process, originator and unfolding all along and that still makes sense to me.

    also visiting some women and children today facing eviction and cut off utilities and it is so just the situation… but often my situation and lack of loving support lets unworthiness seep into my bones. thank you for reminding me how precious each of us is. loved. beautiful. held. loved


  2. Not only was Jesus not kidding but he wasn’t talking to someone else either. I don’t like to follow these truths to their logical conclusion, because he was pretty radical: walk the second mile, turn the other cheek, die to self, total surrender. The only thing more scary would be to face this crazy world on our own terms. No matter how tough the situation, I’ve found that his ways(crazy though they seem) are the only practical way to proceed. Practical to reprove, correct, and equip me and those I counsel. Thanks for being real with Him and His truth.