Recently, I felt exhausted, weighed down after a week of working on various justice issues. Yes, good work had been done, yet something that I couldn’t identify was nagging me. The next morning I went for a meditation walk in our neighborhood. About one block from home, I was slo-mo ambling down the sidewalk and saw this:
Each word was written on a separate yellow band, circling a telephone pole.
Love conquers all.
I stopped to take in the message. Does love conquer all? What is love wanting to conquer in me?
What was nagging me that day was my loathing for people whose actions I oppose. I felt anger and disgust toward our president and his allies: children in cages, beloved Mother Earth suffering from the cancer of human excess, the name of Jesus used to normalize greed and bigotry.
I felt myself meeting hate with hate; self-righteousness with self-righteousness; a consciousness of separation and against-ness with a consciousness of separation and against-ness. Energetically, I was becoming what I loathed.
Loving humanity as a concept? That’s easy. Actually loving certain individuals? That’s hard. As Lucy says in the Peanuts comic strip, “I love humanity. It’s people I can’t stand!”
Hate will not conquer hate. Neither will acquiescence or apathy. Love conquers all.
Above all, love conquers fear. And we see much fear today:
Fear of immigrants
Fear of queer and transgender persons
Fear of Muslims and the “religious other”
Fear of facing our privilege as white people in this nation
These fears, unfelt and undigested, rot into resentment, apathy, and self-justified oppression. These fears, felt and metabolized with acceptance and love, transmute into empathy, solidarity, and justice making.
Love conquers all.
In the Christian Scriptures, the Apostle John writes, “If we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected, made complete, through us.” Think about that. Love is made complete, is evolving, through us as we evolve in how we love each other.
The Limitless, Undefinable Mystery of Existence, known by many names including “God”, can be pondered with awe. It is only in the face of another, however, that we give and receive love.
“God comes to us disguised as our very lives, “ says writer Paula D’Arcy. God (or whatever your label is for the Essential Life Force) doesn’t come to us in abstract, in theory. God comes to us disguised as people and circumstances. God is loving the world into wholeness through us. That includes loving us into wholeness and those in whom God is hard to see beneath the disguise.
In whom is God hard to recognize, and how are they your invitation to evolve your love?
Jesus embodied a love that challenged and comforted, called out and consoled. The love of God evolves through us as we resist injustice and cultivate compassion for those who perpetrate injustice; oppose cruelty without become cruel; call out polarizing bigotry and hold in the heart a prayer for the healing and emancipation of bigots; dismantle oppression and face the truth that the evil lurking out there also lurks in some way within me.
For the greatest fear is facing that which is within, those parts of us that we loathe and project onto other people. This may be why the Apostle John directs us to know the love of God by loving each other because it’s in relationship that our inner wounds are mirrored back to us. And our capacity to see, accept, and love everything within, gives us the capacity to do the same for others.
In the Jewish tradition, one interpretation of the creation story is that Adam and Eve are created as one being: “God created humankind, male and female.” The image is that they are fused together, back to back. Then God takes Eve out and places her in front of Adam to be his “helpmate”. But a more literal translation of “helpmate” is the one who faces or opposes in order to help. Facing each other, they can be fully seen and loved in a way that would never happen back-to-back. [For more on this, see Rabbi Paul Steinberg’s Spiritual Growth: A Contemporary Jewish Approach.]
This is the Love to which we are called: to see and be seen into wholeness. The call will keep coming through telephone poles and God disguised as fearful people, until Love conquers all.
The Limitless Mystery comes to us disguised as other people, as cats, as dogs, as all living beings; in loving them, we love God; in seeing them, we see God; in seeing God, we see ourselves; in seeing ourselves as God sees, we love ourselves; in loving ourselves, we love each other. It’s one love, one God, hidden in plain sight.
I invite you try a brief practice.
In your imagination, see a face that has opened you to love, whether human or another species. Let yourself feel that love in your body. Notice what the sensation is like and where you feel it. Savor it.
Now let that love seep into every part of you. Let it seep into those parts that you fear and resist…And if you lose the feeling, go back to that face in which you experienced love, and bring that love deeper inside.
You can then expand it to include someone who is harder to love. Grounded in Love, you can imagine you are face to face with them. See the pain in their eyes, the wounds, and beneath that the God hidden within them.
The embrace of God-love includes and accepts all, and until we can do the same for ourselves and others, we ask God to hold us and hold in love those whom we cannot.
Bring yourself back to your own abiding sense of God-love within yourself and for yourself.
When God is revealed in the mirror, our eyes begin to recognize God everywhere in everyone.
When God is revealed in the next face we meet, the next act of Love reveals itself, whether that act is to challenge or comfort.
God will keep coming disguised as our very lives. But once we see through the disguise, life never looks the same again.