Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
— Joseph Whelan, SJ*
We all have different images and ways of relating to God, many of which come from our early upbringing and religious education. Based on what I learned in church as a child, I had an image of a judgmental God – someone who was constantly watching me and waiting to catch me sinning.
But gradually, I’ve replaced that image with an image of a loving and merciful God. A God more concerned with helping us live a good life rather than keeping score. And I think the idea of being in love with God is powerful. Love is always more motivating than fear in the long run. And would we really want to spend an eternity in heaven with a God focused on our mistakes? Is that the kind of heaven we want? Wouldn’t it make more sense that heaven means being with a God of mercy who forgives us our faults, a God who loves us extravagantly, more than any human love? This is the image of God that motivates me with love. It makes me want to be a better person, to be as worthy as possible of that divine love and mercy.
*According to the Jesuits, although this prayer often is attributed to Pedro Arrupe, it is believed to be a quote from Joseph P. Whelan. Fr. Whelan served as the provincial of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus and spent time as a research fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He passed away in 1994.
This post is powerful, Tacky. I have never thought this way, never articulated internally, how I felt about God’s love towards me — merciful or judgmental? Like you, my initial reaction is based on CCD classes and the fear of being caught doing something wrong. It’s freeing to think that there are other options and certainly ones that are focused on love and not on punishment.
I’m glad this resonated with you! I think it was my perceptive husband who first articulated the thought about why would we look forward to an eternity in heaven with God if His focus was constantly on judging what we did wrong. We don’t do that in our closest relationships, so wouldn’t we expect God to have an even greater love than what we have?