I was recently asked to write a lenten reflection for our employee website at Fuller. I thought I’d share it here too.
Lenten Reflection, Week 5: LOVE
To be commanded to love God at all costs, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness – especially in the wilderness – you shall love Him. — Frederick Buechner from Secrets from the Dark: A Life in Sermons
In 1997 on my way to work, I was struck by this sentence. I was listening to a book on tape (yes, a cassette tape, remember those?) and was at the top of one of my favorite Louisiana bridges when I heard that quote. Using the word “struck” doesn’t even seem adequate. I was moved. I was jolted. I was overwhelmed with the understanding of how and why I could have pure joy and love for my heavenly Father when my mother was 600 miles away, dying a very slow and painful death. I can’t explain it. I can’t put words to it. But these next words in Buechner’s book come so close:
It was there, in that wilderness, that for the first time in my life I caught sight of something of what it must be like to love God truly. It was only a glimpse, but it was like stumbling on fresh water in the desert, like remembering something so huge and extraordinary that my memory had been unable to contain it. I did not love God, God knows, because I was some sort of saint or hero. I did not love Him because I suddenly saw the light (there was almost no light at all) or because I hoped by loving him to persuade him to heal the young woman I loved. I LOVED HIM BECAUSE I COULDN’T HELP MYSELF. I loved him because the one who commands us to love is the one who also empowers us to love, as there in the wilderness of that dark and terrible time I was, through no doing of my own, empowered to love him at least a little, at least enough to survive. And in the midst of it, these small things happened that were as big as heaven and earth because through them a hope beyond hopelessness happened.
There are few moments in time that I remember so vividly…the sounds, the sights, the smell, the feeling. This moment on that bridge is one of those for me. I’ve recalled that moment many times in my life especially during lent. Lent is a season of reflection, soul-searching and repentance. For me, it’s a time to look back at where I’ve been and track my personal, emotional and spiritual growth. It’s important for me to be alone with God, to process, to remember and read about (in my journals) His faithfulness through the years. This is how we grow!
My prayer during this lenten season is that the Fuller community, especially those in the wilderness, will be empowered to love when it seems impossible and that you will be overwhelmed with the unconditional and mind-boggling love of our Father. I pray that you will love Him because you just can’t help yourself!!
– Ginger Eppinette, Staff Spiritual Formation Team