Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Love Only Survives



Metropolitan Anthony wrote in Living Prayers, “A very young priest, who was imprisoned at the beginning of the Russian revolution, and came out a broken man, was asked what was left of him, and he answered: ‘Nothing is left of me, they have burnt out every single thing, love only survives.’”

This is my deepest, although most fearful prayer.  When I come to my end, kneeling before my Lord, I pray I can honestly say, Nothing is left of me, I have burnt out every single thing, love only survives.  This is a frightening prayer.  For it seems from the examples1 I have encountered, love like this only grows in severe trials and tribulations, in intense and prolonged suffering, in complete and selfless serving, in total and unreserved surrender to our Lord and his will.  Yet these exemplars willingly, even joyfully, incinerated every vestige of themselves in the flames of God’s love.  I’m convinced they did this, not out of some perverse masochism, but because they had been given a glimpse of the reward, had felt the peace that passes understanding, had experienced the ‘oneness’ with God which Jesus promised and prayed for each if us.

I too have had a few very fleeting glimpses of this ‘oneness’ which creates and energizes this desire but I am such a very long way from full surrender.  There is still a lot of me left in me, a lot of my false self fighting for control (and very often winning).  However, by God’s longsuffering grace and his patient work I feel myself moving in this direction.  At least the prayer, the desire, is present, though haltingly.  I must be patient as God works this mystery in me and into me.  As Don E. Saliers writes in the current and regrettably last issue of Weavings, “…holiness is a slowly dawning way of being in the world with God and neighbor.”  I’m beginning to feel the warmth of this slowly dawning God-love and it fuels an all-consuming thirst to know him more and make him more known.  My true self resonates with A. W. Tozer’s words, “Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.”

Closing prayer by Jim Elliot-
“God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, LORD Jesus.”

1 Examples that quickly come to mind, of course, begin with our Lord himself.  Then Jim Elliot, Lottie Moon, St Francis, Mother Teresa, Adoniram Judson, Martin and Gracia Burnham, and the list could go on for pages.

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