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Living a life filled with love can lead to faith’s path
Everyone wants Love to follow them
down their road;
Where is it that Love wants to go?
— Judy Grahn, “The Queen of Swords”
I received a most interesting Internet story this week, kindly forwarded by a reader who not only sends me an encouraging word on occasion, but also thinks of me when a noteworthy piece of Internet lore makes its way into his e-mail inbox.
I usually avoid Internet stories. I know there is a good chance I will be disappointed by a hocus-pocus ending that promises good fortune if I forward it to 50 of my nearest and dearest friends. Out of necessity, it seems, I have grown antennae that with surprising accuracy detect syrupy endings even I, the queen of touchy-feely stories, cannot digest. I frequently salute them with a delete.
This particular story, attributed to Professor John Powell of Loyola University in Chicago, is an exception. It tells of a student named Tommy who did not fit the profile of the average student attending Powell’s Theology of Faith class. First, his long flaxen hair that had grown to the middle of his back gave him a remarkable appearance. Next, he constantly objected to, smirked at or whined about the concept of an unconditionally loving God that Powell presented to his students.
According to the story, the men never came to blows that semester, although it seems Tommy was at times a serious “pain in the back pew” to his theology professor.
At semester’s end, Tommy left in a blaze, turning in his final exam with a question boldly scrawled across the top: “Do you think I’ll ever find God?”
Deciding a little shock therapy might be in order, Powell answered, “No.”
“Oh,” Tommy responded, “I thought that was the product you were pushing.”
It seems the good professor let him get five steps from the classroom door before calling out, “Hey Tom! I don’t think you’ll ever find him, but I’m absolutely certain he’ll find you!”
In keeping with common Internet lore, there is an expected element of great tragedy to this story. While Tommy was able to graduate from college, his life was cut short by cancer, starting in his groin and quickly metastasizing to vital organs. We learn that the professor and his student were granted two other meetings, in which both were able to connect as Tommy could never have anticipated: They celebrated Tommy’s surprising experiences with God’s love.
What brings authenticity to this particular story is the fact that Tommy’s tragedy never overshadows the marvelous message about God. The surest way to find God is not to make him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in a time of need. We find God when we open up to love.
When Tommy realized he had very little time to live, he decided against trying to find God within his private tragedy. Instead, he set aside complicated theology and worked to experience love in new ways with those around him.
Tommy turned away from God and made love his aim, even though it was scary and uncomfortable. He approached his dad first, verbally expressing his love that for many years had gone undisclosed. When love and attachment poured from his dad, Tommy felt encouraged to connect with others.
One at a time he chose to express love to those closest to him and a surprisingly deep and satisfying joy began to fill him. New possibilities to love and the energy to pursue them appeared to him, in spite of his declining health, and Tommy soon realized he was experiencing the love of God at each new turn.
Words from Tommy’s professor, paraphrased from the Bible, suddenly came to life:
God is love, and anyone who
lives in love is living with God
and God is living in him.
Developing the eyes to see God and the heart to embrace new ways to love does not guarantee an easy life or good fortune. In fact, I talked with a Christian friend this week who feels closely bound to God but sees very little that’s easy about her life. She does concede, however, that living in love takes people down new roads and points us in the direction of eternity. Love allows us a glimpse into the eyes of God and fills our lives with hope, conviction, depth, value and satisfaction.
Let’s look for love this week and not miss it.