Monday, May 16, 2011

What is divine love like?

I have been reading Father Gregory Boyle's book, "Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion" in which he describes his work with gang members in Los Angeles. On page 43 he quotes theologian Belden Lane:

"Divine love is incessantly restless until it turns all woundedness into health, all deformity into beauty, and all embarrassment into laughter."

Yesterday after the Charter Sunday service at the Brockport Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and our coffee hour, a small group of us met with Connie Goodbread, the Intermin Executive of the St. Lawrence District of the UUA. Ms. Goodbread  stated that churches flourish and grow when they are clear about their core values, and then enact them in their activities.

I asked her what core values she thought might be most important? She never missed a beat, looked me right in the eye, and said "Love and hope."

"Well, yes, of course," I thought to myself. I knew that. But what of "love and hope?" Who couldn't agree to that? And what does it mean anyway when love and hope get brought into application in a church congregation? And then I was blessed last night before I went to sleep to read Belden Lane's quote.

What love means is turning woundedness into health. We have plenty of wounded people. We all are wounded in some way. Can I come here and be who I am, and can that be okay, or do I have to pretend that things are different for me than deep down I really think they are?

Love means turning deformity into beauty, not to deny it, or avoid it, or hid from it, and pretend it isn't deformity, but to incorporate it into a whole in a lovely way so that imperfection becomes the very thing that makes the bigger thing perfect. In other words when life gives us lemons can we make lemonade? Maybe I can make lemonade from lemons if I have help, and there are people who believe in my intrinsic value in spite of my deformities, and who are interesting, willing, and able to show me how.

Love means turning embarrassment into laughter because our biggest fear is shame. Most of us are terrified that we are defective and inadequate in some way. We fear that it is only a matter of time, or a misstep, or a pulling away of the facade, and the truth we fear will be explosed , and we will be terribly shamed in front of those we want to love us. True love is knowing the worst about a person and loving them anyway.

We, at the Brockport Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, in Brockport, NY, are building a church full of love, where it will be a sanctuary, an asylum, where people can come as they are and be who they truly are, and be loved warts and all.


  1. Shame is such a power emotion. I think John Bradshaw helped me understand that.

    I remember Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who said "you're not okay and I'm not okay but that's okay.


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