Love has not changed, but my relationship to it has.
Throughout my life, love has been one of my greatest teachers. Even from a young age, I have been blessed by its presence and devastated by its loss. Looking back on 80 years of changes in my life has taught me that love endures even as circumstances shift and changes happen. I have lived, loved, and thrived through many cycles of love and loss, and I started early.
As a child growing up just blocks from the first ridge of the mountains in Boulder, Colorado, I knew the comforting love of a stable home, church life, and loving, caring parents. It changed quickly when my father died when I was 11, leaving this “daddy’s girl” feeling utterly lost and abandoned. From there, changes were rapid. My mother wanted to find her way out of the grief, so she bought a travel trailer and drove my brother and me throughout the western United States before settling in Phoenix, Arizona. After a couple of years, she decided to return to Boulder and remarry, which meant I had to leave my first teenage love behind.
Marriage came at 18, motherhood when I was barely 20, and then I became the first person in my family to divorce as I entered my thirties—an experience that left me feeling unwelcome in the church of my childhood and eager to grow beyond its walls and ideas. After that, I followed my passions in pursuit of education and activism even as I explored my spirituality and sampled the teachings of different churches.
My love expressed itself as passion and purpose for my causes and interests. I found myself in California before moving to Kansas City, Missouri. Further explorations would lead me to Long Island, New York, and Amherst, Massachusetts. Each stop was part of the path that would lead to a yet undiscovered inner destination. Volunteering and education would lead to careers, teaching would evolve into ministry before shifting yet again, every change fueled by a yearning and determination to live fully. My quest for love remained central to it all.
I began to generate love within myself and with patience and practice was able to call upon it from within and express it.
Guided by love throughout the many changes and cycles of my life, I was still surprised when, as a minister, a message dropped into my conscious mind: Your concept of God is too limited. You are now called by Love. I wondered what that meant, even as the message pulled me forward. I surrendered and let my inner wisdom show me the way.
I realized that for so much of my life I looked for love outside myself. Now I was discovering that despite all of the changing circumstances in my life, some welcome and some not, love remained changeless and eternal. As I started to understand that, I began to feel a deep and lasting peace. Soon I began to generate love within myself and with patience and practice was able to call upon it from within and express it.
My new practice was profoundly tested when my son went through a difficult drug experience in his twenties, came to live with me in his thirties, and died unexpectedly at age 45. I felt immense shock and grief at his passing, yet I still felt him with me. I moved through my loss grounded in a more enduring truth. It was love, but it was no longer an outer phenomenon. As an inner experience, love feels even more real.
Accepting life on its terms ... has given me a peace beyond understanding.
Practicing Enduring Love
This surprising insight shifted my understanding of love. Now my spiritual practices help keep me grounded in it. Regular prayer and meditation keep my heart soft and open. Practicing deep gratitude keeps my heart filled as I find occasions for giving thanks every day. Even an ongoing forgiveness practice keeps love from retreating to the corners of my heart. As I remain committed to these practices, I feel like I’m seeing with the eyes of God. Even opportunities for service transcend the act itself and become the beloved in me serving the beloved in others.
Throughout my life love has not changed, but my relationship to it has. As a child I received it and as a wife, mother, and minister, I gave it. Through all my life’s changes, I welcomed love’s arrival and mourned its departure. Love is different for me now.
Living as love changed me in every way. In the past, I tried to make things happen and force results, but that has morphed into accepting life on its terms, which has given me a peace beyond understanding. I started to see joy and sorrow as two sides of the same coin. No longer bound by the pain of resistance, I welcomed changes as they came to me, seeing everything as part of a cosmic whole.
I’ll Meet You There
All those years ago, this passage from John 13:34 led me along a path that changed my life: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” When I opened my heart to those words, I embarked on a journey of understanding that continues to this day.
I invite you to make the journey to live as love. The poet Rumi wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” A lifetime of loving has shown me that beyond giving and receiving there is a greater truth. We are love, and we’re already there.
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