Saturday, March 30, 2013

Comprehending Unconditional Love Is Too Big For Me. Experiencing Complete Acceptance Isn’t.

Happy Easter!  FYI: My journey to sobriety began on Easter weekend, 1987.
At A Course In Miracles (ACIM) meeting this week one of the participants indicated she also had difficulty in trying to comprehend “God is love.” I suggested she assume GOD is dyslexic and spells His Name DOG [we laughed]. Without mirth, I went on and explained if we want to see a perfect example of unconditional love, the best we have around is our family dog – a total acceptance of us and itself, a total love and openness that makes forgiveness moot, and a total lack of resentment, vengeance, retaliation, or blame. If I want to understand God as Love (or Acceptance, which I prefer), I look at the continual expression of unconditional acceptance from our 15-pound Colonel Duffy.
We’ve all heard that “God is love.” [I John 4:8] We accept that as a definition of the Almighty. The problem is I cannot fathom that. I truly, intellectually cannot comprehend what unconditional love means. That put me in a real spot until I began to understand I don’t have to understand it. I simply have to remember I have experienced it – and that experience changed my life!
I cannot imagine unconditional love, and I am not alone. Neither can anyone else. Neither could the prophets, judges, kings, seers, and priests in the Old Testament. Neither could the Disciples, Apostles, prophets, preachers, teachers and healers in the New Testament. Although they defined God as Unconditional Love, they described His acts of salvation in very, very conditional and egoistic terms. In the Old Testament they described how God would love and protect them IF they would only give up idols, power, greed, or other gods. In the New Testament they described the Father’s gift of His only Son – who, in death and resurrection, offered eternal life IF you would only accept Him as your Lord and Savior. As these biblical writers described God, there was always a condition attached. There was always an IF. That’s just the way humankind thinks, but that’s not God. That thinking, by definition, is not UNconditional love.
I didn’t look for and “find” unconditional love. It found me. I knew it not by its name of Love, but by the actions, words, and mannerisms of accepting people. I didn’t find acceptance from these people in a church. I didn’t find them in Mosques, or Synagogues or Temples. I didn’t find acceptance from these people at Princeton Theological Seminary. I didn’t find them at a weekend “spiritual” retreat. I found these accepting people in ACIM meetings and especially in dank basements sitting in children’s chairs where they were reciting “How It Works” by Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. In AA I found them describing their life with an honesty that communicated to my innermost Self. In talking genuinely about themselves, they were describing me and I knew they spoke my Truth.
Watching them, listening to them, and laughing with them transformed me. My compulsion to drink quietly left me. I learned skills – chief among them, many times, was to do nothing – that helped me deal with situations and people I had never been able to deal with before. I made amends where I could. I became responsible for my actions and reactions, as well as my decisions and non-decisions.
I was no longer who I had been, but neither was I who I was to become.  While in this no-man’s-land, these accepting people nurtured me, shared their experience, strength and hope with me, and gently guided me from adolescence to responsible maturity – even though I was almost 50-years old. They did this for me in a matter of 2 or 3 years. And they also did this for me because they had to. Without doing this for me they would have lost their sobriety and serenity. Without doing now what I do, I would lose mine, too.
In my book I defined the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection based on teachings of my Systematic Theology professor at Princeton, Dr. George Hendry.  “Dr. Hendry, in his book The Gospel of the Incarnation, says of the life, teaching, crucifixion, and empty tomb – the love of God met the sin of mankind, and love won. The sin of mankind is that incessant egoism that wants to be as right as God, wants to have things explained, wants to be in control, wants to have figured out God, wants to be as God.” [How the Bible became the Bible, ISBN: 978-0-7414-2993-3, p. 252]
In another section of the book I tried once again to explain this: “The conflict evidenced in Jesus’ life and crucifixion is the conflict between the love of God and the shortsightedness, selfishness, fear, desire to control, and egoism of mankind. In short, the love of God met mankind’s desire to be in control. Mankind’s desire to stay in control killed Him, but the love of God won. His spirit of love remained alive in these little groups that continued to meet, to eat, to destroy all social barriers, and to simply accept one another. The spirit of those groups was real; His spirit was among them. The personal transformations they were experiencing were real. For them it was as if Jesus wasn’t dead after all….” [p. 165-6]
God is love. Love is genuine acceptance. Genuine acceptance is God. I have experienced it. It is the most real thing in my life. It is not traditional Pauline Christian doctrine, but it is everything that Jesus taught, did, and lived.
Give love. Accept love. Experience the acceptance that transformed me. Again, I wish each of you a Happy Easter.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#5 March, 2013
Copyright, 2013

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