As I begin to wrap up the Spiritual Exercises, I was asked to contemplate what it means to show love to God.
My first, instinctive answer was: “I think I have to love myself first.”
What I mean is that God created me as a unique person in a unique time and space in this world to make unique contributions. If I don’t come to understand who that person is and love her as she is, how can I move that love outside of myself in a way that’s genuine? In a way that’s impactful?
There’s a quote by Anthony de Mello I love that says: “Behold the One beholding you and smiling.” It’s seven words that remind me that God loves my most authentic self no matter what. Believing these words is a step towards me loving my authentic self as well.
But the answer to how I can show love to God can’t stop at “I have to love myself”… it has to go further.
Mary Oliver writes:
Look, and look again
This world is not just a little thrill for your eyes.
It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of a single heart.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
She too starts with the idea that we have to love ourselves first… but her concluding words of this poem remind me that the end goal is to love the world.
The end goal is to believe and exercise an expansive love that starts in us and moves through us to all we encounter.