JAMES BEHRENS: God can lead us to a love that is all-embracing, inclusive of others

God can lead us to a love that is all-embracing

Anita and Joe raised seven kids -- Joe, Mark, Diane, Cynthia, Patti, Carolyn and Lisa. I know them well and still keep in touch with them. I have always been amazed as to how different the kids were from each other. They are all now grown, with families of their own.

I once asked Anita if she had a favorite and she thought for a moment, looked at me and with a smile said that she loved each of them as much, but in different ways. It wasn't ever a matter of favorites, she said. Rather it was seeing the differences herself and knowing, with wonder, that her heart moved in different ways for each of them.

Each person is a revelation of God. Like looking through a unique and clear window to the God who is One but lives comfortable and uniquely in the many self-revelations He has created.

There are no identical twins, no clones in the created world as far as these revelations are concerned. Perhaps this explains, in part, our sense of aloneness, our feeling forever apart from each other. For we will never find in this life our exact counterpart among ourselves.

But it also might explain the lavish generosity of God who has made a home in each of us, a dwelling tailor-made and unique, a place from which he can love through our solitude. The dwelling place is as sacred as it is unique.

The impulse of love that each of us knows in our heart is expansive as it is eternal. Expansive, in that love never finds a firm and settled resting place. We may want to place parameters around it, and fence in those for whom we have a special affection, and thereby effectively wall out those who we find so hard to love that we simply keep them on the outside, at bay.

But it is eternal in both its reach and life. The impulse of love can teach us how to give the love in our hearts to many, for it is then that we move from exclusive love to a love that is all embracing and inclusive. It is the movement of the love of God within us. It is God slowly making us into his likeness and image.

Our life as monastics involves this kind of loving. We are constantly reminded of the world and its many needs. People come here to the monastery either wounded by love or looking for ways to find more of it so as to better live from its goodness.

It is my conviction that everyone born into this world is something of a monk at heart. We are born with an ache that is with us all of our lives. That ache is a longing for something, Someone, good and infinite.

The ache leads one on a search for God, for what is lasting and good. And since God has made for Himself a home in this world, the search leads one to discover God more and more in the lives of people.

We are all brothers and sisters. It is how we are created, and it is how we can truly find each other and come to terms with each other. The heart may have its favorites, but the claim that lives in those beyond our selective desires should encourage us to seek an expanse of loving that is as broad and as encompassing as the God who lives within us -- a God who has no favorites, a God who delights in creating difference.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His e-mail address is james@trappist.net.