Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
The best thing I can tell you about him is that he was a man who knew he was loved.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The clear-shining of this teacher, healer, and friend to so many, always made you feel as if he was the one being blessed when you came to him for help. He had little need to impress on you how good he was, or how good you ought to be. Just a few minutes with him in the church lobby made you know you were special, even if it was just some short conversation about his tie, your clothes, or the beauty of the hymn we had just sung.
It's remarkable to encounter someone so secure about himself that he never asked others for approval. Norm had few extremes of high to low. I never saw him disturbed about church issues, and he was always able to state clearly something that would offer direction to move the discussion out of a rut. His marriage was witness to his counsel for young couples: "Marriage isn't a 50/50 thing. Each partner has to give 100 percent." His wife's devotion confirmed the constancy of his love. Even treasuring his life after his passing recently gives me the peace of having been given something beautiful.
How can I live as if I know I'm loved?
So from his example, I find myself asking: How can I live as if I know I am loved? How can we stop the habit of agreeing that we're hungry for more love? What if we could learn to do good just for the joy of doing it, instead of waiting for someone to notice. What would it be like to be so confident of what we have to give that we don't need someone to tell us we're worthy? Finding enough reinforcement to satisfy a human heart is a quixotic chase of a windmill.
A Bible verse comes to mind. It is Jesus' words: "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Matt. 10:8). This is part of the blessing that Jesus gave to his disciples as he sent them into the world to minister as he did. Those early disciples probably had to remind themselves of what Jesus gave them as often as modern-day disciples do. What is it that enables us to give freely?
The Apostle Paul, who was converted to Christianity after Jesus left, described the gift this way: "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself .... not imputing their trespasses unto them" (II Cor. 5:18, 19). The essence of Jesus' teaching was that no matter how many mistakes we've made, no matter how willful, fearful, or self-asserting our sins, they were never "imputed" to us, never imprinted on our nature, never able to displace the Creator-creation bond that was God's knowledge of us from the beginning.
What Christianity tells us is that the innocence of our own being is real, so real that it warrants a commitment. For all the reasons we are given day by day to feel guilty, stupid, unworthy, and useless, God's embrace of us is so constant that it secures our integrity on a spiritual basis.
This is a relief because it means we're not always trying to catch up. We're not being asked to prove our worth in achievement. We're not being asked to prove that we made the right decision. We're being asked to accept the reality of being loved by God in a way that we can share with our fellow children of God. It is for this purpose we have been endowed with talents and opportunities to connect with people. Not for the purpose of proving ourselves, but for the purpose of celebrating the magnitude of the divine Love that is loving us.
Most of us know the satisfaction of giving to others. But even that commitment can be contaminated by selfishness if we are doing it to find our worth. It's that weakness that makes us so disappointed when our efforts on behalf of others don't produce the results hoped for. Unselfish, outreaching love to others is not a substitute for self-doubt. Unselfish giving is powerful; it forces us to admit what we've been given.
Thanking God for loving us
Mary Baker Eddy, tireless religious reformer for over four decades. wrote from experience these words: "To preserve a long course of years still and uniform, amid the uniform darkness of storm and cloud and tempest, requires strength from above, - deep draughts from the fount of divine Love" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," pg. ix). As we keep alert to the feeling of being drained, our prayer for ourselves can be filled with praise for all the good of our lives, thanking God for loving us.
Some times more than others, it is easier to admit what we have been given. But the promise is that our day's substance is going to be judged more in terms of the blessing we bestow within the context of having been loved. This makes us secure, cheerful givers who are not exhausted by our efforts but refreshed in the recognition that the love of God is shining through us.
It is perhaps the greatest and most humble way of honoring God's place in our lives to admit that He has loved us enough to satisfy our hearts and make us useful to others. My dear friend's life consistently exemplified his conviction that he was loved by his God.