By Brother Kyle Berceau
Come, Lord Jesus.
Our friend, our freedom, our fullness.
O today that my heart might say, “Jesus my friend, you complete me.”
How good is our Lord? Who calls us his friends. Who completes our joy, our life, our freedom. Who gives us to experience fullness.
What consolation there is in the word friend, in the knowledge of being able to call another a dear friend. There is peace and rest in such a sense of belonging in which we can feel seen and known and loved and whole. It has been said that true friends are ones who stand side by side looking at the same goal. In this sense, they share a heart, they are united, a team, in supporting one another and desiring to live for the other’s good, and together for the larger common good of their shared vision. Jesus calls us friends, as we share his heart for the Father in following his commandments. His one commandment? Love one another, by laying down our lives, one for the other.
Over the last couple months, I have continued to be moved by one of the ways in which Jesus expresses this laying down of his own life for the other—for us: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn. 15:11). It is often said that we each have a God-sized hole in our hearts; expressed in St. Augustine’s language, “our hearts are restless until they rest in God.” God completes us, makes us whole. How does my joy become complete? It is Jesus’ own joy that he has wanted to give me. Only by receiving Jesus’ joy is my joy made whole. It is his joy that fulfills my lack, and ends my pursuit, my own labor for joy. And so it is for all the spiritual gifts. How do I perfect my faith? By receiving his faith in the Father who loves him. How do I fulfill my hope? My love? By abiding in his hope, in his love, as he in turn abides in the Father’s promise and love. My Life, is his gift. My pure song, is living his Song. Verily, when I can truly say it is no longer I who live, but I let Christ live in me—purely, flowingly, unrestrictedly—then will my soul be at rest and be most purely and lovingly Kyle. Then too will I discover the grace in Jesus to pour out my life just as he does for others that their faith, hope, love, and joy may be complete.
The grace of this revelation cycled back to me this week as I meditated upon a current of spiritual difficulty which I had begun to reflect on as “over-participating in the life of God.” I think of an image of a man running on a kind of treadmill against a wall, perhaps unaware he is on the treadmill and so always pressing ahead but unknowingly constantly grinding against that wall, blocked from the grace of true forward movement, his happy fervor pushing him only to his own eventual exhaustion. So has been my experience with God in one respect. “You have the sprinting gene”, ancestry.com tells me. I found that too funny, relating it to my spiritual life — oh, is my thirst for God ever-racing onward to new heights — to new thoughts, to new creativity, to new Mystery, often a thousand miles a minute. I am grateful for that gift. While divine Presence often conveys the idea of thoughtlessness, the Lord often chooses to pour his life and presence through me in a joyful flow of thought and creativity. It is a fruit of my love for God. And yet, what to do with the experience of finding my heart in a new season, as if racing, grinding against a wall, cut off from some sense of grace?
It is here that I consider “over-participation in the life of God.” Am I really seeing, and allowing myself to be seen by Christ, my Divine Beloved? As the deer yearns for streams of water (Ps. 42), in my soul’s own yearning to love God through a life of unceasing prayer and intercession, I admit I have observed an attitude of some degree of control and manipulation of the spirit of Love in my fervent desire to share saving grace and healing with others, as if to command it of my own accord. But I come to appreciate the need for correction in my heart and prayer, as I understand that like us the Lord does not like to be controlled or manipulated or used, however subtly our wounded hearts may wish to hide it; and saving grace in order to be saving grace must always be free.
These movements stirred up another personal prayer that has been cycling back to me frequently of late: to “Let God be God.” I realize my need to give to the Lord the gift of freedom, not to control him, but to let go more completely, and to allow him to act in me of his own free accord. To let him do what he wants in me.
Oh, the grace of that revelation. For in giving God the gift of freedom, I at once discover myself in a new way; my heart is open, a cloud is cleared, and I see God smiling at me. My Beloved is beautiful. I am given to adore our Lord of mutual freedom, who gives me freedom as I give him freedom, the space in between melding into a Fullness, an overflowing embrace, a mutual beholding/kiss of hearts.
What I see is that he reflects me; and in his smile I see my own smile; and I come to love my own soul as I see myself face to face with God. Indeed, I now experience the reality of God’s eye always upon me, and I realize I am comfortable enough to stand in this space, no longer any need to hide, for I love myself, in God, for his sake (reminiscent of St. Bernard’s fourth degree of love, when the soul comes to love himself only for God’s sake).
For in giving God freedom, in letting God be God, I cease to judge, letting God’s will alone be the judge, and all of a sudden, I am free, free to be me, which is none other than God, in Christ, alive and growing to full stature in me. And so, in giving freedom, I receive freedom; and I might as well hear Jesus say back to me in response to my own self-gift, “I give you my freedom, that your freedom might be complete.” For indeed it is; in reverencing Christ’s freedom, I discover that it is his own freedom that desires to live in me as my life and joy, if not for my own judgments that cut me off from the grace. As so in the gift of freedom, very truly I discover Jesus as my friend, standing with me side by side, heart in heart, looking together with one united gaze towards the shared goal of contemplating the love of the Father for us and living in full assent with one another in the Way of His glorious and life-giving will; which is none other than the actualization of my unique personhood and the affirmation of my pure desires in God.
Christ lays down his life for us, and so all we need to do is make our hearts hospitable to him, becoming for him a free and perpetual invitation to be who he is in us, our friend—the way, the truth, and the life, living and moving and having his being in us precisely in the manner in which we were created for joy and wholeness and fullness of integration in Him. Would that we all might learn to give the Lord the freedom to be himself in us, that the grace of our inheritance of the glorious freedom of the children of God might be ours, when God is all in all, and the glory of our humanity is fully consummated in the freedom of Christ Jesus. On that Day, indeed the clouds will disperse and we will discover the Lord verily looking down upon each of us, no longer conditioned collectively to the watchful eye of an ‘angry judge’, but rather rejoicing in the gaze of an affectionate loving Father, as if One who relishes to take a photoshoot, smiling upon us and wanting our best, our fullest and most joyful selves, alive in the freedom of Christ, brothers and sisters — and Friends — to one another.