As I share where I encounter God in this year’s Lenten Pilgrimage, I wonder where God is stirring you?
‘Sin’. What a powerful little word. A highly charged concept sitting right at the heart of our worldview. Among the many untruths that circulate about our faith is the idea that a Christian sins less than their neighbour, is less tempted than their friend. And perhaps there is – by grace, through discipline, and with a rarely celebrated sheer push of will found in Christ’s own eleventh-hour obedience to his Father – an improvement. Perhaps, when our understanding of God’s nature and our own is clarified through prayer, when we receive the supernatural support of grace, we can live lives more in line with the laws and loves of God’s heart.
And yet falling in love with God does strange things to your vision. They say that love is blind: unless you fall in love with God, one ought to note. Because never was I more aware of sin, my own, the world’s own, your own, dear friend: never more overwhelmed by its pervasiveness, never less confident of a soul’s unaided ability to disentangle herself from the sticky matrix.
Before I was a Christian – actually, even while a Christian, but before one of those recurring waves of ever-deepening conversion – I would have offered you a definition of sin in abstract: ‘Not so much discrete acts,’ I would have said, though I think with a healthy concern to avoid our narrow-eyed obsession with certain areas, ‘Not so much discrete acts, as the general condition of living at a distance from God.’ Sin at a distance; sin as a structure; sin outside myself; sin in absentia.
But loving God, it turns out, does not turn you blind. It opens your eyes. This love does not settle you down, or suggest a nest, or sing songs of your glorious perfections. You are precisely too valuable for these epithets. Too beloved to be left with your mirrors for windows. And too much purposed, too much called, too much planned for, too much dreamt-of, too much gifted, too much invested with God’s own image and yearning, too much meditated on in the delighted mind and imagination of God, to be left to think that you are most yourself alone.
Because – violent to all modern sensibilities – this falling in love is not about you. You are called to love a broken world. A world hurting in very specific ways. The cross is pain in desperate specificity: crucifixion is bloody nakedness, suffocation, nails, thorns, a curse, and the burning stinking rubbish dumps outside a heaving city oblivious to your dying here. It is occupying forces, smashed knees, broken legs, a knife through your rib-cage and your lovers watching on. Concrete, particular, death in time, for sins concrete, particular and deathly in time.
The more I love God, the more I see for what he died. All those innumerable little daily ways I deny your reality, as I endeavour to possess you, subsume you, exploit you, use you. All those subtle little corrosions of our humanity in which I participate by will and in blissful unconscious negligence.
And forgive me, brother, sister, for I see this now. And I am so sorry.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Love of God does not make you blind.
Forget that. Forget the caveat.
Love does not make you blind.
Love is not blind.