“All” is my word of the year.
One way I companion my word each year is to find a sign to put near my home altar using the selected word. I found a great sign last year for its word “Go” at our nearby Hobby Lobby. “Let’s Go” empowered me every morning.
So I have been on the hunt for a new sign this year and finally once again in Hobby Lobby found one sign using this year’s word: “All of me loves all of you.”
Now I know this expression was to be between two lovers, but I adopted it as my prayer. “Lord, help all of me love all of you.”
Or at least that was my original intention for using the sign. God had other plans.
A few weeks ago, I ventured to the center about 90 minutes from my home for a silent retreat. Often I bring a few items from my home altar with me to help create a sacred atmosphere in the room for prayer and time with God. I brought my “All of me loves all of you” sign.
I entered the silence wondering how I could love God more. What more could I do? What should I be? My head knew I didn’t “earn” God’s love and that I was a cherished child of God, but my ego still believed I had to work, strive, prove myself in order to fully love God. I had to do this.
Henri Nouwen, my mentor and lamplighter, wrote words that unraveled me during the retreat. His message mirrored what I was experiencing.
“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.”
The entire multiday retreat I wrestled with the question: “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” My pride and independence entangled my heart and only God could untie and free me. Finally on the last day I heard God say to me,
“All of me (God) loves all of you.”
I had the word of year sign all wrong. Love didn’t start with me; love starts with God. Because God loves me first, I can love God. Because God loves me, love permeates every cell of my being. Because God loves me, I am already loved, cherished, and accepted. Because God loves me, I love others. God starts and sustains this surrender into his immense love – All of God loves all of you, me, all.
The sign still sits on my home altar where I see it every morning during devotions. Someday God’s transforming love will be complete within me and I will fully say back to him with all my heart, mind and soul the words he says every day to me: All of me loves all of you.
May it be so for all of us.
What lessons have you learned about God lately?