My senior year of college--at a small conservative Christian college in upstate NY--I made what I thought was a small act of defiance by placing the words of a Sufi Muslim mystic as my ‘senior quote’ (whatever that means):
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
‘You owe me.’
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.
They’re the words of Hafiz, and, to me, they represented beautifully the spirit of abundance and overflowing love that I hoped could also be traced in the story of Jesus. I was leaving college frustrated and tired by what I thought was the discrepancy between that abundant love and the rigid moral codes and application of the Bible that I had heard growing up.
I stumbled into Life Together, feeling eager for a more aligned and uprooting seeking of that love. My two years as a fellow with Life Together were an immersion in inquiry, reflection, and search for integrity. I learned for the first time about the practice of community organizing -- of strategies of public disruption of the status quo and of building power -- the practice of living in intentional community -- of trying in imperfect and temporary ways to share resources and to make collective decisions -- and the practice of contemplative prayer -- of knowing myself and God more deeply and intimately than I had known. I frequently remember during my year as an Emmaus fellow our community house’s practice of praying together every Wednesday morning at 7 am. I’d sleepily stumble out of my room, down the two flights of stairs, grab a mug of hot coffee, and march over to the mostly-empty chapel of the church next door. And the six of us would chant and sit in silence together. We’d share about what was stirred in us as the slanting colored beams of light streamed in through the stain glass window. And, my heart could be broken there--for myself, for my family, for the world. From this place of heartbreak and gentle vulnerability, I am beginning to glimpse this abundant love that Hafiz has written about.
Since Life Together, I have been experimenting with and searching for ever-deepening integration and application of this love--however incompletely--through working on various community-building and organizing projects. And, while I may have learned more about blocks to embodying and building structures and work that embody that love, I still feel that fire and clarity that it is worth continuing to seek.