Love the Contradictions
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Struggling with one’s own shadow self, facing interior conflicts and moral failures, undergoing rejection and abandonment, all daily humiliations, experiencing any kind of abuse or form of limitation, can be gateways into deeper consciousness and the flowering of the soul—if we allow them to be. These experiences give us a window into our naked nowness, because very real contradictions are always staring us in the face. Except for God, nothing is perfectly anything. Even as we set necessary and healthy boundaries, we are also invited to forgive what is, to weep over and accept our own interior poverty.
In facing the contradictions that we ourselves are, we become living icons of both/and. Once you can accept mercy, it is almost natural to hand it on to others (see the story of the unforgiving debtor in Matthew 18:23-35). You become a conduit of what you yourself have received. If you have never needed mercy and do not face your own inherent contradictions, you can go from youth to old age dualistically locked inside a mechanistic universe. That, in my opinion, is the “sin against the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 23:31-32). It cannot be forgiven because there is a refusal to recognize that you even need mercy or forgiveness. You have blocked the conduit that you are.
John of the Cross (1542–1591) consistently wrote of divine love as the template and model for all human love, and human love as the necessary school and preparation for any transcendent encounter. If you have never experienced human love, it will be very hard for you to access God as Love. If you have never let God love you, you will not know how to love humanly in the deepest way. Of course, grace can overcome both of these limitations.
To put it another way, what I let God see and accept in me also becomes what I can see and accept in myself. And, even more, it becomes that whereby I see everything else. This is “radical grace.” This is why it is crucial to allow God and at least one other person to see us in our imperfection and even in our nakedness, as we are—rather than as we ideally wish to be. It is also why we must give others this same experience of being looked upon tenderly in their imperfection; otherwise people on either side will never know divine love. I pray there is at least one person before whom you can be imperfect. I have several in my life, and they are such a relief and joy to be around.
Such utterly free and gratuitous love is the only love that validates, transforms, and changes us at the deepest levels of consciousness. It is what we all desire and what we were created for. Once you allow it for yourself, you will almost naturally become a conduit of the same for others.
Can you let God “look upon you in your lowliness,” as Mary put it (Luke 1:48), without waiting for some future moment when you believe you are worthy? Consider these words inspired by John of the Cross: “Love what God sees in you.” 
 John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle: Songs between the soul and the Bridegroom, stanza 32 (My paraphrase). See The Collected Works of John of the Cross, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez (ICS Publications: 2017; ©1991), 79.
Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 151-152, 162-163.