On Loving God
I have a good friend, Mary Dailey Brown, who served as a missionary in Spain along with her husband, Doug. Mary did an original translation of a poem by St. Teresa of Avila. The poem expresses passionate devotion to God. The theme of the poem is Teresa’s love for God, yet expressed in such a way that it causes us to pause and ponder. In pastoral ministry, love for God can get easily lost in the busy shuffle of things to do, places to go, people to serve. Wisdom slows us down so we may reflect. Do not merely read St. Teresa’s sonnet; let it wash deep into your being.
St. Teresa of Jesus, Avila, Spain
16th century (translated by M. D. Brown)
That you have promised me heaven
does not move me, my God, to love you.
Neither does hell so fearful
move me not to offend you.
You move me, Lord.
It moves me to see you
nailed to a cross and mocked;
It moves me to see your sufferings
and your death.
It moves me in the end,
and in some way,
even if there were no heaven,
I would still love you,
and even if there were no hell,
I would still fear you.
You don’t have to give me anything
so that I may love you,
because even if what I hoped for wasn’t there,
the same way that I love you,
I would love you still.
Eugene H. Peterson writes, “Poetry is language used with intensity. … Poets tell us what our eyes, blurred with too much gawking, and our ears, dulled with too much chatter, miss around and within us. Poets use words to drag us into reality itself…” (from Psalms: Prayers of the Heart). I find that writing poetry (as an amateur) forces me to slow down, to creatively work through the options of countless words on the hunt for the good one, perhaps, even the precise one. Poetry is a labor of love. Attempting to write poems can keep pastors focused. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks. A poet answers, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”