Reaching Towards Love

"Reaching Towards Love", Original oil on canvas, 24" x 36"

If there is a question, which right now I certainly have MANY, I whole heartedly believe love is the answer. 
After watching the Presidential debate the other night, or should I say (Un)Presidential from our current President, I am trying SO hard to understand the perspectives that don’t align with my own understandings and beliefs. As I wrestle with the political and faith worlds in this country, as long as I continue reaching towards love as an ultimate answer and source, I am always brought back to a state of peace, and that, is what I’m hoping to offer you today with this painting and these words.
As my life is richly blessed with friends and family from varying perspectives, I have gotten very close to these differing ideas and view points around politics, religion, racism, and all the current events that are happening around these topics. I know that our lives are shaped by our own personal experiences and influences along our individual journeys, but I think what baffles me the most in trying to understand others’ perspectives, is one of the common denominators between us is the religion we most associate with is Christianity. How can we have such different views on the world, social justice issues, current events, and Jesus himself? Of course there are many reasons why, but perhaps one is the numerous differing Bibles and church denominations. Just like the media we watch, read, and listen to, I’m certain each denomination, leaders of the church, and even Biblical interpreters have their own agenda. BUT PLEASE, can we stop for a second and be brought to ask the question – what is God’s agendaWhat was Jesus’s agenda for us? May we take a moment to reflect on these questions. 
(Note: If I’ve already lost you because you “don’t believe in God”, don’t worry, I don’t see God as a white haired, long bearded man who sits in the clouds waiting to judge us, either. I have a much more beautiful image of who God is, and I’ll explain that later.)
I resonate deeply with Adam Hamilton’s words from his book Seeing Gray In A World of Black & White – Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics,
“I fear that if Jesus came to our town today, he would not sit for long in our churches. I suspect he might say, “You’ve totally missed the point! You’ve become the Pharisees! Do you really think that this – what you’re doing here – is why I suffered and died?”
If you call Christianity your religion, I sincerely want you to refresh your memory on the two commandments Jesus told us were the greatest, in the book of Matthew.
From the New Living Translation Bible, Matthew 22:34-40:
“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
            Jesus replied, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
I’d like to talk about both of these commandments, and see if somehow today’s opposing viewpoints can harmonize in what seems like a very simple strategy for fulfilling the law of love.

What does the first commandment mean by ‘you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind’?  When creating this painting, “Reaching Towards Love”, it was my intent to draw a new awareness around who God is. (Don’t worry, I am still learning too. I’m not pretending to have all the answers, but wish to share what I’ve learned along the way so far.) 
Within this painting, I have hidden the scripture 1 John 4:16 NLT which reads,
“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” And to add to this in verses 7-17, 
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

If we take a look again at the commandment to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind, and after asking the question of who is God?, we can conclude that God is love, and if this is true, and we are commanded to love God, then we must love - Love. We need to love being loving more than ANYTHING else. We need to love being loving and caring to all people, animals, and this precious home we call Earth. There is no place for hatred here. There is no place for enemies here. There is no place for evil and separation of who gets to love or be loved. It’s who God is. It’s who we are. This commandment doesn’t say “only love God (love) if he thinks, looks, prays, and acts like you. Nor, does it say love your possessions or money. It’s simple folks – love God (the Loving all-encompassing Spirit of Love.)   
Now onto the second and equally important commandment instructed by Jesus - Love your neighbor as yourself. Why is this so difficult? Something I’ve felt in my heart and mind for quite some time now is this – maybe it’s so hard for people to love their neighbor as themselves, because so many people don’t love themselves. They don’t know what self-love looks like, because they don’t know who they really are. There are a number of reasons for this, one I believe being from the main message they were given since childhood from their well-meaning church, parents, influences, etc. This message that was handed to them is that they are sinners first. Instead of first seeing the good in themselves, they were taught that they were flawed, that they needed to be fixed (saved), that they were just not quite good enough. Do we have free will to make mistakes? Yes, of course we do! But, what if, instead of focusing on being a sinner/flawed first, we focus on the way we were created as described in the book of Genesis in chapter 1 verses 26-27 NLT, 
“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground. So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them.” 
If we are all created in the image of God, we are all created in the image of Love – to be love to everyone and everything. I truly believe this is why we are here.
Now, I don’t read the Bible literally, but rather literately – The story of creation has always been so near to my heart ever since reading it and re-reading it as a child. I was mesmerized from this story, such fond memories from my childhood! I believe the creation story is just that – a beautiful story, a true spiritual, divinely inspired, and mysterious work of art. This creation story came to life for me personally when I birthed my own two babies – the moment I held them in my arms, I knew I was holding pure love. 
I also believe many people may not know how to love themselves or what this self-love is, perhaps because they have never even heard of this. There are so many layers covering up this love. I believe I was introduced to the idea of self-love after reading Anita Moorjani’s book, Dying To Be Me. After her near death experience and going to “the other side”, she became aware of who she truly is – love. Although being diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer, she is alive and well today sharing her story! (I highly recommend her work!)   Deep down, I believe if people understood that we are all created as a beautiful image of God, we would gain an indescribable sense of worth and confidence, and then our highest selves will come forth - to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. 
This is the beautiful image of who I see when I think of God. It’s an ultimate feeling and knowing that lack words. It is the light that I paint. A source of all living things, guiding us and lighting the way.  I hope this encourages you to ask, seek, reach towards love, and find the peace within you to share with the world.