I am fascinated by the ending of books. I think I have been influenced by my younger daughter. When she gets a new book, quickly she looks to see what the first word and the last word of the book are. She often makes up her mind about the book based on these two words! I am not that radical. However, I do like the first line and the last line of books. I think they tell us a great deal about the book and the author’s intention.
Last evening I finished reading a book I have used in my class. It is a great book by one of my favorite spirituality authors, Gerald May. The book is Will and Spirit. Actually, the great sentence is not the last sentence, but the second to last sentence. Let me begin with that one and reflect on it. And then we can glance at the last sentence and see how it reinforces the sentence I want to give focus.
The penultimate sentence says, “At the deepest level of our hearts we are all aching, for each other and for the same eternally loving One who calls us.” Let’s unpack this very suggestive sentence. My initial observation notes that the sentence is cast in the first person plural, namely, “we.” It may be about me, but it also about you and all of us. I value that focus. So much in our society concerns only me. Too frequently I am ego-centric---centered on me. And if you are egocentric, then we already have problems. This is about humanity---about all of us.
The second observation is May’s focus on the human heart. Of course, he is using the language of “heart” in a metaphorical sense. Our hearts point to the essence of who we are. I could also use “soul” language. My heart is my soul. And interestingly, May thinks there are levels. It makes sense to me.
I can be superficial with respect to my heart. I see students on campus, but I may see little or nothing of their hearts. They might even grunt “hello” to me, but there is no engagement. We often hear the phrase, “their hearts just weren’t in it.” That usually spells trouble. On an athletic team, that usually means a loss! In a concert that means bad music!
Of course, there are deeper levels of heart. If I am walking across campus and see a friend, my heart typically is touched at a deeper place than when I encounter a stranger. Their “hello” is a welcome word and, normally, a word of engagement. Even if we continue in passing, I feel like I have been touched by him or her.
And we all know there are even deeper levels to the heart. Family typically goes deeper. Children may take us pretty deep. Falling in love clearly goes very deep. And now we are beginning to reach that level of the heart to which May is pointing. In fact, he talks about the deepest level of our hearts. There at the deepest level we are all aching. That sounds like fun!
I am not sure this “aching” is painful. I sense it more as “desiring, indeed deeply desiring.” We ache and desire each other. To me this anticipates May’s emphasis on love. Aching for each other is a quaint way of talking about a deep desire to love and to be loved. But there is more.
May also says this aching at the deepest level of our hearts is also an aching for the eternally loving One who calls us. I agree with May. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that aching for each other will never ultimately satisfy unless we also are aching for the God who created and loved us into being. It is a triangle of relationship: me, you, and God. I also like the idea that God is the eternally loving One. Who can go wrong if there is Someone who is eternally loving you and me? You and I may fail each other, but God will never fail anyone at any time. Glory be!
If we could be in touch with this deepest level of our hearts and begin to address that aching for each other and for God, we would be on a path that would bring deep significance and meaning to our lives. Indeed, I would argue we would have found the purest reason for living. And if we could start living from that deepest level of our hearts, we would become the most amazing people on this earth. The good news is we can do it!
And now we are ready for May’s last sentence. “We would be well, I think, if we could acknowledge this more often to one another.” I would like to take this to heart! If I can manage that acknowledging more often to some other folks, then I can begin to bring that deeper significance and meaning to my life and, perhaps, make the world just a little bit better. I want to live from the deepest level of my heart.