When I speak of love, especially the Divine Love Of God, I often hear the inner voice inside my head cackle. My inner sarcasm is triggered and my ego tries to bully its way above the noise. In other words, there are times I want to believe what I read but I have trouble doing so. Is this lack of faith? Or just the reality of living in this noisy, bombastic and apathetic world?
In these moments I feel myself getting beat up by myself. And that loud ego inside me punches the real me harder than the real me can punch back. Flat-faced on the floor, I want to give up and sink into the carpet.
But there’s another voice inside my head. One that is much like the had been boxing Micky, played by Burgess Merideth in the 1976 blockbuster film Rocky. I picture his soul-piercing stare and hear his raspy voice barking at the fallen underdog to “Get up, you son of a bitch, Mickey loves ya!”
Occasionally someone else’s words are spoken that encourage me to lift my battered body and swing back. More often than not, that ringside coach (as if this hasn’t been made clear from the numerous post that quote him) is Richard Rohr, the Franciscan brother and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation. In a recent meditation he wrote these encouraging words on the power of God’s divine love:
“Love is the only thing that transforms the human heart. In the Gospels, we see Jesus fully revealing this divine wisdom. Love takes the shape and symbolism of healing and radical forgiveness—which is just about all that Jesus does. Jesus, who represents God, usually transforms people at the moments when they most hate themselves, when they most feel shame or guilt, or want to punish themselves. Look at Jesus’ interaction with the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1–10). He doesn’t belittle or punish Zacchaeus; instead, Jesus goes to his home, shares a meal with him, and treats him like a friend. Zacchaeus’ heart is opened and transformed. Only then does Zacchaeus commit to making reparations for the harm he has done.”
Rohr reminds me that Jesus is the one who, like Mickey, is by our ringside - always ready with a stool for our wobbly legs and bottle of water to quench our thirst. Jesus is the one pushing the sponge into the bucket of ice water to bath and soothe our wounds. Just as Jesus stitches our bleeding eyebrow, Jesus whispers encouragement in his words of love.
Jesus doesn’t give up on us. He stands in our corner and empowers us, believes in us, and loves us through the toughest of fights...the ones we have with ourselves. He meets us where we are and gives us what we need in that moment to get up off the mat and continue with our mission (to love God and neighbor). All the while, showing us how we can forgive or love or care for ourselves.
Above is a quote from Mickey to Rocky. But today I invite you to read it about yourself. Imagine your true self saying this in your head, And do me a favor, make it louder than the voices that want you to stay down.
Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 78–79.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”