Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace. ~ St. Augustine
Does it get any better than this? I believe these words of St. Augustine resonate with many of us, as so many of us have had a spirit-filled conversion or re-version to the faith after a time of being spiritually lukewarm or outright cold and distant from God. When we return to Him, we are blessed to bask in the knowledge that we have been given the immense gift of His great love and mercy for us. And even though we had the gift all along, we are inspired to see how our Beloved waited patiently for us to finally come to Him, ready to open it.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Such passion! This is authentic closeness—not sentimental, superficial or manufactured, but deep, profound closeness to Father, Son, Holy Spirit and all of heaven. It is pure gift, and it is available to everyone with a heart for God. But this closeness is often like a dance with the Divine Lover of our Souls. Sometimes He permits us to feel very close to Him and our passions rise as we long to do everything we can for Him, bringing souls to Him, loving as He loves, giving as He gives. Yet other times, He is closer than ever, while He does not permit us to feel His presence. He gives us a desert experience. And it is in these experiences where the rubber meets the road, where our faith muscles are stretched and aching. It is these times where we must be vigilant, remembering that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. And when we grow in holiness over the seasons of our lives, God willing, we will grow to love these desert experiences, embracing them, and dare I say, loving them and thanking our Beloved for them. We will thank Him, because we will know that His will is perfect, and his plan is far greater than any plan we could manage to create for ourselves. And someday, we will see how our surrender, cooperation, faithfulness and love brought us to where He was calling us to be—smack dab in the center of His Heart.
Once we have received a taste of the goodness of the Lord, our souls hunger and thirst for more. We want always to live on the mountain with the Lord and bask in His love. But there are great spiritual benefits to the periods of desolation we experience. If we put ourselves on a steady diet of self-pity or distraction during them, we will make only baby steps or even backward steps on the spiritual journey. But if we thank Him, trusting and surrendering, He will help us to empty ourselves of all of the things that get in between us and a face-to-face relationship with the One Who loves us.
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you.
How often can we refer to these words again and again, seeing that we have separated ourselves from God by not embracing His plan for us. How often will we be on the outside, plunging into the things He has created, all the while ignoring the Creator? This is the story of our lives. Conversion is a continuing experience, not just a one time affair. We will not arrive at the summit of perfection in holiness during this lifetime, but that does not stop us from trying.