The Desire for Love – 10 quotes from Marietta Bahri Della Penna’s book – Song of a Christian Sufi: A Spiritual Memoir

by Mark Votava

Rev_Song of  a Christian Sufi1. Merciless honesty

“The process of becoming emotionally and intellectually conscious isn’t easy. It’s a little like when a limb that’s been asleep regains feeling: it feels worse before it feels better. The transformation requires merciless honesty. Meanwhile, the road ahead is elusive. We must stumble and fall. We think we have everything all figured out – and then we fall again.”

2. The damnedst places

“God seems to like hanging out in the damnedst places…”

3. My own particular brand of pretension

“As I used my voice to be a ‘bullshit detector,’ something else happened that I hadn’t expected: I couldn’t point out others’ phoniness without confronting my own. I had to take a long, hard look at my own particular brand of pretension and false holiness. My own shadow had dark depths I had never yet dared to probe.”

4. Love by its very nature gives itself away

“Love by its very nature gives itself away – and God is love. I had grown up with the image of a bloody, dying man on a cross as the central symbol of the Christian faith, but now I came to believe that even if the cross had not been necessary, the Incarnation would still have happened – because God is recklessly, wildly generous, giving God-Self to Creation endlessly, humbly, tenderly. Contrary to what I had been taught all my life, Jesus’ mission on Earth had nothing to do with guilt and morality. He has come for one reason only: to bring God’s love to us, through his own human flesh.”

5. Beings of glowing potential

“I came to understand forgiveness in a new way. We don’t receive Divine pardon because we are ‘bad,’ but so we can see ourselves in a new way, so we can begin anew with a clean slate. That pure, beautiful, and shining slate is what we are in God’s eyes, beings of glowing potential. We are the ones who place judgments on ourselves; we are the ones who created words like ‘immoral’ and ‘bad’ in the first place, and then we project those concepts onto God. God does not judge.”

6. In the helplessness and frustration

“In the helplessness and frustration of not knowing, I touch something deeper and more real than I can ever reach in the moments when I feel clear and strong. To use Rumi’s metaphor, without the dark, constricted days, I would be like a one-winged bird, unable to truly fly.”

7. Opening ourselves to the questions

“…as we open ourselves to the questions themselves, something begins to change within us. Unseen, unconscious, something is transformed…”

8. The desire for love

“The twelfth-century Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi prayed, ‘Oh Lord, nourish me not with love but with the desire for love’…”

9. Stroke our egos

“As Westerners, we’ve also come to expect that, at some level, the purpose of all social interactions is to stroke our egos…”

10. Creativity as another way to engage

“All my life, I had pursued God with my mind, relating to spirituality as though it were an academic inquiry, an intellectual problem that could be solved with enough thought. I had begun to use my creativity as another way to engage with the spiritual life…”

Have we longed for the desire for love?

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist