A Spendthrift Lover is the Lord
A spendthrift lover is the Lord
Who never counts the cost
Or asks if Heaven can afford
to woo a world that’s lost.
Our lover tosses coins of gold
Across the midnight skies
And stokes the sun against the cold
To warm us when we rise.
Still more is spent in blood and tears
to win the human heart
to overcome the violent fears
that drive the world apart
Behold the bruised and thorn crowned face of
one who bears our scars.
And empties out the wealth and grace
that’s hinted by the stars.
How shall we love this heart strong God
who gives us everything?
Whose ways to us are strange and odd
What can we give or bring?
Acceptance of the matchless gift
is gift enough to give.
The very act will shake and shift
The way we love and live.
- Thomas H. Troeger
I came across this poem about a year ago as I was doing my daily Magnificat readings in the morning. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Magnificat, I’ll explain. The Magnificat is a monthly compilation of the daily mass readings, daily reflections, and in addition comes with morning and evening prayers, psalms, a Saint of the day and various articles throughout. It’s a monthly subscription that you can sign up for online and then it will get mailed to you each month. I was first introduced to the Magnificat by a friend in college who used it frequently and spoke very highly of its influence in her prayer life. I decided to start ordering it myself and now it has become an essential component in my own spiritual life over the past couple of years. I use it as a daily devotional reading that ties into my prayer time each day. Typically I make time for this in the morning. So I’ll read the Morning Prayer, the gospel and the reflection for the day at the very least. I’ve come to love this little booklet because it gets my daily scripture in along with excellent spiritual readings, as the reflections are typically excerpts from writings of great Saints, Church fathers, or theologians of our time. It’s great material for continued reflection! I’d highly recommend this to anyone who wants some more structure and consistency in their prayer life.
Anyways, enough of my tangent on my love for the Magnificat. Long story short, this poem/hymn was brought to me through the Magnificat readings for the day. It was the Morning Prayer for the day, and upon reading it I was enraptured by the pure beauty and truth of its words. It captivated my feminine heart and hopeless romantic bent. I also have an affinity for words. When words can come together so flawlessly and melodically while still maintaining the integrity of the writings purpose, I am immediately drawn in. This poem I believe does that perfectly. It’s a poem that upon reading it I wished I could have written myself and longed for everyone to hear.
I felt so moved by it because it describes the transformation of the soul so well when it encounters the true and living God. I felt it described so beautifully the story of my own soul. Let me expand a little on that idea.
This piece, first and foremost was written with the intention of being sung as a hymn of praise. It begins as all good prayers do, with acknowledging and praising the Glory of God. It explains Him whom we are praising and describes Him not in unfamiliar terms but in terms of a heart strong lover who is in pursuit. One who, with reckless abandon, would go to great lengths to win over the heart of His beloved. And who is His beloved? It’s us, you and me, generally and specifically. Isn’t that what every human heart wants at its deepest core? Someone who, without regard for himself, seeks to reveal the extent of his love in ways that will win you over? Well that has always been the desire of my young heart. Especially at the time I first read this poem. It was at a time when I had just gotten out of a relationship with someone whom I felt like wasn’t really trying to pursue me. I felt I was giving more than I was receiving and so this image of Christ really stuck with me.
The next verse explains the reality of the extent that our Lord went for us. He went to the point of being bruised and thorn crowned; And He did this all to understand and bear our scars on His own human flesh. This pure and perfect soul took on our humanity and endured the worst form of torture in pursuit of our heart. Wow… and then it keeps going.
“How shall we love this heart strong God who gives us everything? Who’s ways to us are strange and odd, what can we give or bring?” Now isn’t this the question we all encounter at one time or another once we truly understand the sacrifice and burning passion with which our Lord loved us and continues to love and pursue us even today. How can we possibly repay Him? How can we possibly break even with him, thank Him for so great a gift, as unsolicited and undeserving as we are. The truth is we can’t. We can’t and we never will; but that’s the mystery of God’s mercy and love. He doesn’t expect or require us to do anything in return for all that He has given us and gone through for us. All He wants from us is for us to accept it. Accept His gift of peace, hope, and unconditional love even though He knows we will never be able to match it in return.
It’s a hard thing for us feeble humans to accept. It’s really difficult for us in our broken humanity to accept love when we feel so undeserving. When we feel that we will never able to love Him as much and to the extent that He loves us. We don’t like feeling indebted to anyone or anything; we want things to always be evenly matched. Just as in my relationship, I wanted to feel pursued to the extent that I was pursuing. I wanted to feel like I was receiving to the extent that I was giving. It’s only natural. But in relationship with an omnipotent and perfect being who is not confined to the state of our humanity we need to just accept that we will always let Him down. We will never give Him as much or more than He has given us and He understands that and it’s ok. It’s ok because God isn’t looking for perfection; He’s looking for you. He wants to love you where you are and He will go to great lengths to do that. Once you acknowledge what He’s up to, the best response we can have is accept it. Allow Him to pour into your heart the love that you have been longing for. The love you have searched for in everything else.
A soul that has accepted this unfailing love is then secure. They feel secure and at peace with themselves because if perfect love can accept and love them, though they are undeserving, what excuse have we to not strive to live that love ourselves? We have a source of love that is abundant and everyday being renewed despite our failings. We would be selfish to then not share this love with others. Encountering and abiding in the truth of our Lord’s deep and passionate love for us should no doubt “Shake and shift the way we love and live.”
Nunc Coepi, AMDG.