Make Me All Love*

Make Me All Love

by Olivia Chorlian

January 29, 2017


Make me all love.

Make me all love.

Besides “Help!” “Thanks!” “Wow!” and “What the…?” this is my truest prayer, the cry of my heart in transparency.

Make me all love.

And I forget. I can forget who I am. I can forget the depth of spirit for which I was made.

I lose perspective and the possession of purpose, hand in hand. I have been driven to despair in this state.

Then, a miraculous moment in which this prayer bellows forth from my very core, shaking me awake, “Make me all love,” and for that moment, like a chiropractic adjustment to the soul, I am well again. I can thrive again. I have been returned to myself like a lost child. I am recognized and reclaimed by the mother within.

Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic Priest, wrote, “One way to express the spiritual crisis of our time is to say that most of us have an address but cannot be found there.”

Love seeks. Love finds. Love lifts and leads home.

Love is presence.

A spirit in crisis is not present. A spirit in love is attentive, creative and always becoming.

Make me all love.

In my youth I was led to believe Catholics were not Christians. While other second graders were passing “Do you like me? Check Yes or No,” notes, I had more eternally consequential concerns. My first primary school crush was a charming Korean boy named Ezra whose talent for drawing airplanes was unparalleled.

My letter to him was pointed: “Are you a Catholic or a Christian?”

I was a seven-year-old Protestant Evangelical living on the west side of Reveah, Massachusetts in 1990. The ratio of Italian Catholics to “other” was… disproportionate. Mattera, Palermo, Ventola, Cintola, Cintolo, Cataldo, Caputo, Cappocia, Castaldi, Bisalti, Merlina, Ferro, Rizzo… Even the Filipino twins in my grade had the last name Sinatra. As far as I understood, you could be Christian, as I was, or Catholic. I was “saved.” All of my friends were “lost.”

My prospects were dim, but Ezra, bless his little heart – to my bliss he circled “Christian” and I knew at once we were equally yoked!

Of course, I’m not seven anymore. I’m told.

I think it’s precious how now the writings of a Catholic priest fan my flame of faith. Henri Nouwen is one of a handful of Christian writers to survive my journey. My spiritual advisors include Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Polish rabbi, Anne Lamott, an alcoholic novelist, Anthony de Mello, an Indian psychotherapist and Jesuit, Pema Chodron, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, and Stephen Colbert.

That would be a fun dinner party.

In heaven. Only three of them are alive.

In the meantime let us delve into the heaps of inspiration they’ve left behind.

Make me all love.

“Make me all love” is a prayer called forth from my inmost being every time I allow myself to enter another’s suffering, every time I afford myself the stillness to glimpse life’s subtle beauties and raise a song of thanksgiving. It resounds when my heart is broken, and when it is stirred to action by prophetic passion, and when overwhelming compassion bleeds out in service. When piano strings vibrate beneath my tentative hands, when a musician is enraptured in performance at one with her instrument, when I hear a shaky voice sharing his story on the radio, when it is obvious an artist has withheld nothing, my soul sings, “Make me all love.”

It is a prayer for cosmic communion, to join all of creation’s unending song of becoming.

To pray, “Make me all love,” is to pray, “make me all empathy.”

Carl Rogers, a pioneer in humanistic psychology, defined empathy as “…entering the private world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it.  It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, to the fear or rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever he or she is experiencing.  It means temporarily moving in the other’s life, moving about in it delicately without making judgments.”

I wonder whether it is common or rare – true empathy. It is my instinct to consider it exceptional. We are so often caught up in our anxieties, worrying what others think of us, when the reality is they are thinking of us, but they are only thinking about what we may be thinking about them.

“That’s so meta.”

I am reminded of the Nobel prize-winning song, “We’re Both In Love With A Sexy Lady” by Flight of the Conchords. Some of the lyrics are

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
No, I’m thinking what I’m thinking.
So, you’re not thinking what I’m thinking?
No, ‘cause you’re thinking I’m thinking what you’re thinking.”

To truly love a person just the way they are, we must “become thoroughly at home in” the way they are.

Nouwen instructs, “No one can help anyone without becoming involved, without entering with his or her whole person into the painful situation, without taking the risk of becoming hurt, wounded, or even destroyed in the process…
Who can save a child from a burning house without taking the risk of being hurt by the flames? Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains and even losing precious peace of mind? In short, ‘Who can take away suffering without entering it?’”

Empathy is love’s mainspring. It is identification, not merely commiseration.

Empathy is the cornerstone of Christianity, the belief that the Great Spirit chose to identify as a human being and “become thoroughly at home in” the way we are, in order to love us just the way we are, in order to teach us to love ourselves and one another just the way we are.

To pray, “Make me all love,” is to pray, “Make me all attention.”

“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention,” said Richard Moss.

Attention births gratitude.

“True peacemakers are grateful persons… who constantly recognize and celebrate the peace of God within and among them” (HN).

There is so much beauty right in front of us, constantly. Beauty in people. Beauty in the wonders of the natural world, in our very existence. But, as Mary Poppins warns, “…sometimes a person we love, through no fault of his own, can’t see the past the end of his nose.”

If Facebook and Twitter are any indication, recognizing and celebrating goodness, in our fellow earthlings and in the lives we are so lucky to inhabit, is not trending.

Yet, if we would only pay attention, if we would dare to see the glorious in ordinary people, we would fall in love all the time.

I would go further with Richard Moss’ quote. The greatest gift you can give yourself is the purity of your attention.

You are a world. Your self is a world you’ve been given to discover, to actualize, to listen to, and nurture.

To practice attention is to cultivate stillness of soul, heightened senses, and a penchant for gratitude, in order that you do not miss the message of yourself, in order that we do not miss the message of you.

“Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for G-d, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how,” Nouwen describes.

I again, would go further and say, we all have a ministry. Whenever we practice attention, whenever we know ourselves and unveil our authentic selves to others, “with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope,” we are issuing an invitation to them to find meaning in our journey. We are saying, “Look, here is another way into wholeness.” We are saying, “You are not alone.” We are inviting them to unveil themselves. We are saying, “You are needed too.” “You have power to change my life for good.”

(At this point in my sermon writing, I turned to my Wicked soundtrack, found “For Good,” and pressed play. There was pacing, singing, lots of sighing and theatrical flailing. Hear these words:)

“I’m limited
Just look at me
I’m limited
And just look at you, you can do all I couldn’t do
So now it’s up to you
For both of us
Now it’s up to you

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good”

Make me all love.

To pray, “Make me all love,” is to pray, “Make me all vulnerability.”

Vulnerability is, love is, a surrendering of control.

It’s not safe.

When we choose the illusion of control over the power of love, we reap dysfunction.

This leads me to the story of one of my uglier moments in life. By ugly, I don’t mean the underdeveloped, sorely misguided, wannabe afro I acquired in the 4th grade. I mean behavioral yuckiness.

You won’t tell anybody, will you?

(This is where you say, “Of course not.”)

“Of course not.”


This is Olivia Chorlian’s Midday Confessions.

Nine years ago, my parents went through a divorce. During this time, I read The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis. When people noticed the book, I would snidely remark, “Yeah, I borrowed it from my professor… so I could read about a great one.” Ba dump bum. I couldn’t get enough of telling this stupid joke, like a lab rat pressing a lever, laughing harder every time.

My mother and father were not greatly divorced on August 22, 2008. The following Christmas was our first Christmas with split parents.

We (me, my brother and three sisters), The Chorlian 5, decided to surprise our parents with professional photos of their kids. A friend graciously agreed to help and we had a fantastic afternoon traipsing about Reveah from our house to my aunt’s to the beach. #Bianchis

The pictures were entirely lovely. Our friend did an outstanding job. The problem was that instead of 20 to 30, even 50 images to choose from, she gave us a CD of 400.

I was 25. My 19-year-old sister Jenny and I functioned like a strange, often distressed couple. We sat down at Starbucks on Elliott Street in Beverly and painstakingly sifted through all 400 shots, identifying our favorites and jotting down file names.

Then, on December 24th mind you, we headed over to Walmart to place an order and make a few instant prints for framing and wrapping.

The last-minute holiday shopping frenzy was all around us. Our files weren’t loading properly into the kiosk. When they did appear, suddenly Jenny and I were disagreeing on which pics to print even after our careful deliberations. Nothing was going according to plan. We continued to argue while the technical glitches compounded the stress. Before long, I was screaming obscenities at her, shouting the F word in no uncertain terms, in front of a sea of concerned patrons. I concluded my verbal assault, storming out of the store and leaving her there.

This was on 114 in Danvers, by the way. Someday this address will be on the historical tour of my life. Because we need another historical tour in Massachusetts.

When we choose the illusion of control over the power of love, we reap dysfunction.

When I choose the illusion of control over the power of love, I cuss my sister out in the Walmart Photo Center on Christmas Eve.

I love you, Jenny. It’s not your fault.

Practicing vulnerability means choosing to stay when loss of control produces fear. It is choosing to love regardless of reciprocity. It is choosing to honor and support someone even when you do not understand him or her.

Vulnerability is not reactionary. It is gentle. It is slow to speak, slow to become angry.

It trusts though gratification be delayed. It hopes in things unseen.

Make me all love.

To pray, “Make me all love,” is to pray, “Make me all integrity.”

Integrity is the state of our core values aligning with our actual thoughts and behaviors.

As Susan Scott states in her book, Fierce Conversations, “…if your behavior contradicts your values, your body knows, and you pay a price at a cellular level… [your] immune system will [actually] weaken.”

Practicing empathy, attention and vulnerability left me heartbroken many times, and especially recently. This is always a very real, even likely, possibility when you choose to love, regardless of the outcome. Whether alone or in a relationship, love will hurt.

As someone who is a human being, I tend toward one of two opposing reactions to heartbreak. First, I respond to the pain with denial. I do this by hyperactively striving to be G-d’s gift to humankind instead of acknowledging my suffering. When I run out of steam, as inevitably I do, I become angry with myself for failing to transmogrify into Wonder Woman, and also for being depressed to begin with. The end result? Deeper depression.

The prayer for integrity is a prayer that I would find the strength to allow myself to feel the pain without resistance, to fail without judgment.

Pema Chodron teaches, “…all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”

Our reactions to heartache are often motivated by fear, and sometimes even our reactions to receiving love are motivated by fear of impending heartache.

It’s written in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Make me all love and I will not run. Help me realize that pain is not punishment, nor is joy reward, but they are the harmonies of being.

“pleasure and pain are merely surfaces,” writes e. e. cummings,
“(one itself showing, itself hiding one)
life’s only and true value neither is
love makes the little thickness of the coin”

“Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together” (PC).

Integrity requires us to own both our glory and our wretchedness. I must accept and embrace and make space for all of me so that I can accept and embrace and make space for all of you.

In the words of Kahlil Gibran, “But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, …pass out of love’s threshing-floor… Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

Life is incomparably abundant on the other side of the difficult transition to integrity.

Let us laugh all of our laughter and weep all of our tears.

Make me all love.

Empower me to live lovingly mindful of the “least of these.”

As our prayers to be all love make us integrated, fully functioning people, then our love can turn more vibrantly and effectively outward.

Jesus described the “least of these” as anyone hungry, thirsty, lost, alone, naked, sick and imprisoned. To love those is to love G-d.

Absurdity literally means “deep deafness.” We live in an absurd world where those who cause hunger, violence and death “are convinced that they do this to defend the great spiritual values of the free world” (HN). There is a deep deafness in the world to the question, “What have you done for the least of these?”

The opposite of absurdity is an open heart. It is wisdom and sound judgment, senses fully awake. “Wake, Now, My Senses.”

As we practice empathy, attention, vulnerability and integrity, we become keenly aware of the needs surrounding us, and we become the very embodiment of the love which can meet those needs and so heal the world.

“Truth is born in strange places,” but we must actually be listening.

“…everyone, somewhere, is someone, if we only give them a chance.”

Famous names don’t have the corner on revelation, on inspiration, on excellence.

Being all love means making conscious choices to be fully alive that we might lead others into their own full aliveness. Being all love means believing in the goodness of those we might initially perceive as less than or insignificant.

Being all love calls out significance in everyone.

Make me all love. Make me ecstatically creative, passionate, and nonconforming. Make me patient, humble, courageous and daring. Make me negativity intolerant, pretension averse, and spiritually generous.

Revisiting the words of Carl Rogers, “… the good life is not… for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.”

Or as we will soon sing, the streams of love.

Let’s launch. Let us stretch and grow and be brave-hearted together.