“I want to live out of love” – Christiane Berkvens- Stevelinck

Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck
Sunrise Departure Ceremony by Jolle Schraa

“You can learn to trust the other person by being completely trusting yourself. For others and, for starters, for yourself. That sounds simple, but perhaps this is the hardest thing in life.
Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck

A while ago we read “Living out of love” at a departure ceremony. The text was written by Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck, the late “preacher of Love” and our ambassador from the very beginning (more). The text can be found in our book of hours Seasons of Life, from which we read a text every first Saturday of the month, a little after sunrise in the Stevens Church in Nijmegen (agenda).

Below is the full text.

Living out of love

By: Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck

Not long ago, I asked myself a succinct question. The question that you can take with you as a pilgrim on the Walk of Wisdom in your backpack. What is essential for me in life?

The answer came naturally, like a kind of mantra that kept repeating itself in mind and heart: I want to live out of love.

The British writer Jane Austen wrote: There are as many different forms of love, as there are moments in time. Love takes countless forms between people. Unconditional involvement, responsibility for each other’s well-being, compassion, kindred spirit, friendship for life, passion. Love possesses all the colors of the rainbow, which is considerably more beautiful than fifty shades of gray. The conclusion is obvious: love is a chameleon. A range of possibilities, that’s what love offers.

I am called to do this not only by Jewish and Christian traditions, but by innumerable philosophies. The common thread is the Golden Rule, an attitude to life that can already be found in the Indian Mahabharata, in the philosophy of Confucius, in the ancient Greeks, in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, in Buddhism and in the great philosophers. In the positive form, it sounds like this: Treat the other person as you would like to be treated. There’s not a word of Spanish in there, and who doesn’t want to be loved?

Running blind

Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck
Gerrie Dobbelaer, summer, miniature Book of Hours Seasons of Life

In the Kralingse bos, blind and visually impaired people train weekly for the marathon. If you can’t run, go Nordic walking. Running blind? Do you want to walk a lot at all if you don’t see a nut? Yes! Blind and visually impaired people also lead the way on your pilgrimage.

It goes like this: the blind runner has a red band around his or her wrist that is held by a sighted buddy. And they run, hard, at the same pace. The idea came from an athletic young man who suddenly lost sight. You don’t let that stop you, do you? First he ran the marathon with his guide dog, now with his buddy and his friends from Running Blind.

Walking with a buddy or with a guide dog requires absolute trust on both sides. He who sees, leads, he who does not see, follows. Blindly. That’s why the word was coined, I think. Trust in the other person is an absolute prerequisite. The non-sighted person follows the compass, the sighted person holds the compass. For the rest, they run just as fast, get the same calf cramps and get out of breath at the same time.

Isn’t that a metaphor for every real encounter between people? Truly meeting someone else on your path through life only happens if you trust each other completely and dare to show your own vulnerability. Not trusting each other or betraying each other’s trust has only one consequence for blind runners: a painful fall. It’s no different with sighted people, right?


But how do you learn to trust the other person if you have had bad experiences with them? Fortunately, past performance is not lasting evidence for the future. This is where the old Golden Rule comes in handy again, but now in the negative form: What you don’t want done to you, don’t do to others.

There is not a word of Spanish there either. You can learn to trust the other person by being completely trusting yourself. For others and, for starters, for yourself. That sounds simple, but perhaps this is the hardest thing in life. To gain trust, in yourself, in others, in the world in which you live, love is indispensable. That’s what that mantra teaches me.

Therefore: Out of love I want to live.
Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck
Vml. Emeritus Professor of European Culture at Radboud University Nijmegen, Remonstrants
preacher and ritual counselor.

More about Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck

Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck

Check out one of her books, such as ‘free rituals’ (link) or the programme de Verwondering in which she was interviewed (link). Read our in memoriam about Christiane: more.

Photo: KRO, de Verwondering