I found out today why I’m always running.
My last post, “A Thought About Farewells”, came from a place where I think my heart has secretly been for many years–hiding from the truth that goodbyes really do happen, that we cannot go back and reclaim the moments we’ve lost. It hit me like a brick wall this summer (while playing mini golf, of all things) that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t soak in every part of every moment that we’d like to. We only have so many eyes to see, so many ears to hear, so many hands to embrace. Things will be missed, and before we can try to grab them back, the moment will fly from us just as every moment has since time first began to turn its pages.
There are so many beautiful things about being part of a large family, both close and extended. One of the harder parts is feeling like you just blinked and suddenly the baby you were holding in your arms is toddling around, and the little tykes are suddenly going through puberty. The new moments aren’t bad, but the ones that are gone were pretty darn good too.
Moments just don’t last forever. And if you let yourself be fully invested in them, your heart is going to ache. This is the truth I’ve been running from, as time and time again I’ve come to love and then to lose.
Honestly, left just with this, I’d be crying myself to sleep right now. Which is what I did for years at the end of the days where I either hid from this truth in any corner I could or just let it completely overwhelm me. Truth be told, I’ll still probably cry myself to sleep many more nights in the future; it’s the price to be paid for letting yourself feel loss.
But if there’s anything these years are finally teaching me, it’s that this is not the end of the story.
The answer here is hope. It’s not a fix-it sort of answer; it doesn’t make the hurting stop. It doesn’t even really give a reason for the hurting. What it offers is something much bigger: a future where moments DO last forever, a future where there AREN’T goodbyes, a future where somehow a single glance at the face of God will quell every question and leave our hearts in complete peace and utter love.
The most marvelous part about hope is that the Holy Spirit gives us the first tastes of that hope here and now, in these fast-fleeting moments. When Christ came, He brought eternity into time, and now the Holy Spirit draws us out of time and into eternity. He brings us Christ Himself in the Eucharist to feed us as we walk with him through the moments of life into the unbroken joy of Heaven. The glory of our sorrows is that we are not alone in them; Christ has entered into every moment, every ache, every joy, every pain, and has given us the Holy Spirit as a promise that we will eventually pass out of all that is passing into the place where nothing passes, and we are in the very embrace of God.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
What more is there to do but give glory and praise to God for loving us so unfathomably much? Not a drop of our pain goes unnoticed. We are not echoing voices in a hollow universe latching onto others and onto fantasies. We are beloved children, never for a moment left alone, always heard, always laughed with, always cried with. Brothers and sisters, we are loved with a love that is unlike anything this world can ever even begin to offer; every moment of every life is held in the hands of a God Who literally died for us, who pines for us always and will never stop wanting us to be with Him in eternity.
And if you feel that you are too far away, that this is just too good to be true, know that even in that you are not alone. I was not kidding when I said that Christ is with us in EVERYTHING. I know that it is not always easy at first to believe that God loves or even cares about us. I didn’t, for years; He had to prove it to me. And He did; He finally got through my stubbornness and my doubts. He found me after I said my first really painful goodbye years ago, and he cried with me. When I finally, flailingly, asked Him to help me, even though I wasn’t sure He loved me, He gave me the strength to survive and began walking me down a path that I never could have foreseen, a path of healing and freedom. And He wants to do that for all of us.
Ok, I know that basically sounded like an altar-call. Consider it a personal testimony to assure you that all the craziness I spout on this site isn’t really about me. It never was, and every post I’ve written that tends in that direction is flawed. What it’s really all about is trying to give an account, a reason, for my hope, hope that I have not always practiced. It really isn’t easy to choose, in every moment, to live as though death is not the end of our story, to love with God’s love so as to bring the God of eternity into time and men of time a step closer to eternity. But it makes all the difference.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
By far the hardest words for me to pray.
As far as I can tell, not feeling loved has been the source of most of my problems in life. Doesn’t always mean I wasn’t truly loved; just that a lot of my life, I just didn’t feel it, didn’t believe it.
So how can I seriously ask God to take away my desire to be loved?
This is something I’m still not sure I have the answer to, but I have little hints now, I think. I find myself desiring love that I shouldn’t have, love that, in the long run, isn’t really love but just something that serves to fuel my ego. It sounds weird put that way, but I think that’s the only way to describe it. There’s a part of me that just wants to be loved in ways I shouldn’t want, or at least ways I shouldn’t be seeking to accomplish.
Even that word is problematic: “accomplish”. Love isn’t “accomplished”; it’s not just a task or activity that has a definitive end. It’s more like a dance. Because love only happens when the one loved freely returns that love as best they can. What I might picture in my mind as the only way someone can show me they love me isn’t truly the only way I can be loved. It might be the way (or something close to the way) in which I know best or for sure that I’m loved, but I’m not that other person I’m desiring love from. They have their own ways in which they show love; I can’t force them to love me the way I want them to.
In other words, maybe it’s been me all along that hasn’t been loving. Maybe I’ve just been selfish, immature, greedy. Maybe I’m even more broken and twisted inside than I’ve dared to admit.
And for that, I owe everyone who has known me an apology. Because I think the cry in my heart hasn’t been as noble and devastating as what has come out of my lips or my actions; I’m actually pretty crummy in a whole heck of a lot of ways.
But light has shone on that darkness now, and the darkness won’t overcome it.
I think I’m learning humility far greater than the little moments of humiliation I was expecting this Lent; I’m learning that I really am pretty small and dirty and just…I don’t even know if there are words for things as low as me.
And yet, I’m also learning that the Lord has seen this in me all along…and somehow still sees someone worth saving, someone worth loving, and someone worth dying for.
The more I know myself, the more I have to weep at the immense love God must have for me to see me and still want nothing more than to have me with Him forever, even if He has to bleed out on a cross for me.
So to those who have stuck by me and loved me with love that still staggers me, even now, thank you. You are truly vessels of God’s grace, and you seriously deserve so many blessings.
And now I guess I’ll just awkwardly end this here. And it’s OK that I don’t have some sort of impressive final word of wisdom. It’s even OK if no one reads this. It’s all OK, because God loves me, and even if no one else does, I have a soul full of love and grace, and that’s plenty reason to be happy.
Recall the day the Tree of Life was shorn
of verdant life and pierced by iron nails,
when darkness, groaning, veiled the dying morn
while stones took up the trembling and wails.
Recall the day when earth and sky screamed out,
“Creator scorned, O creatures!, whence thy hope?”
Remember blood of God-Made-Man, the shout
of stone-cold tomb, salvation’s envelope.
Recall, recall, sweet soul, how blood gave birth
to sons and daughters from a granite womb,
Creation’s moans now sprung from fruitful girth
while souls by flood are washed into the tomb;
once more recall: as old life’s morning dies,
creation new from sepulchre will rise.
So guys. Depending on what I learn in my classes on the Holy Spirit and the Nature of Love next semester, I might have found a topic for my thesis.
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deut. 30:6)
OK I promise it’s more than just this cringe-worthy biblical quote, just hear me out. And tell me what you think, I’d love to hear your insights/input.
The reason I started with this quote is because I think this idea of “circumcision of the heart” is a linking factor. “Circumcision of the heart” has to do with the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant in Christ. Under the Mosaic Covenant, and in fact all the way up to the New Covenant, the sign of being formally brought into the covenant was circumcision, representing the casting off of sin and one’s former way of life to live in God’s love, under His paternal care.
In the New Covenant in Christ, we are given rather a “circumcision of the heart”, an interior circumcision worked by grace in which the person is radically transformed, his sinfulness removed from him and dignity as child of God restored to him. This occurs sacramentally in Baptism first and subsequently through each Reconciliation.
The Holy Spirit is particularly involved in these acts of grace; it is He Who brings the graces, which were won by Christ on the cross, to each individual soul to unite them to Christ and present them to the Father. It is also He Who first “cuts to the heart”, so to speak, concerning man’s sinfulness and need for repentance, leading him to turn in metanoia (conversion of the heart) to God’s mercy. (See John 16:8)
How does beauty play into this?
If you have yet to have been truly touched by beauty, this will make no sense to you, and I question how you are able to function as a normal human being. If you have, continue on, fortunate soul.
Think of the last really beautiful moment in your life. It can be some big moment or change in your life, a moment of healing from a past wound, a particularly beautiful piece of music or art, a breathtaking moment spent in nature, or anything else similar. These moments touch us in the deepest parts of ourselves, and have a cutting sort of sweetness, a potency that feels something like pain to the heart and yet is deliciously sweet. It’s almost as if something cuts into us and strips away a veil, a veil that hung between our deepest, truest selves and the sweet something expressed in beauty that we all crave.
Coincidence? I think not.
Perhaps beauty is a way in which the Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of man, showing him both the splendor of something beyond him and humbling him as he recognizes his own incongruity, insufficiency, or brokenness. Perhaps beauty is one of the Holy Spirit’s instruments of “circumcision of the heart”, moving man to repentance and true transformative change in his life through grace given by God. Perhaps, in beauty, we see both our potential and our lacking, and we are given the courage, the incentive, which moves us to cast off what is imperfect in us. In the sacraments, the heart torn by recognition of sinfulness thanks to the Holy Spirit is healed and separated from that sinfulness by the Same Holy Spirit.
Quick stipulation: I realize that beauty isn’t the ONLY means used by the Holy Spirit to “cut to the heart”. There are moments of intense recognition which He grants when we self-reflect; I think that moments of beauty can be a starting point for these self-reflections. In fact, come to think of it, this self-reflection is where the true decision to commit and submit to the “circumcision of the heart” has to occur. I think another starting point can be moments of suffering, if approached in the right spirit and with right understanding of the mystery of suffering in light of the Paschal Mystery and the beautiful truth that is our understanding of suffering as potentially redemptive.
This is just based on classes and readings and formation so far; I have a while to go on this, obviously. Is there actually a connection here? Anything I’m missing? Did I say something heretical or inaccurate? What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? If two trains leave at the same time from the same point on the moon, one with rocket boosters and one with a standard engine, which one is carrying carrier pigeons?
After the words in Gethsemane come the words uttered on Golgotha, words which bear witness to the depth–unique in the history of the world–of the evil of the suffering experienced. When Christ says: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”, His words are not only an expression of that abandonment which many time found expression in the Old Testament…One can say that these words on abandonment are born at the level of that inseparable union with the Father, and are born because the Father “laid on him the iniquity of us all.” –St. JPII, Salvifici Doloris, IV 18
So far so gut-wrenching…
Brethren, there is consensus among the saints that one of the most spiritually wholesome practices is to meditate on the Passion of Christ. Many of us who look to Christ on the cross as the source of our salvation are quick indeed to remember the physical agony which he underwent; yet this was not His definitive suffering, the suffering which ultimately conquered the reign of sin and death and suffering in the world.
Don’t get me wrong, His physical pain was so beyond excruciating that none of us will ever comprehend it, because in His perfection, His senses were likely all the more sensitive to/aware of pain. Yet the most acute suffering, the suffering that encompassed the full brunt of evil and won for us salvation, was something much more incomprehensibly horrific.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that each of us, at one time or another, has experienced the feeling of being separated from God. Whether due to being in the midst of suffering when He withdraws consolation for a deeper union, or due to our deliberate turning away from Him in sin, we’ve all experienced it or will experience it. And it sucks. There is nothing worse, brethren, than looking in all the places where you know God is, and yet feeling as though He isn’t there, or doesn’t care.
This pain comes from once having had some level of union with God and then having lost it. The deeper our union with Him, the more painful the apparent or actual separation.
So what must it be like to be in complete union with God, to literally share the exact same nature, to be eternally bound in love to Him, and in the incomprehensible depth of that union, to experience through human nature utter separation from and rejection by Him?
Together with this horrible weight, encompassing the “entire” evil of the turning away from God which is contained in sin, Christ, through the divine depth of His filial union with the Father, perceives in a humanly inexpressible way this suffering which is the separation, the rejection by the Father, the estrangement from God. But precisely through this suffering He accomplishes the Redemption, and can say as He breathes His last: “It is finished.” –Ibid.
We cannot even begin to imagine, brethren, what intense suffering it was for Christ, through His humanity, to experience, by the depth of His intimate union with the Father, separation from Him.
There is a scene in The Passion by Mel Gibson, during the crucifixion, when Christ cries out in His agony, “They don’t know…they don’t know…”, as they nail His feet into the wooden block. And He’s almost looking out through the screen, like He’s looking at you, at me. I’m going to post a link to that scene below. (Viewer discretion, this is brutal; it holds nothing back regarding the horrific brutality that was the crucifixion.) It’s about 4 minutes in. All I ask is that you watch those brief moments, let Him look into your eyes as He moans, “They don’t know”. And humble yourself. Recognize that you don’t have the beginning of an inkling of how deep, how intense, how horrific was the pain that your sins brought to Christ on the cross, wounding not only His body but the very depths of His being.
Then let it hit you that it’s you He’s praying for, that it’s you He’s dying for, that it’s you He’s loving even as you drive a nail into His feet and a wedge between Him and the Father.
And rejoice, even as you are humbled, that you are loved, that you are freed.
Enter into the mystery that is the suffering love of Christ that won for us our salvation.
Lord, I know we’ve been through this before. Still, I need to ask this again: why do You even care about me, as messed up as I am?
I’m terrified, Lord. I feel cornered into a life I never wanted, half of it self-created. I’m torn apart inside by the crosses You’ve given me and the sins I’ve committed. One of these times I’m afraid You’ll stop at prodigal; You’ll be too sick of me to call me a son.
So how is it You still look at me and smile? How is it you still call me your child, your beloved?
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. –Matthew 10:29-31
Many sparrows…I just imagine a huge flock of sparrows taking flight at once, filling the site with simple grace…Could I really be worth more than they?
Lord, grant me the grace to trust that even though I don’t see a way out of the corner I’m in, You love me so much that You already have a plan for me. Help me see that I’m worth enough in Your eyes to die for. Help me to see these crosses as gifts, that the life You want from me isn’t just a last-resort effort to save a soul broken beyond repair; that somehow, it’s a perfect plan stitched together with love since before I was born.
Let my prayers of joy rise like many sparrows to Your throne.