I’ve held out hope for a long time that I would see a day when all my past hurts would go away completely, that I’d eventually be just totally OK, that I’d be able to be in the same room with someone whose very presence excites me without being terrified of what they think of me, ashamed that I care this much, or lonely and reminded of old wounds when they were gone. That day still hasn’t come. And I’m not sure it will in this life. And I think that’s OK.
See, our God isn’t a snow-plough God (thank you, Fr. Dan Pattee, for that analogy). It’s not as if, the moment we through ourselves upon the Lord, we’ll never experience pain again. The love of the Lord doesn’t always move mountains. Sometimes it just carries us until we can start climbing again. Sometimes it’s just the next breath we take into our lungs.
And that’s OK. That’s enough.
Our hope isn’t for this world, this life. Our hope is for Heaven. It feels so far off sometimes, like a distant dream, but it’s real. It’s there, waiting for us through the dark door of death. It’s the light on the other side of the dark sepulchre that radiates back on the entirety of our lives and makes it all worth it.
Guys, this is what St. Paul means when he says, “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) It’s not that there are no sufferings. It’s that they can’t compare to the glory of Heaven, the sheer magnificence of finally being united forever with the God who loved us so much that He created us, and loved us too much to leave us when we left Him, and loves us too much to leave us alone even now. This is the great mystery of learning to suffer in the shadow of the cross: to learn that it’s enough that He came to us, that He died for us.
In coming into our world he came also into our suffering. He sits beside us in the stalled car in the snowbank. Sometimes he starts the car for us, but even when He doesn’t, He is there. That is the only thing that matters. Who cares about cars and success and miracles and long life when you have God sitting beside you? (Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering)
The greatest moment of healing in my life was not when I stopped having anxiety attacks, or the first month I went without feeling like I was shrouded in gloom, or the first time I could say hello to a guy I wanted to know better without dying inside. It was when, in a time of distressed prayer, God took me back in my memory to the most painful moment of my life, laying crying in my bed, hating myself, my dreams going up in flames around me and my view of the future completely darkened, and showed me that He was there, sitting on the side of my bed, crying with me, and hearing my desperate prayer that I needed Him to love me, even though I wasn’t sure if He could. Even before we know how to love our own broken selves, He loves us. He’s there. He’s with us. He already died, knowing full well what you would turn out to be. There is nothing you can do, no one you can become, that will make God stop loving you. He came. And He meant it. He came FOR YOU.
We believe in a God who loved us so much that He came and died for us so that we could spend eternity with Him.
So when you suffer, even if it’s the millionth time in a row that you find yourself crying and alone, even if the darkness feels like it’s been there from the beginning and will never go away, remember this:
You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy, and turn not aside, lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not fail; you who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for everlasting joy and mercy. You who fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts will be made radiant. Consider the ancient generations and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame? Or who ever persevered in his commandments and was forsaken? Or who ever called upon him and was overlooked? For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in times of affliction, and he is the shield of all who seek him in truth.
If you, like me, are struggling, go to the foot of the cross. Pour out your heart. Wait, and cry, and let the Lord hold you in His arms outstretched on the cross. Let your wounded heart rest in the Sacred Heart pierced for us. Wait upon His comfort, and let Him love you. LET HIM LOVE YOU. Let Him see and hold close to Himself all that you hold closest and deepest within yourself.
I know I’ve said this over and over AND OVER AGAIN. But each time, it rings with a little more sincerity, a little more clarity. Even if all we do is echo a truth until our very lives echo it, we’ve done well. And right now, that means stepping back from my ambitions, my new hopes and dreams, and allowing myself to remember that I still carry scars and wounds. Right now, it means learning how to live with them rather than shoving them aside. Right now, it means learning how to carry the wounds of Christ, to let my soul be His sepulchre, in which both His death and resurrection are reflected into the lives of those around me.
God bless, fam.
Three years ago, I still had anxiety attacks and often ditched my friends just to feel like I could breathe without choking. Three years ago, I still broke down crying every week and laid on the floor with music blasting in my ears to quiet all the sad thoughts running through my head. Three years ago, I was still hoping and praying my life would be short because I didn’t know how to cope.
Three years ago. There’s something that feels so distant yet so intimate about that. It’s so close that to remember still makes my heart ache, and yet so far that it usually feels more like a bad dream than a memory. I’m forever changed by the years I spent carrying these crosses, but I’m not defined by them. If anything, I think they just uncovered who I was all along.
Look, I don’t know what many of you are going through right now. Suffering is so much more than a single defining moment or the words we try to use to describe it. Deep down, really, only Christ can reach those hurts we can’t express, those unseen twinges and unspoken groans. Only He can really hold us right where the hurt is. Only the Holy Spirit can help us to pray with sighs too deep for words, as Romans tells us.
But the love of another human being makes all the difference. When you stop to listen, to hug, to laugh with or to cry with a brother or sister, it shows them it’s possible that they’re loved, that they aren’t doomed to be stuck in their own heads amidst their own tumultuous thoughts forever.
Three years ago, I poured out my heart, all my brokenness that I hated, my most shameful secret, and someone said, “I don’t care. I love you.” That has made all the difference.
I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again and again and again long after you’re sick of hearing it: I see you, I hear you, I know you, and I love you. Seriously. You. Reading this right now. I so wish I could hug each and every one of you close and tell you how much you mean to me. But I’ll settle for knowing you know that whatever your struggle, whatever your shame that you carry around with you…I don’t care. I love you. The God Who fashioned you died for love of you. I may not see your beauty and worth as clearly as he does, but I do see it. And gosh dangit, I want to show you.
P.S. I totally meant the hug thing. Seriously, ask me anytime for a hug. That’s my jam.
St. Raphael, pray for us.
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.
I am firmly of the opinion that true humility comes in the moment when you stop whining about the size of your cross because you suddenly find yourself floored under the weight of the cross of another, and you both realize together in a gloriously gut-wrenching moment that Christ carried the weight of both already with Him to Calvary.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart…
This Lent, something I’m really trying to work on is humility. And I just want to share things as I go, based on the prayer I’m praying everyday: the Litany of Humility.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe part of it is a selfish or prideful desire to be noticed, I suppose. But I’d like to believe I’m not entirely stuck in the mire of my ego and sinful desires, and that somewhere in this is a noble desire. So we’ll see how this goes together, brothers and sisters, if that’s OK with you.
When I was first introduced to this prayer my freshman year, I was told that it was a good prayer both for the more egotistical types and for people who were insecure (I fit more into the second category, although I’m finding out they’re not mutually exclusive). I prayed it for about two weeks and then just stopped. I just felt like I couldn’t keep up such an intense prayer. How could I honestly ask God to deliver me from things that I craved with my whole heart, like love and acceptance? How could I ask Him to take away things that I had yet to truly experience in my life? And what was so bad about them anyway?
But now, things are different. I am loved, and I am accepted, by so many beautiful people. And still my heart reverts to seeking and craving more and more of it. My heart and mind are so hell-bent on it that I’ll do anything to get it, even when I already have it so authentically and fully without trying. It’s as if part of me still doesn’t believe it’s possible, part of me still just wants to be picked up and held until I know beyond a doubt that I can stop searching, stop grasping.
So now I desperately need to pray this prayer.
I need to be delivered of this false humility that’s built up inside me like a cancer, to be truly humbled, where I recognize my own weakness and frailty, and yet feel truly secure in the love of my God.
I need to look to Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, and beg Him to hear my voice. That’s all I really want, anyway: to know that I’m being heard, that the little cries my heart makes silently throughout the day don’t just pass into the void or get lost in the cacophony in my head; that someone, the Great Someone Who looks into my heart and loves me, hears me even when I don’t think about Him.
Jesus, You Who humbled yourself to know our life and flesh and the burden of sin, who humbly accepted even death on a cross for love of me…
In one sense, it would be incredibly easy to write an “end-of-semester” post. There’s so much I learned, so many ways in which I grew.
But in another, it’s pretty much impossible. Too much goes on in my head in one day; there’s no way to get it all out there.
It’s questionable whether there’s even a point to writing a post like that for this blog. But let me at least say this: For the first time, leaving campus was hard for me. Incredibly hard, actually. And that makes me rather happy, because it means that there was something I had there that meant enough to me that to lose it, even for a seemingly short time, was painful.
For the first time in a long time, I knew I had friends so close that they were practically family.
God works unbelievably slow sometimes, it’s true. I waited years to find friends so close as these. But it happened. God brought these amazing people into my life, and finally convinced me to pry my heart open to them. It’s difficult and painful to not be with them, and even being with them is hard sometimes, but every moment is worth it.
They’ve taught me something, too: that I can do more than just survive the storms of life and the trials I go through, I can actually thrive in them. Even if all I can manage is a smile, I’ve conquered something. I’ve had a little victory I can share with the Lord and Mama Mary. (Seriously, try sharing one of those with them sometime, you will not believe how proud they are of you!!)
And the thing is, even if we’re in the middle of a waking nightmare, the beauty of life, the immensity of God’s love, and the intoxicating preciousness of each and every person walking the face of this earth is untouched. What more reason need we to rejoice?
O how long will I watch?
When will I hold in my hands
this precious universal something
that somehow missed my cradle?
Stupid wretch. He thinks himself now alive.
What living thing e’er sat like silent stone
as life was wrung from him by Life’s cruel claws?
I hold joy inside.
Or perhaps it’s insanity.
This strange desire to laugh and cry and moan
at this stupid,
thing called “life”.
Oh, hush. Leave the air you fill with folly
for others to breathe. Stay down. Be silent.
Be still, my heart; o will you ne’er be still?
When, when, oh soul, will you your moanings cease?
Again, fool? Bite your tongue and bleed, wretch! Bleed!
Put down your fists, vile thoughts! Away, away,
and leave me! Peace, I beg! Peace! Filthy self,
show your featureless face for beating! PEACE!
Where!? Show me peace and I will yield! Show me!
WOULD YOU PLEASE SPEAK TO ME!?
I loathe you.
Because I want so badly to love you.
Maybe then I could let you believe it
when they speak the word
and act it for you…
But when will you be who you must be?
And who must I be?
Tell me this, and I will yield.
You can say nothing.
Because you know nothing.
Nothing of me.
Nothing of the world
you claim would like to snuff me out.
I know not.
And so I act not.
This is my most honest poem to date. And I think the only one where I acknowledge that I hate myself…and the only one where I acknowledge that somewhere in my heart, God tells me exactly what to do with what I’m feeling. And it wasn’t just the last few words.
It was the pauses, the silences. Where I could just be. And not torture myself with my thoughts.
I guess the super-perfectionist part of me just isn’t ever gonna be satisfied. I’m never going to be perfect, or exactly who I want to be. I’m never going to know everything that everyone else seems to know so easily. There’s no point in beating myself up and trying to shove in everything I can as quickly as possible. I can’t take life as if I’m playing catch-up. Because I’ll be playing on the losing side the rest of my life. And life isn’t a game.
It’s an opportunity. Not to be perfect. Not to be great. Not to take the world by storm. It’s just an opportunity to live and to love. That’s all. That’s it.
And that’s awesome.
Y’know those people who have existential crises?
Apparently I’m one of them. Or so it seems.
I’m typing this on the floor of my dorm room, and after a solid hour laying flat with music blasting in my earbuds, I’m finding some semblance of peace at last. Or the closest thing I’ve known to peace for a few years. It’s not so much that everything has gone away, because it definitely hasn’t. I’m still laying here, feeling small, looking at the enormity of my problems while simultaneously realizing how ridiculous some people would think I am.
But right now, I’m looking at it all without feeling like I’m drowning. I’ve got just enough strength to keep breathing for awhile, and just enough hope to turn the next dark corner.
And after all, what else can we ask for?
I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, that God still cares for me. But everything I’ve ever known about life and love is that, in the end, everyone leaves you, and you’re left behind.
So it’s always a refreshing, beautiful thing when God’s constant love hits me like a brick wall all over again. Every moment that He reminds me is a treasure, completely new and completely breathtaking. And it always comes right when I most need it and least expect it.
I guess it’s almost a good thing that I haven’t been able to make friends until recently. If I didn’t believe God’s love was constant and faithful and intimate, how could I believe that human love could hold possibly hold anything good? Even friendship.
And suddenly I find myself learning both of them at the same time, without ever fully taking it in. Every time, just every time, I can’t help but feel like my heart is gonna break from the healing joy thrusting out the memories and lies. And I cry easily, so it’s been a lot of tissue boxes to go through.
There’s really nothing like it, having everything fall apart only to realize you were seeing it from the angle, and God’s got all the pieces of your heart held right where they need to be. I haven’t quite gotten there this time, but somehow, I don’t need to know.
So even though the leap is still terrifying, even though stepping out of my comfort zone has strained every nerve to the breaking point, even though I know there’s probably many more broken nights in the near future, I think I just might make it through. Just as long as I throw myself into the arms of the Lord.
I still remember saying goodbye to him.
We’d just finished our final math exam, my last exam of senior year. He said he wanted to talk to me after class, which was surprising, because as much as I admired him and wanted to be his friend, I assumed he didn’t think much of me. When we left class, he put his arm around my shoulder and walked with me down the hall, telling me how much I meant to him, how he was so glad he got to know me, how he was going to write a letter but that it was much better this way to see the look on my face and to get a hug at the end. I don’t remember how I responded, it was such a shock, but we hugged awhile, said goodbye and that we’d miss each other, and then went our separate ways, our gazes locked for a moment before we broke off.
It was a beautiful, melancholy, wonderful, sad moment. You know what I remember most? Not the words, though I still have a foggy memory of them. Not the emotion, because it’s not new to me. The thing that’s cemented into my memory is the feel of his arm around my shoulders, the hug afterwards, and the held gaze afterwards…
Most guys, it seems, are averse to physical contact like that. There are two main parties of thought against it that I’ve noticed among guys, the first being the obvious stereotypical one: “HUGGING IS FOR GIRLS. That’s DUMB. Let’s just go out and play FOOTBALL!”
First of all, stop shouting. Please. It doesn’t make your point any clearer or you any cooler.
And second–well, maybe I should stop and let the second party speak, they’re giving me some cold looks.
“Thank you. What I believe is that physical contact of a friendly nature is simply unnecessary in this day and age, particularly for those of a well-developed mind. Such contact was only necessary in a primal time; surely now the need for intimacy is met in the meeting of persons on an intellectual level.”
…well when you put it THAT way.
I think the second point I was going to make applies pretty well equally here: the recognition that humans are a body-soul composite and are built to relate as such. All you stereotypical jocks out there, think about what you do when you hang out with the guys. How often are you guys wrestling, pushing each other, doing that chest-bump thing that usually sends me into a wall? Sure it’s not hugging, but it’s PHYSICAL CONTACT. In case you didn’t notice, football is a CONTACT sport. Why do you think you guys bond so well as a team? As persons, we access each other as friends not only through communication but through contact. By hugging, more of the body is in contact with more of the other person’s body; it expresses a deeper union as persons than simply a handshake or a high-five. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just a natural thing to do, it’s how we are built to encounter one another.
As to the second party, those working within a more intellectual frame (physically and mentally), I would ask you how genuine you think a relationship can be that does not involve at least a little physical contact, like a hug or something similar. If you have such a relationship, evaluate it. Are you really encountering the person as fully as you could? Or should? Without this element in a relationship, you begin to wonder whether the relationship is real or simply imagined by you, a chance acquaintanceship rather than a true friendship. After all, how much of the person do you really know if you don’t even have contact with what you CAN see?
I used to be of the second camp. Ask anyone who knew me before my late junior year. I was an intellectual recluse in every sense of the word. I believed friendship was unnecessary, that I could get by just fine without it. Talk when you need to, shut up when you don’t, go ahead and forge a relationship BUT NEVER GIVE MORE THAN NECESSARY, certainly nothing on a physical level. Not even a high-five or a handshake if you can help it.
Those walls were a long time in falling. Years, literally, they stood, though I came to see them as an inescapable trap rather than an impenetrable fortress, forgetting that it was I, myself, who first erected them.
And now, now that I see the truth, the truth of what a relationship can be, what goes into it and how it works–now that I know what it actually means to have a friend and to be one–I’m paying for the wasted years. It’s difficult, even now, to believe that anyone truly cares about me, that I can truly be loved by anyone, that any of my friendships exist. My entire body language is closed, though I’m struggling to pry it open inch by inch. There are days when, all by myself, I press myself against the walls and feel every cinder-block, just to remind myself that there’s still a physical world around me, because it’s been so long since I touched anything or anyone in it.
And the moments I remember most, even the moments I experience here and now, are the ones that involve contact. Because somehow I still struggle to believe.
So speaking as one for whom it may be too late, I implore you, don’t cast aside this basic, beautiful element in all of your relationships. Even God longs to embrace us in Heaven.
I once had a very dear friend.
A single sentence…how completely it sums it all up, this sudden pang of melancholic nostalgia.
Have you ever had it happen? You pause a moment to look through a bundle of old letters, or scroll down a list of old messages, and suddenly you see it, that one name you’ve been trying forever to get out of your head. You see the face, and everything stops.
Have you felt it? Once the smoke from the initial explosion of shock clears, the battle you thought you won stirs again, and burning bitterness fights with immense longing, leaving you…melancholy. Not really sad, but not all that happy either.
Have you known it? There’s a pit in the stomach, one you wish would stop coming back, because you thought you finally beat it.
A very dear friend. And as often as I told him, I wonder if he knows it.
You want him to remember, and yet you want to forget. Because at some point, he forgot you, and things stopped mattering for awhile.
And so, you know you have to learn to let go, to put the name in its place. You have to tell yourself, again and again, “No more. No more.” You have to remember the good and the bad together, but not too often. You have to teach your mind to remember him and your heart to let him go. You need to remind yourself what friendship means, and where it ends.
I once had a very dear friend.
God, give me courage.
While in high school, I was blessed to help lead a retreat for my peers known as Kairos. The name for the retreat comes from a Greek word which, very loosely translated, means “God’s Time”; it’s the time of God’s action in our lives, the time of salvation history, the work of eternity within time and space (something my metaphysics professor would term “spiritual time”). While I can’t reveal a lot of what happened on that retreat (after all, no one likes spoilers), I can say that attending it was life-changing for me, but leading the retreat was even more so.
You see, there is a great deal of sharing and openness that happens at these retreats. People suddenly become startlingly real, and open up as if suddenly a flood of stark honesty burst through the barriers of years of hiding, bringing showers of tears with it; and yet, when the darkness is washed away, and all the broken pieces carried away in the tide, there is finally enough room for the light of healing and grace to burst through and embrace their broken lives with peace.
And I got to be a part of it.
One of the incredible graces of this life is that we all have the chance to act as channels of light, instruments of grace. Each of us is given opportunities to bear the love of Christ to another, to not only watch the Holy Spirit at work but be a part of it. Being on the retreat, I got to soak up the love of Christ and others; leading it, I got to pour it out on others–twice as fulfilling.
We are all called to be ambassadors of love, to shower grace on the lives of others by submitting to Christ and living our lives by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit as we rest in the arms of the Father. There is nothing more painful than watching another person cry, and yet nothing more beautiful when the tears are tears of healing, tears born of years of frustration and self-loathing and shame finally released in the wild realization that all this shit they’ve lived with is not their fault, that they are infinitely, incomprehensibly, madly loved. And still more beautiful is realizing that this Love, this grace, flowed to them through you by the will of the Father.
This is what I truly, deeply live for: to be that ambassador of Love, to be an instrument upon which the master musician may make a melody of love to the world (THANK YOU JOHN MICHAEL TALBOT FOR THAT GLORIOUS ANALOGY), to be Christ for others, and watch them realize how utterly beautiful and meaningful they really are, to watch the pain and perforated masks fall crashing to the ground with the flood of their tears, to hold them and show them how very much they are loved, and see the garden of their souls grow under the tender care of God.
I know that many who read this probably need this healing. It is for you I fervently pray tonight, with intense joy in knowing that the Lord is only too pleased to bring you comfort, if only you will let it all fall away. I urge you, brethren, fellow pilgrims, don’t be afraid of healing. Don’t be afraid of tears, of pain. You are madly loved, insanely loved; only a love crazier than imagination could drive God to die for you. Believe that His love is enough, that His grace will flood your soul if you will only let the flood of years past out in one mad rush. Know that I love and pray for you all, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Lift up your face, and let the healing rain of grace wash over you.
The dawn has already broken; all you need to do is turn from the twilight.
The broken memories lay deep,
embedded like broken glass in the earth
moistened by the rain of tears.
It will take something more than rain
to break up the bedrock
long hardened by years
encapsulated in mere moments
It will take a moment of light,
a shaft piercing through the soul’s caverns
whose echoes will all but stifle
that still small voice.
A curious beauty,
the moment everything falls apart
and the shattered heart
has a chance to fall together
better than before.
Fear not your tears, your life. Expose the night
inside to grace’s ever-present light.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
This well-known “Serenity Prayer” was what a friend chose to have tattooed on her shoulder. My first reaction was something like, “You put what? On where? Using WHAT????” Needles and I have a long-running love-hate relationship: I hate them, and they love to see me squirm. Naturally, I was curious as to what would possess a person to voluntarily have one stuck in their shoulder multiple times.
Turns out, she had dealt with great grief and suffering in her life, and this prayer had come to be not only a comfort but a guide to how she dealt with life: receiving wisdom from God to analyze her situations, serenity to accept the things that had happened to her, and courage to change how she dealt with them and approached the rest of her life. This prayer was so much a part of her that she wanted it permanently etched into her very flesh. While I don’t normally advocate tattoos (I mean, c’mon, who needs a skull in flames sitting permanently on their body which probably looked much better without it? There’s gotta be a better way to spend that money…), I could not help but feel great admiration and respect for this young woman.
This prayer has come, in the past few days, to touch me in a very deep way. It turns out that I have an inherited trait called Sensory-Processing Sensitivity, making me an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person…real original name, huh?). It affects about 15-20% of the population in varying degrees, and basically it means that my nervous system is incredibly sensitive and easily overwhelmed. On the pro side, it’s easy for me to enter deeply into the spiritual life, to appreciate beauty, and to pick up on the feelings of others. On the con side, I’m easily overwhelmed by crowds and over-stimulating environments, I’m hypercritical of myself, and, because of old insecurities, social situations are an ordeal for me.
Having only recently discovered this, I’ve dealt for my whole life with this without being able to name it, and thus unable to accept it without any amount of serenity. I always had a fear of fireworks, couldn’t connect well with guys (loud, rowdy, obnoxious guys were the only guys I knew), and never got why I couldn’t get into sports and preferred instead singing in a choir. Insecurity after insecurity built itself up within me, and all I could say with any certainty was that I was different, and the only word I knew for “different without a name” was “freak”.
I’ve always heard that the most relieving thing for a person dealing with psychological problems is to be able to put a name to it, and now I can say it’s totally true. It’s a little like dealing with temptation: once you can name your demons, you can combat them. The difference is that we’re dealing here not with demons, but with our own broken and beautiful humanity. When once we can look at our brokenness as God does–with great love–we find new meaning and purpose. I am not a freak; I am a man with both a gift and a cross, just like everyone else; mine just happen to be rolled up under one heading.
My prayer is that I may accept with serenity who I am, change with courage the way it has affected and will affect me, and know with wisdom which is which; to simultaneously love myself and make myself the best I can be, not so much for my sake but for His.
And my prayer for any who struggle in any way, especially those who are fellow HSP’s, is that you, too, may receive wisdom, courage, and serenity from the loving hands that first created you.
Sitting in the warmth, watching the snow fall, is one of the most beautiful experiences. I like to imagine that it’s dust from the wings of angels who are dancing on the clouds, falling to blanket the sleeping earth. So gentle, so frail, so beautiful, falling in torrents with only a sort of wispy whisper, like a breeze in a vacuum of sound. They seem to continue the dance of the angels as they swirl and spiral in a kind of waltz to the ground.
I like to walk outside and let the snowflakes alight on my face, my hands, my whole self. You can barely feel it at first, little pinpoints of sudden chill that just melt into healing drops of dew all over you. The more they come, the colder you get, the more the flakes begin to feel like pinpricks, but you stop caring so much about that and all you can think of is how good it feels and how at peace and yet alive you are in that moment. Soon the cold just fades from your mind, and all you can think is how beautiful life.
Somehow, the deepest and most meaningful moments of consolation are the little moments of silence, mere presence, tiny acts of kindness and caring; the kind of moments that fall like little snowflakes to rest gently on your heart and remind you you’re held in the arms of One Who loves you more than you could possibly fathom; the moments of grace brought both by Christ’s own wounded hands directly to your soul and by those who already swim in the ocean of His love and mercy. Even if at the moment you want none of it, if the bright little points of light blind your eyes so accustomed to darkness, the moment you let them break through and allow yourself a little pain, a little humility, the drops of healing light begin to penetrate faster and faster til they flood your soul.
Countless are the times I have cried out for an ocean of healing to envelope me and been answered by a gradual flurry of graces of this kind. God, in His wisdom, knew these are still more precious.
To live for a time with a lighter burden and easier road to walk on my journey to Paradise has been beautiful beyond compare, thanks to these graces brought both directly by God and through dear friends. Yet I know, looking around me, that this season is not for myself to bask in.
There is a great song by Hillsong called “Desert Song” which was my prayer in my most recent walk through the dark. It ends with the following lyrics:
When favor and providence flow:
I know I’m filled to be emptied again.
The seed I’ve received I will sow.
We are not the sole sufferers on this planet. All around us, everyone we know or meet–loved ones, friends, co-workers, even total strangers–all ache as they walk the rocky road of reality. When we are given the grace to walk tall, strong, and joyful, it is not for us to strut along in the rays of the sun. It is God’s gift to us so that we may walk confidently into the dark valleys of those around us and lift them with us into the light.
Don’t get me wrong–you should enjoy these times and give thanks to God for them with all your heart. Goodness knows I have. They’re gifts, and we should rejoice in them.
But think a moment of those who helped bring you these times by cooperating with the loving work of God. Think of how much it meant when the little graces they helped give to you fell gently and rested like little points of light on your heart, like a gentle snowfall that came to cascade in an avalanche on your broken soul. Can you deny to others the same graces that God has given you the gift to bestow?
Yes, brethren, it is indeed a sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice made in love, a sacrifice that can bring great grace and healing by the power of God, a sacrifice that distantly echoes the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross and brings joy to the heart of God.
This is my longing, my passion: to touch the lives of others, to work miracles by letting go of myself and letting God work through me in others, to give unto others a little snowfall on the fainting earth of their souls, bringing a breath of relief to their weary hearts.
Were it in my power, I would release the blizzard of Christ’s passionate love in the lives of others; as it is, I will bring them flurries and point them to the promise of an avalanche of peace.