Unveiling the Mystery of the Love of God
The hardest penance I have ever received was when the priest told me to go sit in the church for as long as it took for me to look and see myself from God’s perspective (Take that in for a second). He didn’t say to meditate on how God loved me unconditionally. He didn’t tell me to bask in the fuzzy feeling of being loved by Him. He asked me to step outside myself, put myself in God’s shoes, and, with His gaze, look at myself: look at an imperfect person, perfectly.
Naturally, I left the confessional thinking I would sit there for like 3-5 minutes and move on with my life. Little did I know that this penance, which felt like a failure that day, was going to change how I viewed myself and God forever.
This penance was given to me a little over a year ago, and, honestly, I still can’t do what the priest asked. It’s mind boggling. I tried. Many a holy hours, I have tried.
I’m in complete awe of the way God loves me. It’s so perfect. I can’t understand it, but it’s literally keeping my heart beating. LITERALLY. Whether I recognize it or not, I’m totally dependent on His love.
I think that I am in so much awe and wonder of the love of God because we NEED HIM but He WANTS us. Growing up my mom would try to get us to differentiate our needs and wants. We NEED to eat breakfast, but we WANT to go play (I assume you all are pretty familiar with “wants” and “needs”). He’s totally independent without me, but that day I was sitting in the church looking at the crucifix and thinking of my brokenness, and trying to convince myself that it didn’t matter to Him. He wanted me anyway, and particularly in my brokenness is where He wanted me.
There are times (I know you know what I’m talking about) when I don’t feel like I am someone to be desired. I feel like there has got to be someone else who has their life more together than me. I don’t always do what I am supposed to do. Even worse, I sometimes do what I’m not supposed to do. How can the God of the Universe love me–WANT me?
HONESTLY, I DON’T KNOW (sorry, not what you wanted to hear, I’m sure). Over the past year I have been contemplating this mystery it’s only brought me closer to Our Lord. And this is what I have learned:
THE LORD LOVES ME BECAUSE I AM
Shortly after this heart-wrenching experiment in prayer I was on retreat. Of course my world was shaken, of course Jesus would ask me to go on retreat shortly after, because that’s how He does things. It was during that week that I finally took the time to examine why and how the Lord loved me.
For so long I have looked at my life as if I had to do something to earn God’s love. I was experiencing so much guilt from coming up short with what God always was asking me for and it made me feel like I needed to make it up to him. It made me feel like if I just achieved a specific goal, impacted the most lives, and did it all in His name, THEN He would love me and ONLY THEN I would be deserving of His love.
These ideas not only distorted my view of God, but also my understanding of humanity and the dignity of the human person.
We are God’s creation, His masterpiece, and the last thing He painted on His canvas. He cherishes us, enjoys us, and, of course, assigns a value just the way we are–even in our imperfection.
It’s like a piece of art hanging on the wall. A painting isn’t valuable for what it can do for you, it is valuable because it is.
So are we. So am I. I am valuable to God because I am, not because I can do something for Him.
So there is that, but the other thing I have learned is: IM NOT READY TO UNDERSTAND HIM COMPLETELY
There is beauty that is veiled by the mystery of God and His abounding love. So much beauty that I can’t handle it all. It’s okay that I don’t understand, yet. The mystery keeps you guessing–isn’t that the point of a mystery? It gives you a place to draw near to Him and a place to reach for Him.
I’m thinking of a toddler and a cabinet with a child-proof contraption to keep it closed. The inside contents of that cabinet is a mystery to the child, and one day he will understand what’s inside of it. Let’s say it’s cleaning supplies inside. The cleaning supplies are good. They are tools to keep germs from getting you sick, and they get rid of dirt and grime and make things more beautiful. Right now, all the toddler needs to know is that there is something important in there. There is something in there that changes the child’s entire world and environment that they live in. The parents know that if they tried to explain it to the toddler he likely wouldn’t get it, he wouldn’t appreciate the gift of 409, and would probably abuse it without knowing. So the parents veil the beauty of something of importance until the toddler grows up, and he’ll be able to understand.
That’s a bit of an elaborate analogy, but what I’m saying is that I don’t understand how He loves me, yet, but that’s because he’s expanding my capacity to receive. Little by little he’s loosening the hinges of the child-proof contraption to let me peak inside. One day when I’m ready, I get the privilege of fully experiencing His love–the love that causes my heart to ache and constantly drive me back to Himself.
Now, I’m not saying that I wait patiently all the time or that I am always aware and mindful of the value that I posses. I’m just saying, if all this is true, this gives me great hope in what is to come–for the rest of my earthly life and in eternity. That hope drives me to respond to God just the way that I am.
So I only tell you this so you know that the Lord is waiting for you to recognize his immense love for you, too, and He’s waiting for your response, because He wants YOU.
I’ll leave you with the words of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ:
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”