Recognize Beauty in Broken Things

God doesn’t love me.

Everyone around me is healthy and happy and I can’t seem to make things work out.

God doesn’t love me.

I’m not good enough to be in the popular crowd.

God doesn’t love me.

I can’t feel his love.

God doesn’t love me.

I’ve failed at being really good at anything, especially at being a good person.

God couldn’t love me.

I spent too many hours in my early twenties in the back of our chapel alone. Crying. Angry. Lonely.

Months before my twenty-first birthday, a day surgery on my left foot had extended into a two-week hospital stay. I woke up from simple ambulatory surgery dizzy, unable to speak, remember words, use my hands, or walk. My mother knew the signs immediately, though it took a week to confirm through tests. I’d had a stroke.

The 1984 Winter Olympics flashed across the television screen above me as I lay quietly in my bed trying to take it all in. As the graceful Katarina Witt skated across the ice while my heavy body remained pinned to my bed, I thought, “I will never be able to do that” (not that I could ever ice skate!) The beauty, smoothness and grace of the ice skater’s movements was a sad reminder that I could no longer stand on my own without the nurses’ assistance. The sisters came to help feed me. I tried to practice praying the Our Father but could never reach the end of the prayer.

Within two weeks I was sent home on a walker for a year of recovery.

I prayed to God, “You gave me this stroke, it must be for a good reason. Your will be done.” I pasted on a smile as I relearned how to use a fork, how to stand up, how to bathe myself.

There was a beauty to those days, a childlike wonder. Everything was new to me. But the effort was exhausting. Once the novelty wore off and the grudging work of recovery set in, the fear began to surface “what if God does this to me again,” and the anger, “why me?”

One day I sat in the middle of our chapel, surrounded by sisters praying, and the words came out of my heart, breaking it with each syllable, “I. Hate. You.” They startled me. Shocked and even scandalized me. Here I had been in the convent for six years and… this was all I was capable of when it came to suffering.

No holiness.

No saintliness.

No heroism.

Just anger. For weeks and months I underwent the pressure of the divine hands compressing my heart, puncturing it with his fingers, and breaking it apart, into pieces… at last… before him… in need of him…. Blessedly in need of him….

I had to admit that the twenty-one-year-old who could do anything she put her mind to was now a needy child, at the beginning finally of the mountain of the spiritual life, ready to start the journey, ashamed and yet relieved that the truth was out there.

I was nothing.

I was not a great saint.

I wasn’t even as good a Christian as others.

I was in need of him.

If at some point in your life you find you’re disappointed in yourself, feeling that God couldn’t love you, wouldn’t care, that you’re worthless goods—know that you are at the beginning. Allow the pressure of God’s fingers to hold you, to break open the outer shell you’ve built up to survive in this world, and to expose the raw childlike innocence of your inner spirit that’s so in need of him.

For anywhere God finds need, he gives himself, he takes over and gives himself completely. God can’t not give himself.

So give up the idea of perfection.

Stop striving and dreaming of what should be, what could be.

Immerse yourself where God has shown himself to be, right where you are. Right now, as you are.

Accept the raw sense of sinfulness and the astounding gift of God’s glorious kindness.

 

 

 

5 powerful ways to find the love you’re looking for

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
Ernest Hemingway

I sometimes check an app where people are encouraged to leave their secrets, things they wouldn’t tell others. After many months of listening to people’s stories in this hidden way, I can say that the driving force that is at the root of all their stories and my own, is the longing to be loved, known, seen, heard, cared for.

These whispered fears, adventurous stories, and shame-filled confessions may not be my personal experience, but I too weave my own life’s narrative with the yarn of this deep longing for love. I can’t help but feel this strong inner connection with the rest of humanity, for we all struggle, rising and falling, in this arduous search for an eternal love, often getting short-circuited into a situation that promises love but cheapens us instead.

How God must have compassion on our human hearts, so gullible to the flashing promises of love’s allure. After all he created us for Love (capital L), forming our hearts with his own hands. His own heart has been broken by our longing for a “god” other than the One who tenderly bends over us in compassion. His Son’s heart knew the bitter tears of rejection and isolation, the fire of desire and dreams, the soothing comfort at the presence around him of those he loved.

Some of the situations whispered about on this app would arouse in any of us the deepest compassion: the shame and suffering expressed by those who have experienced abuse, abortion, rejection and loneliness in the most difficult of situations.

I want to cheer for others who tell their story: “I’ve been a month without cutting.” “This is my first year anniversary of being sober.” “This is my child’s first day of school. I chose not to abort her and I am so glad.”

People around us are whispering their stories to us all the time. Too shy to proclaim their need or their success, too fearful of ridicule or shame, incredulous that anyone would even care, the people around us leave clues of their desire to be noticed. And we can so easily miss these clues. It’s easy to look at a social media app and flip through the whispered secrets of people’s lives. What would be different if we could respond to the clues all around us that people are leaving in real life?

I have to admit I often miss them. My attention is on my own needs, my own longing to be seen and heard. My drive to finish something important to me. And I can’t see. Am deaf to the beating of the hearts around me. Perhaps too tired to exert the energy to show another the compassion I long for myself.

We are all struggling to get what we feel we need. We find what we long for when we give it away.

There are five powerful ways to give love away and find the love we’re looking for:

  • Listen with your whole body. Look at the person who is speaking. Lean toward them. Hold yourself quietly. Don’t interrupt except to say, “Yes.” “I see.” “Yup.”
  • Be vocal about your appreciation. Make a habit of telling people what you appreciate about them as a person. “I love the way you….” “I’m so grateful when you do…” “You make everyone smile when you…”
  • Ask someone to help you. Use that opportunity to get to know them a little more and to share something about yourself. Your vulnerability will encourage the other to feel comfortable sharing with you.
  • Be observant and sensitive. Ask someone if they are okay when you notice that they are a little down, or quieter than usual, or you notice something else has changed in the way they present themselves.
  • Practice showing your love on your face. Imagine if you couldn’t speak and you had to communicate your concern or interest entirely with your facial expression. Practice and you’ll see how much you are able to communicate without a word. And sometimes with our words, we don’t communicate the intensity of our compassion unless we pair it with the visible expression on our face. It’s the difference between a casual, “Are you okay? And “I really want to know, are YOU okay?” And yes, I am ready to stay here to receive your answer.

When you give this love away, you will find it coming back to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our future is in his triumph

Christ has risen, and we too rise with him. He has conquered evil and death. We see our future in his triumph over death and in his ascension to the Father’s right hand. In him we are taken into the circle of life and love within the Trinity. We are held and embraced there, hidden and protected. Such awe! God “has spoken to us…. When [his Son] had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He lives and so we will live forever. Jesus, you live and so I will live! Forever! Amen.

From the book Cherished by the Lord

 

Cherished by the Lord