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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

God Loves You

Tonight I got to do something that is rare for me now; I got to teach. I actually had not looked forward to tonight, but it went well, and in talking to these young teenage girls, I remembered what it was like to be one of them.

It was an awful memory. I looked out on this sea of faces, some engaged, some questioning, some completely disinterested. One of them would barely look at me, and obviously preferred to be somewhere else. She seemed unreachable.

Part of my talk tonight had to do with Saints, and I had some cards I handed out; each chose a Saint from the stack, Saints that I'd hand-picked to go with the lesson. Or maybe the Saints hand-picked themselves for this class.

We discussed them, how they lived their Vocations, their heroism, and what they read caused them to ask questions! These young ladies were FULL of questions...good ones! Others were not so interested, and I remembered...I was one of them. Back then I feigned interest, but I was actually drawing in my notebook. I would not have engaged in the conversation.

Back then, I didn't think God loved me. I didn't know why I existed, I didn't think the world loved me...and I was sitting in classes planning how I was going to die.

This evening I stood in front of that class, answering their questions to the best of my ability, trying to be sure to answer all of them, looking them in the eye, and amazed at how the Saints were drawing some of them out. The girl that seemed unreachable; well, Blessed Kateri Tekawitha got her attention and her respect. That girl left at the end of class with a begrudgning smile.

St. Maria Goretti was another one; her life, death, and her attacker's Sainthood were a complete mystery to them. Why did so many people attend St. Maria Goretti's funeral? How could she know so many people? (Answer: her holiness; it drew people in like a moth to the light. She lived her life in such a way that everyone had a place, and they loved her for it.) How can someone awful (Alessandro) become a Saint? It's inconceivable to them that someone awful can become so beloved and attain such holiness. God's grace.

Our conversation brought in the more sordid details, but handled in a delicate manner. The catechist pointed out that what guys do now, they did then, and St. Maria Goretti stood up to it, rather than sin. And in her last breath, she forgave her attacker.


We discussed their dignity. Tonight, I stood in front of that classroom, and I told those girls that God loves them; they are Daughters of God, they are in this world for a purpose, to be loved by God. They have a mission, a reason for existance, and they were each and every one called out of eternity to live this life, and to be holy. My main message: God loves you, dear daughters.

I don't think the words had as much impact on them as they did on me tonight..and I was the one delivering the message. I remember looking out at these girls, knowing what it was like to be one of them, remembering what I thought of the people who came to teach my classes. It's come full circle.

But it's worse for them than it was for us at the time.

I remember going home, and at night, I'd pull out my Bible and I'd pray the psalms. I'd find whatever fit my mood or my situation, and I'd cry my eyes out, begging God to come to my aid, or even smite my enemies. I begged Him to take me out of this world. And those prayers were never answered.

It wasn't until recently that I really learned about the ancient tradition of praying the psalms, the monastic traditions, the absolute emotionality of the psalms arising out of the ones writing them. I didn't understand back then, but I continued to do it, even as I thought my prayers were not being answered.

And it was tonight that I realized how close God was to me during those awful, awful years; to draw me into the psalms, to pray those ancient words with every ounce of my soul. I didn't think God loved me; but He loved me so much He gave me words I could not have created on my own, He drew me into his very Word, and in doing so, He wept with me.

No one knew my torturous existance, and today, in being in the classroom with those girls, I knew that there was a good chance someone just like me was among them. And that girl needs to know that God loves her, that God has chosen her for something special, and that every breath she takes has meaning.

I don't think my words were meaningful tonight...even as I uttered them, I knew they meant more to me than they could possibly mean to the young women in that room. But it doesn't cheapen the meaning; rather, it tells me that we have to find a way to convince people of God's love in such a way that the message isn't trite. I have a dear friend who has struggled with this very message. She is an adult, she is intelligent, and "knows" that God loves her. But she has had a hard time believing it.

And truth be told, so have I. Hearing "Jesus loves you!" is banal to my ears. It has no meaning; it's a phrase that's repeated through flat eyes, the expression of someone who thinks they have to say this. And fine, it must be said. But it's not believable. To a group of people who aren't sure who they are, it doesn't matter that some Being aloof from them loves them. They haven't learned that they can personally experience that love.

But we have to find a way to convey the message and divorce ourselves from the banality of the message badly delivered. We have to reach out to the teens in such a way that it's not just words, but is a true expression and attribute of God that he personally loves them so much that He died for them on the cross. We have to reach out to the adults who grew up hearing "God loves you" so much that it's become a mantra they use when they practice Yoga with the montly women's group (but have no idea that the God who loves them awaits them in the chapel).

Yes, dear readers, God loves YOU so much...but what will it take for you to really believe it?


Anonymous said...

Yes, Adoro, that's the thing, isn't it? Every week our pastor repeats this at the close of Mass, but how many of us actually think of it? It takes a long time for something to travel from the brain to the "gut"! I'm 61 now, and have spent most of my life trying to get this reality into my "gut", battling against a lifetime of being told that I was never good enough, thin enough, smart enough ... you get the idea. It helps a lot for me to look at a crucifix, and meditate on what Jesus went throught -- for me... It's easy to grasp that He suffered and died for all of us, but trying to bring it down to the individual, personal level opens a whole new "can of worms", so to speak. With God's help, a lot of healing has taken place, but much more remains to be done -- and knowing that He's "in my corner" gives me strength to continue, even when I'd rather just say, the heck with everything, and walk away. If the Son of God thought I was worth dying for, that puts every hurtful comment, every snub, every bit of nastiness and spitefulness into prespective: what does this B.S. matter, when Jesus Himself negates it with His arms outstretched on that cross? That's why I meditate on the Passion frequently -- it helps me realize so much, and I thank the Lord every day for His love. Of course, He has the same love for each one of us -- and that is totally miraculous!

Adoro te Devote said...

Anon ~ Thank you for that. I also look at the cross, amazed, thinking, "You did that for ME?" And always, always, on the heels of that, I can't stop the question, "WHY?!"

Sure, I can answer that question intellectually, and I've done so in front of a group of people...focusing on sin, overcoming our sin, etc. But you know, I really can't speak authoratitively on God's love for us. Because I still don't "get it." I still don't see how anyone would be willing to suffer so much for me, personally. I don't understand how I can have that much value.

Of course, I'm seeing through human eyes, and our eyes are flawed. Our understanding is flawed. We're a mess. Of course we can't see. And we can't explain.

I've experienced God's own love through others, even recently, through people who are such a gift to me. And my guess is that those very people have the same questions we all do. When we look at the cross, we have to choose to believe, even though we don't understand. Because, in our estimation, is anything worth THAT?

The Cross is a scandal to us, and today, that scandal means something a little different than it did at the time.

Oy...I could go on...

Anonymous said...

The first time I truly experienced God's love was in the confessional--my priest, with God's Grace, said God loved me--and for the first time--I heard Him.

Growing up in an abusive home, with an absent father--no love--it was hard--I sorta learned that I was just plain unlovable, unworthy of love--"suck it up."

Now, I like knowing of God's love, how did I ever manage to live all those years not knowing Him? We should all tell young girls of God's love--but getting them to truly hear the words--oy--parents can really mess you up.

Anonymous said...

Tara, tell me about it~ my Mom was an alcoholic, and my father was "there", but not "there", if you know what I mean. God bless them, they both went home to God many years ago, and I've realized that they were victims too -- the "generations unto generation" repetition of the same sin. I made the conscious decision to try to break that circle with my own two grown sons, and thank God it seems to have worked... Let's all support each other in prayer, lift each other up, so that God can work in us -- remember, there's strength in numbers!