“…stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if He sleeps, His heart vigilantly watches over you?” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina
I love this time of year. For a brief few weeks we allow ourselves to be children again – to have a sense of awe, wonder, and hope. For most of the year big hopes are so easily shot down as “false hope,” as if there could ever be such a thing. We get so busy that we don’t give ourselves the time to hope. We get bogged down by the difficult situations we experience and begin to buy in to lie that too much hope can be bad. We listen to voices of others who tell us our hopes are too big or too unrealistic. Those voices that tell us that we shouldn’t hope for the things that we do because they will never come true. However, this is the time of year we indulge ourselves. We let our dreams and hopes run wild. We allow ourselves to see beauty and good in the world, dream big, and hope for the future.
Why when we become adults do we censor our own hopes and dreams? Children have such a beautiful outlook on life because it is not censored. They speak their minds and dream as if there is no limit. They dream as we all should. They hope. Sometime along life’s journey we begin to feel like our hopes and dreams don’t come true – as if they are false. We have hope but when it doesn’t come true in our perceived acceptable timing, we lose our faith, belief, and wonder. We forget that the circumstances in life don’t happen because of our desired timing. We allow other people in our lives determine what kind of hopes we should have. When others question our hopes, we begin to question them ourselves.
How could a hope ever be false? Hope is just a personal desire for something that has not yet come to be. It is a dream for the future. It can never be false and it can never fail. It is a want that comes from deep within the soul. Even when the desired outcome from a hope does not come true, the hope itself is not false. The end result may not come to be as it was hoped for or expected, but that hope that was clung to was real and true; it kept the soul alive.
It drives me crazy when I hear people talk of “false hope” or worse yet when I hear that someone was told that we don’t want to give a such “false hope.” How dare we tell others not to have or give “false hope.” How dare we try to squash the beauty of hope that is so innate in every human soul?
We need hope. Without it no change would ever come in our lives or in our world. It is hope that allows us to see a different future, a better future. It is hope that gives us the motivation we need to work and try to make that dream come true. It is hope that drives passion and goodwill. It is hope that keeps the soul alive and well. It is hope that gives peace.
Part of the Christmas miracle and the beauty of the new year is that during this time we hope. We start with with Christmas which reminds us to have wonder in our lives and move quickly into the new year and set resolutions, goals, hopes for the future. The childlike hope that we experience this time of year replenishes our souls.
My hope for all of us this new year is that we do not allow anyone or anything to take away our hope or diminish it in any way. My hope is that we would all find the courage and childlike spirit to hope again so that regardless of what the world may say, our hope will shine bright and inspire others.
Nobody was created just to have a happy marriage. Men and women were created to win the happiness of heaven
Fr. Donald Miller
How often do we look to our marriage, to our spouse, to make us happy? How often do we feel like our marriage has failed if we are not happy in that moment? When those moments come it brings up the question – what is the purpose of marriage?
I have heard so many people tell me that if their marriage isn’t making them happy then maybe it wasn’t meant to be and they should search for happiness elsewhere and find someone else who makes them feel happy.
If marriage is to be the thing to make me happy it is destined for frustrations. No person, no thing, can make us happy all the time. That is a crazy expectation to put on your spouse and one that no person could ever live up to or achieve. At the altar the promise is “for better or for worse” recognizing that there will be hard times and trials in every marriage. So if we know that all marriages won’t bring happiness all the time, what is their purpose?
The purpose is your path to holiness and heaven where you will be eternally happy. It is to help your spouse grow in holiness and be in heaven with God some day. It is standing by your spouse through the triumphs but also through the trials. It is praying for your spouse and gently encouraging and supporting them in their faith.
If we look at marriage in this way and with this purpose, it can never fail. We are never done in our faith journey. There are always opportunities to pray for your spouse and to support them in growing closer to God. When marriage is viewed as your path to holiness for you and your spouse, it may be tried and it can never fail, never be broken, and there is no reason to try to find your path to salvation in someone else because your journey with your spouse to holiness never ends.
What an honor to be called as married persons to not only grow closer in individual holiness but also to play a huge role in the holiness and salvation of your spouse.
“Come with me” he says. “Come follow me.” “Come deeper with me.” “Trust me.” He tells me this constantly. He comes to me in my moments of despair, in my moments of weakness, and in my moments of great joy and tells me to come with him. To go with him to that place on Calvary where he died, because he has more to show me.
Then he takes me there. I am walking through the desert with him by my side. We walk up the hill of Calvary. At the top of the hill he points to the cross. There he is. He is on the cross. He is suffering. He is in so much pain and so much hurt. He is weak and wounded. The air is filled with a deep somber sense as if the entire world has been paused.
We walk up to the foot of the cross. I am standing right at the foot of the cross. His blood is pouring down on me. I can hear him, hear him struggling for breath, crying out. I see him looking up to heaven, to his father, wishing for relief, wishing all the pain he was experiencing would be taken away and healed. But although he hopes so dearly for the pain to go away, he courageously accepts the knowledge that God’s will and God’s plan is greater than his own human desire to never experience pain. He has perfect trust in God his Father and the plan that God has for him. He embraces his cross with a strength so unknown to this world.
Then He looks at me. He looks right at me. When I dare to look back up, directly into his eyes I feel as though I can see straight into his soul and he into mine. His eyes are full of pain. I can see every part of his body is in intense pain. I have never seen so much pain in my life. But although he is in great pain, there is something else in his eyes that overtakes the pain. There is love. There is love, great love in his eyes. It is a piercing love like I have never experienced before. A love so deep and so pure. It is a love for me. A love for my husband. A love for our children. A love for each and every person who has ever existed and who ever will exist in this world. This love in His eyes is the calm in the storm.
He doesn’t say anything to me while our eyes are locked but it is as if his gaze speaks directly to my soul. I can hear his soul speaking to mine and he says “I love you. You are a daughter of God and you are so deeply loved. You have so much immense worth. I have so much planned for you and it is greater than you could ever imagine. I forgive you for all that you have done and all that you will do. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you. I love you. I love you exactly where you are, who you are, and no matter what you do. I will love you at every moment of every day for eternity. I want you to accept my love, to let me love you. But I want you to choose my love. I freely give my love to you at all times and through all things. I will love you if you accept my love, if you reject it, deny it, run from it, ignore it, or embrace it, because my love for you isn’t based on what you do, it is my conscious choice to love you no matter what. I love you with all that I have. I suffer for you. I rejoice for you and in you. I delight in you.”
When I feel his immense love for me I am paralyzed. I can’t move. I fall down. Fall straight on my knees with my face on the ground and my hands raised to heaven. I am overcome. Overcome with this love that I cannot understand. This love that is greater than any sin or anything in this world. This unconditional love like I have never experienced. This love that he pours down on me overtakes me. It overtakes every part of my being and fills my soul. It fills my soul with everything I could ever want and everything I could ever need. For the first time in my life I feel complete – I feel full – I feel alive – I feel like I am who I am meant to be, who I was made to be. I am so full of His love that all I want to do is give this love to others.
Then Jesus takes me up on the cross with him. He unites my suffering to his on the cross. And while I am up there I see everyone who has ever hurt me. I see them standing at the foot of the cross and I am looking down at them. Sometimes it is many people, sometimes just one person, and sometimes it is myself. Then he says to me “see them as I do. Look at them through my eyes.” He shows me how although I may be hurting, they are hurting too. He shows me how I have played a part in their suffering, pain, joy, and triumphs. It’s so humbling. He opens my eyes to see those in my life in the most incredible ways, to see how he sees them as His children who are so incredible, special, and important to the world in their own individual ways. For each one of us is a part of His body and as a part of His body has an integral role to play in the salvation of this world. But as He lets me see each person through His eyes, He also shows me how broken and hurt each one of them is. He always has me focus on my spouse in a particular way since He especially calls me to love my spouse as He loves.
He reminds me that He loves me for where I am in each moment. He shows me that although I have failed Him and hurt Him, He has never left my side. He gently reminds me that for all the times I have betrayed and hurt Him, He has forgiven me. He loves me in my imperfection and He wants me to love others in that same way. He wants me to meet those in my life where they are, for who they are, and embrace and encourage them to grow into who they were created to be because that is what He does for me. He sees who I should be, who I was created to be, and yet loves me when I fall short.
To help me love those who have hurt me, He fills me with the same love that He has them. He says to me that I am to forgive for any wrong or hurt that I have felt. And while I am up on the cross with him, all I want to do is forgive. All I want to do is pour out my love to them. All I want to do is offer up my suffering, my pain, and my love to God for their healing, their forgiveness, and their peace. All I want is to continue to pour out my love for them with all that I have forever and ever. All I want is to show them, to tell them how much I love them and to pick them up, embrace, and comfort them in their woundedness. All I want is show them how amazing they are, to show them how inspiring they are, to show them how loved they are. All I want is to take away all of their hurt, all of their pain, all of their suffering, all of their loneliness, all of their frustration, all of their confusion, all that is hurting them and all that is holding them back and replace it with love. All I want is for them to know their immense worth in the eyes of God. All I want to do is tell them how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged them. It’s amazing how much we all fall short and wrong those in our lives. While I am up on the cross looking down at them through His eyes, all I have is compassion, forgiveness, and love for them.
And while I am on the cross looking down with the same love for them in my heart that Christ has for me and my suffering united to his for the greater glory of God, He urges me to say these words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Have you ever been called to walk on water? Have you ever heard God call your name and ask you to do the seemingly impossible? Have you ever tried to hide from the path He was calling you down because you thought you knew where it would lead and were scared to follow it? Yes, I said thought you knew because God so often surprises us, even when he takes us down the hard paths in life, by giving us grace, peace, and joy beyond imagine when we willingly follow Him.
The question really is – do we trust Him? Do we trust that He knows what is best for us? Do we understand that what is best for us isn’t always what is easiest?
I have heard God calling me over the past year to walk down a path rarely trodden. I have heard him calling me to love in ways I never knew were possible. I spent some time resisting because it was too hard, too impossible, to do what He was asking.
But when, like Peter, I took that step of faith and walked on the water, I found myself surprised. Not only did God provide me with everything I needed to follow His calling for me as long as I kept my eyes and faith in Him, but he turned what seemed like a long, painful, lonely journey into a joyful one with greater companions than I could have ever imagined. He replaced pain with joy and provided a way for me to meet others who He was calling down the same path.
There are times, like Peter, when I am walking on the water of this path and I stop trusting Him. I allow myself to think about the practicality of what He is calling me to do. I listen to what the world says – that it is impossible. In those moments, I start to fall in the water. But Christ says to me “look at me. Keep your eyes steadfast on me. Don’t lose faith. I will give you all you need and more.”
In what ways is God calling you to trust in Him and walk on the water?
I have been transformed by love and as a result my love has been transformed.
I heard a new word the other day: metanioa. It means a transformation, a change, in your way of life as a result of penitence or spiritual conversion. It originated from the Greek word metanoein which means to change one’s mind. As I look back at the last year of my life where I have studied, prayed, and contemplated what it means to love – to truly love – the way God calls us to love as Christians I have seen my thoughts, my actions, my whole life be transformed. I am changed and I can never go back to who I once was. This year I realized one thing that changed me forever – love is not about me.
I always knew love was selfless. I had heard and read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 so many times. I knew the words – “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Although I knew the words, I didn’t live them fully.
Love is not about me. How easy is it to look at your spouse and silently as yourself the question – what do they do for me? How do they make me feel? Do they treat me the way I deserve? But love, selfless love, is not about what your spouse does for you – it is about what you do for them. It is about how you lay yourself down for the other. It is about how you give yourself, all that you are, as a gift to your spouse. This love is about the gift of yourself and your love.
As I sat contemplating the cross in a moment of darkness a year ago I saw love in Christ in a way I had never seen it before. Love so perfect because it is freely given without asking for anything in return. Jesus suffered and died for me and in doing so gave himself as the perfect gift for me out of love. He knew I would reject him. He knew I would fail him. He knew every sin and every mistake I would make but yet chose to give himself, all of himself, up for me as a gift. How humbling.
So often we see the picture of love as roses, laughter, joy, and happiness. The world tells us to look for a fairy tale version of love – a happily ever after – as if love is easy or comes without challenges. Where in our culture do we see the picture of a love like that on the cross? A suffering love. Is a suffering love really any less love than one filled with joy? I would argue not.
It is in a suffering love like that of the cross, that love is perfected. It is in this kind of love that the illusions are torn away. When love is suffering, it is like a stone in the ocean. The currents of pain and suffering roll over the stone taking away the rough edges and creating a smooth stone. It is moved, it is changed. Love through suffering does the same. It takes all our sinfulness, our pride, and our misconceptions and removes them from the core, leaving only love. When you learn to love through the suffering and your misconceptions of love are taken away, you are able to see love for what it truly is – a sacrifice, a gift, an outpouring of grace and mercy.
A suffering love is joyful because it rejoices in the gift it gives without looking for anything in return. A suffering love finds its peace in the quiet, constant stream of love it extends. Love requires sacrifice. It requires laying down your life. Too often we hear that laying down your life is sad – it is not. When you willingly choose to lay yourself down for another, there is no greater joy in the world because this laying down of yourself for another is the same kind of love that Jesus modeled for us on the cross – His perfect example of love.
As the circumstances of my life and my love have changed with time and I have experienced times of suffering love, I have been transformed. I have come to a new understanding of what it means to love and seen a new side of love I never knew existed before. The trials and challenges of life change us – metanioa.
The unspoken question we all ask in most of our daily interactions – do you love me?
We long for love, search for it, and pursue it. We wish to be reassured of how we are loved. We subconsciously know we need it. After all we were created with a void in our hearts that only God’s love can fill.
Christ patiently waits for us to love him. He continuously and endlessly pours out all his love for us. We can accept it or reject it, but it is always there. We can only experience it when we choose to accept it because God does not force his love on us.
Christ not only gives us his love, but he asks a challenging question of each of us – do you love me?
Christ is in each of us and is continually asking in every moment and every interaction that we have with others – do you love me? He asks us if we see him in everyone we meet. He asks us to treat others the way we would treat him because he is in them.
Jesus is radical – he tells us to love our enemies. How is this possible? Only by the grace of god and in seeing christ in our enemies.
Jesus asks his disciples – did you feed me when I was hungry, clothe me when I was naked ….. He asks those same questions of us and they all boil down to one simple question – for you love me?
If you look in others eyes you can constantly see Christ asking:
Do you love me to forgive those who wronged you?
Do you love me to go out of your way to make my day and be kind to me when you feel I don’t deserve it?
Do you love me to put aside your to do list and just be there for me?
Do you love me to help me with a project when you are tired?
Do you love me to give me a hug after a long day?
Do you love me to take care of me when I am sick?
Do you love me to stay by my side no matter what and care for me?
Do you love me to take some of my burdens?
Do you love me?
When I have been deeply hurt by someone it can be hard, but I always remind myself that God is in that person. I look I to their eyes and imagine that they are the eyes of Christ. How could I say, “no I do not love you” to Christ? How could I not do everything I can to show my love?
When I see a stranger who is clearly having a rough time do I see Christ in them and take a moment out of my busy day to ask what I can do and let them know I am there – they are not alone.
When there is a rift between me and my loved ones do I work to repair it and show my love?
Do I treat each moment and each interaction as an opportunity to answer Christ’s question – do you love me?
By answering that question and showing my love, I not only further the kingdom of heaven but I also become Christ’s agent to help fill that void that only Christ’s love can fill in each of us. I become his hands and his feet and have the grace to be Christ to that person, remind them how much Christ lives them, and be Christ’s love. What an incredible honor to be called to be God’s love, our deepest longing, to all those I see each day.
Sitting under the stars in the middle of the night after a rough day wishing for a connection, understanding, and love when a gentle but strong voice says through the wind, “Don’t you know how much I love you? You are so precious to me. I am here with you – am I not enough?”
A love so powerful that nothing can contain it. A peace so calm that it cannot be disturbed. A gentleness so sweet its like a soft kiss on the lips.
Is He really first in my life? Do I really believe God is all I need? Have I really surrendered to the point that He is all I need – that His love is enough? Have I forgotten how He laid His life down for me – gave everything for me – out of love, His great love for me – is that not enough?
There are times when we feel like the world has forgotten us. There are times when we wonder if there is anyone who is really there for us – who truly cares about us. Sometimes we feel like everyone has a hidden agenda, like everyone is expecting things from us. Some days it feels like no one cares about us. Sometimes it feels like no one understands us.
Do we turn to Christ in those moments? Do we say “Lord, I know you are with me and I know you are all I need. Help my unbelief”? Do we open ourselves up to allow him to fill us with everything we need?
But most of all, do we trust that what He has given us is what we truly need? Do we trust Him to know our needs better than we do? Do we trust in His will and His providence? Or do we mistake our wants and desires for His will? God didn’t promise us that he would give us everything we want or everything we think we need but he promised he would give us all we need. Do we trust Him? Do we trust that who he is and what he has given us is enough?
He gives us small gifts while here on earth. These are the gifts we so often pray for – material things, relationships and loved ones, work, all things of this world. But the gift he really gave us is our salvation – eternal peace and happiness and unity with the Father. Is that not enough to weather us through any storm or obstacle in our way today? Is the price paid for our salvation not enough to not only satisfy us but bring us to our knees?
If that is not enough, then what is? If that is not enough, what are we saying is more important over our salvation?
In our deepest moments of pain, sadness, regret, and loneliness, can we truly look our God, our maker, our redeemer in the eye and say “you are not enough”?
He is enough. The alpha and the omega – beginning and the end. He is everything and he is always enough because whether we realize it or not, He is what our souls long for. We may mistake cars, houses, friends, family, money, power, children, our spouse, etc for what we want, but ultimately all of those things will let us down and won’t satisfy our deepest needs, because the only thing that can satisfy our souls, the only thing that is forever in this life and the next, and the only thing that never fails is God.
It takes great courage to let go of what we think we need and believe that God is all we need.
Where in your life are you looking for satisfaction and fulfillment from anything other than God?
Where in your life is he saying to you “am I not enough?”
Why is it that we are so quick to dismiss and walk away from people in our lives who hurt us?
What would happen if we truly looked at our brothers and sisters as being one with us in the body of Christ? How would our responses to others change if we looked at each person in this world as a part of the body of Christ, where Christ is the head of the body and each one of us is a part of the body?
When I look at others through this lens, each person’s worth and value becomes so much greater. Not only are they my brother and sister, but they are integral in my salvation and my life. I begin to see how we were created to help each other and to work together.
If you think about the body, it is miraculous how all the parts of the body work together to keep you alive. Each part has a specific role and function unique to it. The body of Christ is the same way. Each one of us has a specific role to play based on the gifts and talents that God gave each of us. When each one of us uses our gifts to their potential and works together, the body of Christ is strong and healthy. However, sin and turning away from these gifts can cause a cancer in the body of Christ and our community.
It starts small, one small sin against a brother or sister, but since we are all connected it impacts the entire body in ways we cannot see.
Many times, our natural response to being wronged or hurt is to either seek revenge or cut that person out of our lives. However, God calls us to love everyone – even our enemies. He calls us to forgive and heal. I think the reason he says this is because we are so interdependent in ways that only God can see and understand.
But what if we think about it this way: If your wrist was broken, would you elect to have it amputated, would you seek revenge and make it worse, or would you work to heal the broken bone? Most would choose to heal the broken bone. If we believe we are one body and your brother or sister in Christ has done something to wrong you or is hurting in some way, shouldn’t we try to help heal the wrongdoing and therefore heal the entire body rather than cutting that person off or leaving them without aid?
What happens when we look at the world in this way? Does it change the way we interact with others?
This is why the family – marriage and parenting -are so important. They are a model for the world of this kind of oneness and love that we should have for everyone.
It starts small with loving, forgiving, and caring for your spouse. The two of you were joined and became one in marriage. So this type of oneness and unity in love is shown through your marriage. You work to heal wrong doings and preserve and strengthen your marriage. The marriage is the joining of two to become one team who respects, protects, supports, and heals each other. When mistakes are made and the relationship is injured, it requires healing and sometimes rehabilitation.
Then that same love you have with and for your spouse is extended to your family, your children. You love your children and they love you and together you all are a unit, a family, and you care for, protect, and love each other through healing forgiveness and mercy when one of you is hurting. Because if one of your family members is hurting, you all are affected.
This love is further extended to all you meet in the body of Christ for we are all connected through him.
Are we ready and willing to heal the wounds and hurts in the body of Christ? I think it starts with focusing healing yourself, then your marriage and family, and then extending that to the world.