You Are Loved
+JMJ+ God loves you.
Ok, I know some of you may be thinking, "I know that already," but I urge you to stop and really consider what those three little words mean.
The word love is thrown around so often these days that its true meaning can easily become lost. How often do we say things like, "I love this movie, this kind of food, this famous person…?" Yet, we also say that we love our family and friends. I don't know about you, but my love for my family is far different than my "love" for my favorite TV show! There's just no comparison.
God's love may not be something you always "feel" but, nonetheless, it is ever constant, never changes, and is beyond measure. We can't even begin to imagine how much He loves each and every one of us! Looking at the crucifix offers a glimpse into this love and Catholics are reminded of God's love through the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Even so, it can still be a difficult concept to wrap our minds around.
I feel I have to mention here that there are many people in the world today who presume that, since they are "good people" and since God loves them, they are somehow excused from following the 10 Commandments. God's love doesn't excuse any of us from following His laws, but, then again, we also can't assume to know how God will judge any given individual. Remember that we are the ones who choose to cut Him off - not the other way around. Assuming that God's unconditional love is a free pass to live in whatever sinful manner we want is a dangerous trap to fall into. However, I digress.
My family attended a Parish Mission at our church last month and the speaker, Brett St. Gelais, spent a lot of time talking about God's love. I have to admit, at first I sat there thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I know all this." But, when I stopped to truly ponder God's love for me, I realized that I actually have a very difficult time accepting it. I know I'm not alone. Sadly, lots of people in the world don't feel worthy of God's love, His grace, His goodness, and His mercy. Maybe it's because of what they've done or maybe it's because of what others have done to them. Oftentimes, I'm one of those people.
It's not uncommon for an abuse survivor to have difficulty believing that anyone (including God) could truly love them. This is something I've struggled with for years and an issue that has, at times, even caused a strain in my marriage. I know my husband loves me and I know he'd do anything for me but, at times, I don't feel worthy. When he first expressed interest in me (about 17 years ago), I couldn't believe that any man could possibly love me. Following my rape, I felt "tainted" and, (I thought) how could anyone possibly love something so ugly and imperfect? How could anyone possibly love someone with so much baggage? I felt unworthy of happiness and felt ashamed of who I was or, rather, of what had been done to me. As a result, I have sometimes unintentionally pushed people away, even those who love me most. Early in our marriage, my husband was one of those people from time to time. Praise be to God, it's an issue we have been able to overcome, but I do still struggle.
A few weeks ago, my mother shared with me that, ever since I was raped and since losing my brother, she has had a very difficult time accepting good things that come her way. Her fear is that they will be taken away or that things that appear to be blessings will lead to something bad. Mom said she rejoiced when I was given the rectory job. She thought it would be a positive, holy environment for me and she thought I would be safe. Of course, it didn't turn out quite that way. As hard as it is to admit, I'm in the same boat when it comes to accepting God's love and grace. It's almost easy for me to accept any form of criticism. Yet, I sometimes have a difficult time accepting God's gifts, His glimmers of grace. Don't get me wrong, I do my best to remain thankful but, at the same time, it's difficult for me to just say, "thank you" and accept that God loves me enough to shower graces and blessings upon me. It's hard for me to explain but I question God at times…"Are you sure you want me to have this? Are you sure this blessing was meant for me?" When you've become so accustomed to feeling bad, feeling good feels completely strange and unfamiliar after awhile; even the idea of joy seems like a foreign concept.
Oftentimes, I feel unworthy of love. I don't accept praise easily and I am honestly shocked when people want to get to know me and be my friend. I think to myself, "Huh? You want to be around me? You want to know me? Why? What do I have to offer you?" You see, even after 20 years and even after extensive therapy and lots of prayer, I still sometimes fall into the trap of judging myself based on someone else's treatment of me. It's something I'm working on with God's help. I am still learning to trust Him more and to live in the present - not the past and not the future.
Some wounds are too deep to go away on their own. A band-aid alone doesn't suffice. Some wounds require tending to, stitches, special bandaging, care and attention. This is one of those deep wounds, and it's something that has improved over the years but still requires healing. To anyone who struggles with accepting God's love (or the love of other human beings), you are not alone. I know I'm not the only one who has ever felt this way which is why I'm choosing to share this vulnerable part of my life with you.
Healing is an ongoing process. Trauma survivors often find that certain issues that maybe didn't seem like a big deal at one time, can pop up later on; suddenly, they realize that the issue does need care and attention. It's as though your brain is reminding you to work on something that is holding you back in some way.
There are many things that have helped me with my feelings of inadequacy: prayer, therapy, surrounding myself with good, supportive people, etc. Never feel ashamed if you need professional help or counseling. Don't ever think, "It's because I don't pray enough, it's because I don't believe enough." Trauma literally alters the brain, and our brains sometimes need a little retraining. God is always there to help us, but He also gave certain individuals the talent to help one another and it's ok to accept help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please never forget that!
Even when it's difficult to accept, God does love me, just as He loves each and every other human being to have ever come into existence. He didn't "have" to create any of us, did He? He chose to anyway! God created each of us out of pure love - to love and to be loved. When we are able to accept that love, it radiates into the world and to those around us. God thought of you and me. He wanted you and me. He created you and me to be uniquely beautiful. He has special plans for all His children and He ultimately wants us to one day share in the everlasting joy of Heaven. If He loved us enough to create us and if He lives in all of us, then who am I to question Him? I'm working on accepting this more and more with all my heart!
Strive to accept God's love, His graces, and His blessings. Trust in Him. You are worthy.