I’m sure most of us can relate to this experience: you go to Mass, find yourself refreshed and rejuvenated by God’s goodness and grace, go home, and before you know it you’re yelling at a family member or complaining about some inconvenience or insignificant problem. When you take the time to reflect, you’re angry at yourself, and lament the fact that even though Jesus literally just came into you in Holy Communion, you just as quickly turn away from Him and fall into the same sins.
Defeated. That’s how I feel every time I give in to my own pride and say things I don’t mean, or argue my point needlessly. That’s how I feel when I give in to my own selfishness and spend my time only on myself, and get frustrated with those around me for interrupting ‘my’ time. I think to myself, How can I receive such incredible gifts of God’s love and grace, and then fail to live those practically in my own life?
As I mentioned in my last blog, I recently began a 10-day self-directed retreat called ‘Lift Up Your Heart’ by Fr. John Burns, based on the 10 meditations of St. Francis de Sales in the Introduction to the Devout Life. It’s been so, so good for my heart so far, because it’s made me really reflect on my own life and grow in self-knowledge, which is something that’s always been hard for me! I just have to share this part of one of the meditations, because it gave me a new lens through which I see my own weaknesses and sinfulness that I think is so incredibly helpful!:
“In quiet reflection, name your own limitations. Admit them—as many as you can recognize. Then, with a deep breath, hold them up to God’s gaze and simply ask for help. Hear God say to you, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9). Then you can say with St. Paul, ‘If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness’ (2 Cor 11:30). At first it sounds foolish. Consider this: if you were not weak, you would not need God; because you are weak, God can work in you. This means, surprisingly, that the places in your life most attractive to God are the places of greatest weakness, because in those places He can most easily undertake the work of making you whole” (Lift Up Your Hearts 9-10).
That last line has really stuck with me: that the places of greatest weakness in my life are the most attractive to God, because that’s where He can work the most powerfully. He’s not scared off by my struggles with selfishness and pride and laziness, but those are exactly the places He wants to come into most!
There’s a Christian song called “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Batistelli which says, “I’m a mess and so are you/ We build walls nobody can get through/ It may be hard, but the best thing we can ever do/ is Bring your brokenness and I’ll bring mine/ His love can heal what hurt divides/ And mercy’s waiting on the other side/ If we’re honest.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like to admit to myself that I’m a mess. In fact, I just don’t like messes in any shape or form! Even my room has to be neatly organized and clean, or it drives me crazy. I want my life to be a tidy little package where everything is ‘just so,’ and nothing is out of place. But I know that nothing could be farther from reality! And the truth is, that’s the reality for each one of us. But that’s where Jesus wants to meet us—in our messiness, in our woundedness, in our brokenness. He wants to meet us there so He can heal us most profoundly.
Fr. John goes on to say, “God sets the terms and timelines for healing and wholeness, but nothing can begin until you show the sickness to the Divine Physician” (Lift Up Your Hearts, 10). We can’t wear masks with God. He knows our weaknesses better than we do, but that’s exactly what He wants us to bring before Him, with humble and docile hearts. How freeing that is, that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect! He just expects us to be honest. He’ll take it from there. God will do the healing, but we first have to bring our wounds and weaknesses to Him to be healed. It might be a slow process, but God knows how best to sculpt our hearts in order to make us into the masterpieces He desires us to be, the kind that can most clearly reflect the genius of the Divine Sculptor. What a beautiful truth, that takes away our tendencies to hide behind our shame and distrust of God rather than humbly bringing them before Him with the faith of a child, completely confident in the love of the Father. So we don’t need to be afraid of our weaknesses, because it’s precisely in our weakness that God wants to meet us, to show us His power and love.