Did you know you have a God-shaped hole in your heart? Did you know that nothing will fill it but God?
You were made for God. God is infinite. The God-shaped hole in your heart is infinite also. Nothing finite will fill it.
Cars, superstars, sports, or sex. Cartoons, chemistry, video games, or human love. Emotional highs, money gains, straight A's, or job promotions. Nice abs, vacations, books, or pizza. Good business, sleep, movies, or shoes. Nothing finite will fill it.
The God-shaped hole in your heart can only be filled by your infinite God. When was the last time you visited Him in the Adoration Chapel? If you are not familiar with an Adoration Chapel, it is Eucharistic Adoration. Here is what Wikipedia says about it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eucharistic_adoration. Here is what Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P., says about it: http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/what-is-the-difference-between-adoring-our-lord-in-the-tabernacle-and-adoring-him-exp. Google search which Catholic Churches in your diocese provide Eucharistic Adoration in an Adoration Chapel. Then, go to it to spend time with Jesus.
The God-shaped hole in your heart will never be filled if you never spend time with Jesus. Said a different way, you will never be satisfied if you never spend time with Jesus. You have a God-placed desire for happiness in your heart. God has placed that desire in you because He wanted it to cause you to search Him out and find Him. He can be found in the Adoration Chapel, fully present. Go. Find Him there.
What is there to hope in?
Love. There is love to hope in. Hope in love.
Maryann wanted a husband. She wanted a husband so bad. She began to hope in love. Soon after, love found her. Augustine was walking in the park. Maryann was sitting on the bench. She hoped in love and love came through for her.
Michael wanted a life. Divorced, he had a successful career, but he wanted a life so bad. He began to hope in love. Soon after, he reconnected with his daughter and her family. Michael hoped in love and love came through for him.
Love came through for Maryann, for Peter, for Michael, and for Mary. Let love come through for you. Hope in love.
How? How can love come through for someone?
Love is a Person. God. God is love. Hope in love and watch how God comes through for you.
You are loved by God. He is love. Hope in love. Hope in God.
She caught my eye right away; dressed as she was in scarlet. Her arms were cutely attached to her sides with 1800’s looking thread, and her shaker style hair and clothing spoke to a simple plainness missing these days. Her wings were discretely tucked behind her and painted a soft color to mimic the inside of an oyster shell. Perfect. But I instantly chose the smaller, tan version – assuming that would cost less. Gulp - $16.99. Not something I was ready to part with for just a small tabletop statue. As an afterthought, I picked up the scarlet one to see how much more she cost. $12.99.
At first I couldn’t figure it out – why was the larger one less? And then I saw it. She was marred. The side of her bodice was discolored, paint missing; and her hair had white splotches on one side. She had what looked like an ink dot above her eyebrow and a slightly misshapen hand. And so she was… marked down. Not perfect; she was valued less by those who made the rules.
And now I knew I HAD to buy her. In my eyes, she was worth more. Marred, beaten up by life, she was still just plain beautiful.
My marred angel statue has me thinking today. What is ‘beauty’? I guess if it is ‘in the eyes of the beholder’ then it could be many things. My mother thought only perfection was beauty. I suspect this was due to an abusive father whose own insecurity detested imperfection. This could easily lead one to fear being imperfect; and indeed having anything imperfect in their lives. I’ll never forget the coffee table. The dog chewed two edges off and my mom spent a fortune sending it out, having new wood seamlessly affixed and wondrously woven in so that NO ONE would know. Of course the dog, who was not paying the bills, chewed them right back off again. So much for perfection control.
I will always remember when I first learned that imperfection is really beauty. As a young Navy wife, I visited another young Navy wife. She and her husband were both very strong Christians who came from very strong Christian families. They read the bible and knew it inside and out. It seemed they had different values for things. She had a full dining room set, inherited from her husband’s grandmother. Since none of us young wives had much of anything besides Goodwill purchases, I commented on the beauty of it. “Oh,” she said, “that’s not the best part!” She then proceeded to walk all around the table, pointing to every scratch, every gouge, every nick and every chip. As she did so, she told the story of how each and every one came about – a Thanksgiving meal here, a boy scout project there. Each imperfection was nothing but another memory of their lives; nothing but another celebration of the messiness of it. Together, the imperfections told the story of a family living and growing, learning and doing, messing up and cleaning up, laughing and loving. It was the first glimpse I had into life in a truly Christian family – one where people, and not things, are valued. And one where imperfection is really a way to beautiful.
I think I’ve always known it should be that way.
Even as a young teen, I loathed ‘perfection’. When my dad rose up in society and got a job, and pay, that raised our social status – the old furniture went out and in came the new. Stuffy new dining room chairs arrived – chairs too perfect to allow even the least amount of ‘mess’ that might fall on them. Suddenly, even eating became something that had to be done ‘perfectly.’ Stubbornly, I dragged my old chair into the dining room each night to sit on it in silent protest – till Mom just plain lost it and ordered it out!
But isn’t imperfection just another way of saying that someone was there? Isn’t it another way of saying that sometimes life hurts – but then again, maybe that’s how we know it is real?
And as I write this, I realize something – perfection usually masks such… imperfection. I grew up in a ‘perfect’ home and it was all so… imperfect. When you suffer imperfection in secret; it has a way of scarring. But accepting imperfection as a fact of life, and moving on to try to make it through together, has a way of healing – like my Navy friend’s stories show.
We live in a ‘perfect’ culture today – gone are the crooked teeth that were a normal part of life. People did not fix perfectly fine teeth just so they would look good. How silly was that? Grey hair signaled a person you could go to for advice - cause surely they would know - and not someone who needed to be ‘put out to pasture’ so they wouldn’t bother us young, beautiful, perfect people. Families were large, loud and full of ‘drama’. But if someone was picking on you – it sure did help to have 4 big brothers show up with clenched fists…
Today, every child has perfectly arranged teeth; with parents working endless hours away from home to pay for them and all the other ‘necessities’ of perfection. It is rare to see a grey haired person in each home caring for those orphaned children whose parents work constantly. Grandmas and Grandpas have tanned, lean bodies with highlighted hair – honed from endless hours on the golf course hitting a small white ball into endless holes, while their grandchildren are raised by endless numbers of total strangers. But not a problem, since each family is limited to the ‘perfect’ size of 2.1 children – who are orphaned at birth with parents who parent a couple hours a day – and with not even a crowd of older siblings to turn to for help.
Yet today, in our ‘perfect’ families, there is very little that is actually perfect. As a public school teacher of those 2.1 children, I can tell you that the children are not the only things that are limited in today’s family – so is the love. It is doled out in perfect measures of ‘quality’, not ‘quantity’; and ‘success’, not ‘failure’. 2.1 children have never felt more driven, more prodded, more ignored, more abandoned, more desperate – but gosh, we sure have our perfect families here in America!
And so I am leery of perfection. It has always made me nervous – like a tall glass of tea balancing right next to the computer just waiting to – splash – ruin the hard drive. Give me imperfect any day. At least then you know what you got. At least then, you know you have actually lived.
We are told that America is a ‘Christian’ nation. I wonder, however, whether it is made up of Christians who know anything about Christ? Somewhere along the line, Christianity seemed to go from sinners being healed by Christ – to ignorance being healed by education and plain old hard work. Who needs Christ when they can just become perfect themselves? Gone are the days when imperfection was something to be boasted of - when made so very perfect in Christ. Now that imperfection is code for ‘not working hard enough’; nobody fesses up to nuthin.
But I’ve always thought that if you want to know someone, look at what they do. Well a big “Do”, when talking about God, is the world. He has put His handprints all over it; and when I see His imprint in the natural world – everywhere I look, I see nature made beautiful by…. Imperfection. Take the Grand Canyon. What is it; other than weak soil eroded away cause it was just too wimpy to hold. Life (the unrelenting river) came along and it yielded – it was simply not strong enough. Now if my house had been sitting on that soil, I would not have called it ‘the greatest wonder in the world’; I would have called it ‘an insurance nightmare’. Nonetheless, God (and we) now call it … beautiful.
Ever see a forest in the spring after a devastating fire? Black charred trees stand next to the most prolific profusion of greenery sprouting from the enriched soil - then has ever been seen. Spectacularly beautiful!
What of childbirth? Could anybody call it the ‘perfect’ way to bring a baby into the world? Once you’ve been through it; the stork story is starting to look pretty darn good. Strong women slowly - as the days, weeks and months go by - become weaker, more uncomfortable, more… well just LOOK at them! Does that fit any definition of ‘perfect’ today??!! Then they go through the worst pain of all, the messiest mess of all and the end result is … the beauty of new life. And is that new life perfect? Pointed heads, wrinkled skin, is that hair on his/her face??!! But no one looks at that – all they see is their beautiful new child.
I think, perhaps, God has been trying to tell us something. His Son came and said the same thing – but perhaps we’ve forgotten. There IS no perfection. There is only imperfection, made perfect by, and through, Christ. The more we accept that, and the more we accept life as it is and turn to Him to bring beauty from it – then the more beautiful we become.
And even if society chooses to ‘mark us down’ due to our imperfection, we at least can know that – in God’s lexicon – ‘imperfection’ is another word for ‘beauty’. And if we simply give that ‘imperfection’ to Him, then yet another word we will hear is “My child”. And that, my fellow travelers, IS perfection…
How exciting! I just found out that I am going on a one year trip to Europe tomorrow!! I guess I should think about what I'm going to do there but.... nah, it can wait. What's on TV?
Now if you are thinking that I have completely lost my mind; you would be right. Leaving tomorrow for Europe and - I'm not even thinking about it? Gonna be gone for a year and - I'm not gonna begin getting ready?
But isn't that how 99.9% of us seem to live our lives? This life - if long and well lived - may last us, oh, say 90 years? Wouldn't that be considered a good, long life? Ok, let's go for the record - how about 120 years? Add another 10 just for bragging rights - okay, you've got 130 years. Now compare that with eternity - as in forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and... you get the picture.
That 130 ain't looking so long anymore, is it? Ok. NOW; how much time are you spending preparing for that eternity - and how much time are you focusing on the 130?
I know people who can spout off practically every sport statistic you could image about their favorite team. Let me tell you; that takes real time, effort and dedication. Watching the sports channel, listening to sports radio, reading the sports news, talking with friends about sports - unlimited time! All going toward that 130. Zero preparation for the forever, and ever, and ever, and - you get the point.
Substitute practically any passion, expertise, knowledge, etc. that someone has in this world concerning something IN this world - and you have the same scenario. People are able to take time to prepare for the forever, and ever, and ever, and... But they choose not to.
What's on TV?
This would be me standing at customs going into Europe. "Well Officer, I guess I meant to get a passport and visa but... there was a REALLY good show on TV that I just couldn't miss - so how bout' cha just overlook this one time, okay?"
How likely will a Customs Official be to overlook my apparent non-effort to prepare to enter his country - in other words - my disrespect of His nation's rules, laws and procedures? Now throw my excuses in there of just being way too busy with my own stuff to bother - think that's gonna be the big convincer?
Why do we treat God as less important than a Customs Official? Since the dawn of creation, God has sent us His very own word - written down in our own language for heaven's sake - outlining every one of HIS kingdom's rules, laws and procedures. How many of us spend as much time pouring over, and memorizing, that - as we do sports team stats, best shopping spots, brands of coffee, hottest tech tools, etc., etc.? NOW the excuses will have to get more complicated; like, "Uh, sorry God, I couldn't read."
Then add to that, He sends the sacrifice of the Mass where, every day in every Catholic church around the globe, a priest brings the very body and blood of His Son Jesus back to life to give incredible power and grace to every one who just shows up. Now it's "Uh, sorry God, I couldn't read AND I couldn't walk."
And of course, in this day and age, there is actually Christian radio where, you can get information about Him and that kingdom, 24/7. "Uh, sorry God, I couldn't read AND I couldn't walk AND I couldn't hear!" Then add in the fact that, with a simple request, you can get a Priest or member of the Church to bring Jesus Christ's very body present in the Eucharist to you at your own home, if you are housebound... "Uh, sorry God, I couldn't read AND I couldn't walk AND I couldn't hear AND I had no doorbell."
And of course, if you actually DO have none of those things available to study to learn about the kingdom of God where you hope to be for ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and... - all you need do is step outside. "The heavens declare the Glory of God, the sky proclaims His handiwork. One day to the next conveys that message, one night to the next imparts that knowledge." Psalm 19: 1-3 Does a beautiful sky make you search for more knowledge about our great God? Does a flower bud opening to its beauty make you yearn to know how that reflects God's? God's fingerprints are on absolutely everything He made - sky and sea, mountain and valley, animal and.... you. Get to know more about Him, now - while you still have the chance. Otherwise, you may find yourself saying:
"Um, God, I'm sorry, but I just never got around to learning anything about You, Your kingdom and how You wanted me to live on earth so as to be ready to enter here, BUT - I can dazzle you with all the sports statistics I know!!"
Think that European Customs Official would buy that one? Now, for the scariest thought of all, Think God will?
"Why do we have to suffer?" is a question often raised in the heart of man. Looking at American society, we witness and attest to much suffering. Blessed Mother Teresa has spoken of this suffering as a great disease that plagues Western culture.
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
Loneliness has worked its way into the fabric of our culture. It is our norm. We do not look people in the eye when we pass them on the street. We do not speak to them in grocery lines or at bus stops. We do not greet each other with a welcoming kiss but with a rigid handshake. If 90% of what we say comes from our body language, the message we receive on our daily encounters is the following: "I do not care about your presence; I do not want you next to me; I do not trust you enough to come close to you."
Put rather simply we hear, "I do not care about you; I do not want you around; I do not trust you."
Father Stan Fortuna, C.F.R., wrote a song about suffering. Its message is that everyone has to suffer.
"How do we deal with it?" is the question the heart of man truly is asking when he asks, "Why do we have to suffer?" We know that suffering is a hard reality that will not go away. What we do not know is how to mentally deal with it.
How do we deal with it?
The Church tells us how to mentally deal with it.
First, we must realize one thing. The world is the entity that tells us we can constantly be happy in this life with the allure of glory, fame, physical pleasure, and material things. Not God. God does not tell us this. What is the first thing we see when we look at Him? We see our symbol of Him: the crucifix. He is dead with a mangled, torn, and bloodied body nailed with large, iron nails piercing holes in His hands and feet holding Him stuck to a wood cross. We see horrendous pain and suffering. It is the world that mystifies us with pleasure, comfort, and never-ending happiness. It is God who is real with us and lets us know that we will be in pain, suffer, and die.
It is the world that mystifies us with pleasure, comfort, and never-ending happiness. It is God who is real with us and lets us know that we will be in pain, suffer, and die.
Second, we must accept what God is telling us as truth. God does not lie to us. He IS Truth. He cannot lie to us -- it is not in His nature to do so. We have to realize that the mentality we have that we can be happy all the time and be in comfort all the time is a lie. The lie came from the world and because this is the world we grew up in, we accepted it as true. We have to alter our thinking now. We have to realize that the world is not going to give us happiness and comfort all the time. We have to realize that the world is going to give us pain and suffering.
We have to alter our thinking now. We have to realize that the world is not going to give us happiness and comfort all the time. We have to realize that the world is going to give us pain and suffering.
Third, we must not enter into despair. With this new realization, it is easy to become depressed. We must not become depressed and here are two reasons why. One, we DO experience happiness and comfort at moments during our life. When we experience them, we should thank God for them because they are gifts. Two, our symbol of God is the crucifix. Jesus is hanging on the Cross. This means that we are not alone in our pain and suffering. God is there with us in it. He is as real and present in every moment of pain and suffering you experience in your life. In those moments, He is truly present with you.
We must not enter into despair. We are not alone in our pain and suffering. God is there with us in it. He is as real and present in every moment of pain and suffering you experience in your life.
Why? Well, it is called the Gospel (gospel means "good news") of Suffering and we need to hear it preached more in our broken world. Jesus did not come and say everything was going to be great and grand and you will be fine and then I will take you to Heaven with Me. He said, "I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves" (Matthew 10:16); and, "Do not think I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword" (Matthew 10:34). He continues, "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:38).
What happens to sheep in the midst of wolves? They are attacked by the wolves. Jesus tells us these things to prepare us for the life we have here on earth. We will be attacked by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Our hope is in the Lord. He is our Shepherd. We hope in His Salvation and eternal life. Life after death. He gathers His sheep; warns us about the world, the flesh, and the devil; but also shepherds us where to go. He suffered, died, was buried, and rose from the dead to set us free from the bondage to sin and death. THIS is where the happiness lies. We are freed from our sin and eternal damnation. We can spend eternity with God in Heaven.
Jesus does not want to be quaint with us. He wants to be real with us. He wants us to realize that the world, the flesh, and the devil fight against us every day. We will experience pain, evil, suffering, and death while on this earth. He knows that and He knows what it is like because He experienced it while He was here too. Look to the crucifix and you will see for yourself.
What about the good news?
There is good news, even in the pain and suffering. Here is the good news:
Life is still worth living.
When we unite our suffering to His suffering and ask Him to use it for His glory, He is able to GREATLY use it in the spiritual world to help aid our side of the battle. Until the return of Jesus, Christians are soldiers for Christ in the fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil for the sake of the salvation of souls (people). Jesus is saving souls (people) and we are His hands and feet.
We are warriors for Christ in our pain and suffering and GREATLY advance the Kingdom of God if we unite our suffering in our minds and hearts to His suffering on the Cross. Our pain and suffering has meaning. It has purpose.
It is now found in Him. He will use it for the good that He wants done in the world. You are His warrior. You are His solider. He is relying on you to unite your suffering to His suffering to use for His purpose -- the salvation of souls and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.
Will you let your suffering take on such great purpose as this?
It’s a story I know by heart, and goes back to our very identities. When my mother named us, her in-laws made fun of our names. ‘Cynthia’, ‘Kevin’, ‘Susan’, ‘Kerry’ & ‘Cheryl’ were simply not ‘Robert’, ‘Thomas’ or ‘James’. My mother’s response was issued in the same defiance she showed decades later as she related the story for the millionth time – “Well, at least when you talk about MY children, you KNOW who you are talking about!” And she would laugh – obviously that showed them!
It was a story that was usually followed by other tales of woundedness, stifled anger, dreams of revenge. This was not something my mother just ‘made up’; this was how she was raised to see the world. So these were the tales she repeated. I grew up on them; they seemed perfectly fine to me – until it hit me just the other day.
We were ‘Catholics’, weren’t we?
I mean, where were the tales of love? Kindness? Forgiveness? Grace? Any of the tales you would expect in an actual Christian home? I thought long and hard and realized – there were none. Those were not traits in our ‘mother’s milk’ – in the heritage handed down to us. We received something else.
To us, the fact that people are hateful and mean and ‘out to get you’, was simply 2nd nature – after all – isn’t that how everyone really was? Isn’t it a ‘dog eat dog’ world? Even those closest to you; the ones you are supposed to love – even THEY are out to get you. Even they will do all they can to put you down.
These were the lessons we were taught growing up; these were the qualities we came to expect in all people. These were the traits we learned you should never leave home without. Be suspicious; especially of any act of goodness. Seek out the bad. Once you find it - nurse grudges; be angry; let that anger turn to bitterness, maybe even hatred; and never forgive.
But weren’t we Catholics? Weren’t we followers of Christ?
I have now lived long enough to question the ingredients in my ‘mother’s milk’. I have walked with Jesus for many years now. Never have I heard him tell me to do any of these things. Never have I seen Him do them.
Aren’t we supposed to follow Him, act like Him, forgive like Him, and love like Him? Isn’t that why we call ourselves Christians? After all, regardless of how bad the ‘wrong’ may be, isn’t HE the one who ‘rights’ it? And if so, regardless of the loss – how can we not be excited to find out what God’s repayment plan is? Does it really matter if we have been slighted? Shouldn’t we rejoice that now GOD will be the one paying us in full?
Shouldn’t THAT be the lesson in a Christian home, in a Catholic one?
I think I have discovered why so few act like Christ anymore. It is because we don’t have any idea who He really is. We were all dragged to church as children, where we were taught that WE were ‘Christians’. And then, for the remaining hours each week, we were taught the heritage of our ‘mother’s milk’. And that was because it was the only heritage she knew. Raised in pain, that’s all she learned to recognize. Raised without Christ – she knew nothing else. Raised in a place and time devoid of real teaching of the faith, and hence bereft of Christian Healing - she had no way to find the freedom of living in Christ. And even though it was not her fault, that was the heritage that determined how we lived; how we assumed all ‘Christians’ lived. After all, we were baptized, we made our 1st communions, we were confirmed, and we went to church each Sunday. Didn’t that make us Christians? Isn’t that all it took?
Never once did we consider that perhaps, just perhaps, we were being taught nothing even remotely connected to Christ.
I have a dear friend named Anne. The ingredients in her ‘mother’s milk’ were completely different. She grew up hearing stories of love, kindness, consideration, sacrifice, and forgiveness. In other words, she grew up hearing about the real Jesus. As young Navy wives, when I looked for the bad, she looked for the good. Funny – but we both seemed to find what we were seeking. I expected the worst; she sought out the best. Regardless of how awful I may have been on any given day, she assumed that maybe I was just having a bad day, out of sorts, out of order. Why would she think otherwise – after all, her ‘mother’s milk’ taught her that people were, for the most part, good. And even if not – you loved them anyway through the grace given you by Jesus himself.
Anne married Tom, who had also received real Christian beliefs and values in his ‘mother’s milk’. It is a wonder, and a joy, to watch them go through life. They are usually happy; almost always joyful – even in the midst of difficult times. They assume the best. Their parents are there through thick and thin – always loving, always encouraging – yet speaking the truth, with love, if need be. They have repeated the process in their own children’s lives; children that are now a reflection of them. It is a gift to watch 3 generations in this family – in a real Christian family – generations full of people who seek goodness and love the Lord. They see with the eyes of Jesus – hence they always seek the spark of goodness in things, just waiting to come to life.
It makes me realize why God says that for those who follow Him, their blessings go down a thousand generations; yet for those who seek evil, curses follow 3-4 generations.
I began my life repeating the pattern, until Jesus reached in and showed me HIS way of looking at things. Even so, it has been a long hard road to overcome the effects of my ‘mother’s milk’. Seeing goodness is not my first reaction – it is the reaction I have had to train myself to develop. It is the reaction I must constantly remind myself to seek. And speaking the truth in love is even harder. How much easier to just give them what they want, and then talk trash about them behind their back?
It has taken me many years to get to the point where imitating Jesus comes more easily. Unfortunately, the first few decades of relearning were during the years I was dispensing my own ‘mother’s milk’ to a new generation of children. I told them many of the same stories. They were raised to seek the same things. It was not until they were a little older that I began to teach them the new ways of Christ that I was learning. They learned it much earlier than I; but still after their first ‘mother’s milk’ – and hence they still struggle to remain focused on Christ’s ways.
But their children have not yet been born – and by the time those children will, God willing, come into this world - then their mother’s milk will be much different from mine, and totally different from their grandmother’s.
And they will be Generation 4...
Generation 4 really will have a chance to live life from the start as a Christian, as a Catholic. In other words, as a follower of, and believer in, Christ. And once you are walking with Christ from birth – well THAT mother’s milk can continue for a long, long time –
maybe even a thousand generations?
for I, Yahweh your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, and showing loving kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.