I woke up this morning and read this quote from Pope Benedict this morning:
“God is love, but love can be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic ‘good feeling’… it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary, it is liberation from self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross.”
I have been thinking about these words all day since I read them. One of the things that I had the hardest time with during my conversion was trusting God. I never really understood why. But the more I learn about the Catholic faith, the more things from my past start to make some sense. And the more I realize why I was such a hot mess.
My fundamental problem was that I had no idea what love was or what love felt like. I never knew anything other than dysfunctional love. The closest thing to love I ever really knew in my life was in my relationship with my Tío Roy, but even then it was not stable enough for me to live my life feeling secure. So I ended up seeking Love in all the wrong places my whole life. But rather than look for real love, the kind that challenged me, I was looking for the “romantic ‘good feeling’” that I thought love was. That love does not exist.
Real love is hard. Real love hurts. Real love is a mess. And real love means putting ourselves on a cross freely for the one(s) that we love. Everything Jesus did from the moment he was conceived in Mary’s womb to the moment He ascended into Heaven was Love Incarnate. Everything He did was to show us the way of Love, the way of God; the Way to Heaven. He was God and He was born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough. He came down from Heaven and put Himself right in the middle of our human messiness. There is no place messier than a trough used to put food scraps for the animals. Then He lived a life of a normal person loving, laughing, working, worshipping, crying and meeting person after person who He loved, who He CREATED, and who rejected Him or didn’t recognize Him. He was betrayed, arrested, berated and hung on a Cross. Why? To show us what Love is. Who Love is.
Because I am so self-absorbed I kept looking for another way. I wanted the butterfly love that requires nothing from me. A love that is easy and that Love is a fairy tale that is easy to sell to a world that fears suffering and not having control of everything.
Things in my life began to really change when I realized that fear and the need to control things in my life were symptoms of my problem with trusting God. And I didn’t trust Him because I didn’t trust anyone. I didn’t know who He was, and I didn’t believe that He gave a damn about anything in my life. Everyone I ever trusted in my life had let me down at some point or another. I assumed that God was the same. That is until I realized that Jesus knew what it felt like to be let down by everyone He loves. The only people who didn’t let Him down were His mother and John the disciple that He loved, but even they couldn’t save Him from having to hang on that Cross. He didn’t want to be saved from that Cross; He embraced it out of Love for us.
For the last three years I have been talking to God about everything in my past and He has forgiven me for the most perverse sins that anyone could ever commit. Through confession I have experienced the Mercy of a loving Father. The more I go to confession, the more Mercy I receive and the more I grow to trust God. The more I trust Him, the more I grow to understand that everything He does is out of complete Love for me. I understand that He allows all things for my own good. I no longer feel the need to control everything and I no longer fear the unknown. I have peace knowing that I’m in God’s hands. Little by little that peace is making me a lot less self-absorbed and more selfless. (I still have a long way to go in this category!) Little by little I’m learning how to embrace my Cross, to pick it up and to follow Jesus.
There is so much logical reasonable truth in our Catholic Faith. All it takes to find it is to submit to the fact that we are not God and the only thing we have to control is our faith that He knows what is best for us. When He thinks it is necessary He will put Himself in the middle of our mess to help bring us back to Him.
Love can be hated. I spent most of my life hating Love, rejecting Love and in search of a false love. It has taken a long time, but I have finally come to be thankful for all the stuff that I have been through. I understand what it feels like to be lost, to be miserable, to feel like nobody gets you, and to do things my own way. I also know what it feels like to bring my brokenness to the foot of the Cross. Because of that I do my best to always remember that nobody is a lost cause and to have mercy on people with whom I’d rather be angry.