-God the Father, Paolo Veronese
Prior to last week’s post, Happy Thanksgiving!, I had gone two months without writing, the longest break I’ve ever taken between posts. I thought that perhaps I was simply stumped on how to express myself through my words. Then I realized I had no words to express. No, the problem was not articulation; the problem was a lack of inspiration. On several occasions I tried to force myself to write – fingers anxiously poised on the keyboard, gently tapping the keys – but nothing flowed to them from my brain. No ideas. Nada.
A couple weeks ago I realized this lack of inspiration coincided with something else that had me concerned – a noticeable dryness in my faith, a feeling of alone-ness. I could not recollect having had a “God-moment” (an instance when I particularly feel God working in my life) since the one I wrote about two months ago. I thought I must be doing something wrong. So, in addition to more fervent prayer, I prayed for inspiration. But, nothing appeared to change.
One of the good things about being Christian is the gift of Hope given to us by Jesus Christ. We keep Hope alive in our hearts for that long-term promise of everlasting life. And, in the short-term, it helps keep wind in our sails when we might otherwise feel adrift at sea. It helps us to not give up.
On the night of Thursday, 19 November, I had plans to attend my bi-weekly men’s faith sharing group meeting. Actually, it was one of two meetings planned for that night, the other being an Ultreya meeting, and I had to choose between one or the other. I chose the men’s group because it seems I have become the de facto leader of that group. However, after my friend, at whose house we were to meet, called and said he could not host, I cancelled the meeting.
This, of course, then freed me to go to the monthly Ultreya meeting at which I would share with other Cursillo alumni my steps to keep piety in my daily life, what I have been studying to learn more about my faith, and what actions I’ve taken to bring others to Christ. I considered not going because I would have to fess up that, excepting my daily prayer and a little effort at studying, I hadn’t done much of anything with respect to action. But, that underlying feeling of Hope told me I should go, that I shouldn’t give up.
Our meetings begin with a meditation and a personal reflection. We then break into small groups of three or four for sharing. I found myself in a group with a dear friend who, along with her husband, has become more or less a spiritual mentor for me.
During our conversation, my friend asked me how God had been working in my life recently. I know I gave her a sheepish look and replied that I was in a dry spell. I said that although my study had eased somewhat and my prayer life was good, my actions were not what they ought to be and it had me bothered. I confessed I had been feeling discouraged and as though I wasn’t being the disciple that I should be. My friend told me to not worry but just remember that God loves me. I thanked her.
A couple hours later as I was getting ready to retire for the night, I prayed telling God that I know He loves me but I’d especially like for Him to help me feel His loving presence. I reiterated that prayer when I woke on Friday morning.
I have developed the habit of taking time in the mornings (well, most mornings) to read the daily scripture and to read the reflections in two daily devotionals: St. Augustine – Day by Day, and Jesus Calling – Enjoying Peace in His Presence1. On this Friday, the 20th (actually, my first time to read from them in a few days), I read the following from Jesus Calling:
“I am pleased with you, My child. Allow yourself to become fully aware of My pleasure shining upon you. You don’t have to perform well in order to receive My Love. In fact, a performance focus will pull you away from Me, toward some sort of Pharisaism. This can be a subtle form of idolatry: worshiping your own good works. It can also be a source of deep discouragement when your works don’t measure up to your expectations. (Underlined for emphasis).
Shift your focus from your performance to My radiant Presence. The Light of My Love shines on you continually, regardless of your feelings or behavior. Your responsibility is to be receptive to this unconditional Love. Thankfulness and trust are your primary receptors. Thank Me for everything; trust in Me at all times. These simple disciplines will keep you open to My loving Presence.” [Compiled from Ephesians 2:8-9 & 3:16-19; Psalm 62:8]
I read those two paragraphs two or three times. I read the chapters and verses from which they were gleaned. They were meant for me! I bowed my head and I prayed giving thanks to Him for making easy something which, in my disparagement, I had made so difficult. My focus was inward and on me rather than on Him. I simply needed to take time to bask in His Love, and accept that He is always there.
I had to wonder if my friend knew what I would find in Jesus Calling on Friday, 20 November. But, I knew she didn’t. What she knew, however, was that Jesus is there when you need Him and call upon Him. And, in her kind words of, “Remember, God loves you”, she gave my faith a shot in the arm that I needed to bring me back. And, when I came back, God didn’t disappoint.
“Dear Loving God, thank You for drawing me back to You and helping me to rediscover Your loving Presence. Thank You for instilling in me Your Hope and not letting me give up. And, thank You for placing loving friends in my life who, through their strong faith, encourage me to live mine. Amen.”
(The post, Receiving God’s Love, was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
1Jesus Calling, ©2004 Sarah Young
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