The Presence of God

I had a really interesting chat with a friend the other day who has been wrestling with her faith in God. She was raised Catholic like me but she often struggles to feel worthy, as if she’s “not good enough” to be Catholic. I spent a good chunk of my life feeling that way too, struggling with feelings of rejection and wondering if anyone, God included, would love the real me that hides behind my persona and can’t be perfect all the time. This same friend told me that I was very blessed because she could tell through her ordinary interactions me that God had given me His presence and “the proof that no path I take is wrong as long as I keep my eyes on Him.”

She is absolutely right. God has given me an incredible gift in giving me Himself. But there was one problem in her reasoning. She thought it was because I am worthy. Let me be the first to assure you that I am not. I do believe that God loves me tremendously, but not because I am good, because He is good.

So many people read this blog and they respond with something like intrigue because they see a more personal, less lofty side of God where He is not just my God, but my ever-present adventure buddy. Because while God by His nature is mysterious, it does not follow that He is unrelatable. I think that was sort of the point of Jesus coming to earth in the first place, to fix people’s perceptions of God and show us that God is for us, not against us. He wants to enter personally into every part of our lives and meet us exactly where we are. He’s our Father and He has a deep desire to share Himself with us too, as He walks us up the stairway to Heaven.

Every single person born on earth matters to God. There is absolutely no one He does not love or from whom He would withhold His grace. The Bible itself says, “ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). That’s why patience is such a virtue because the more you persist in this endeavor, the stronger your presence of God will become as He reveals Himself to you, and this revelation is unique to each person. No two people have the same experience of God because He is infinite, and the relationship that develops through the mutual revelation of selves is as personal and unique as you are. By this same line of reasoning, you can rest assured that God truly wants a relationship with you because you are literally irreplaceable to Him.

And I wanted to bring this up because a surprising amount of people I encounter, even those with no discernable religion, tell me they want to have what I have.

You can.

Don’t let lies about worthiness stand in your way. Take it! Seize it! Pursue it and be not afraid! To pursue God is the adventure not just of a lifetime, but of an eternity. A journey that transcends time itself because, while the world tells you to make the most of your limitations and your limited time on earth, God calls you to conquer them by receiving His redemptive love and being raised up to meet His own Self, not as His servant but as His son or daughter.

And I admit I get tired of taking the credit for anything you may have found worthy of praise on this blog. Because only God is worthy of praise and if you saw something that deeply moved you or resonated with you even a little, it wasn’t me you were looking at, you caught a glimpse of God. God breaking through the barriers of your everyday life and silently speaking to you. To that special place inside your soul where only you and He are able to dwell. And I beg you also to keep your eyes on Him, because the look always comes before the leap into that unknown space, and I am certain that you will find everything you are searching for there with Him.

God’s peace be with you and in you.

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The Bicycle

So a few days back I was talking with my cousin and somehow the topic of heaven came up. I told him that I want to see what the Saints see when they die: I want the Beatific Vision, which, just to put us all on the same page, is the direct communication of God to the individual person (ie heaven in full). My cousin responded, “ooohhhh no I could never be a saint.” I insisted “anyone can be a saint!” All it takes is the will to be open to Gods love. He countered with, “oohhhhhh no I’ve done too much.” And he said it with such certainty that it made me kind of sad. Because so have I.

It’s true.  Everyone assumes that because I’m nice and usually cracking jokes and currently practicing a child-like dependence on God as a way to live out my Catholic faith that I’m somehow immune to struggle. That I’ve never tangoed with the temptations of the world. Most of all that I was simply born this way, the happy Catholic with a nice family whose goodness doesn’t count somehow because it’s easy for me.

Ha!

These are all lies. Lies that surround a lot of Christians trying to live their faith. Because when you put a genuine faith in God into practice you will bear fruit. God’s love will transform you into the beautiful new creation you were always meant to be. But this process is far from easy.

And the idea that Christianity is something reserved exclusively for “the good” is an extremely dangerous one that echoes the Jansenist heresy (the heresy that claims you have to be perfect for God to love you).

Because the truth is God loves my cousin (let’s call him Tom for the purposes of this post) and I just know that nothing would make God happier than sharing Himself with Tom, after all He’s Tom’s Father. And think about it from a parent’s perspective- is there anything your child can do that would really cause you to stop loving them?

But back to the issue at hand, Tom has realized that he is not worthy of God because of his sins. And Tom might mistakenly think that I somehow am, because I’m religious and all that. But I know my sins better than Tom and trust me I’m not worthy of God either, and certainly not the Beatific Vision I want in heaven. So why is Tom certain he won’t see it while I’m certain that I will?

To explain, I have to tell a story that involves a bicycle (if you were wondering where this post got its title). When I was a little girl I used to like to bike at warp speed down this huge hill into the cul de sac by my house. One day I turned too sharply into the cul de sac and completely bikewiped out. The bike fell on top of my fifty-pound body (I was a super scrawny kid until the delights of puberty) and I had scrapes all over, especially my knees and elbows. Pretty sure my helmet was askew too.
And I started to cry like little children do, not just from the pain but from the shock of the crash and having no idea what to do next. Fortunately, a kindly neighbor came out, picked up the bike, put me back on my feet, and escorted both myself and the bicycle back to my house where my dad was waiting. I thought he’d be mad, but instead he was compassionate, bandaged me up, and told me I’d get ’em next time.

I think the love of God goes a lot like that. We’re riding along and everything is smooth sailing and suddenly we fall into sin and were lost. I think he’s more than happy to send the right people to come help us, and ready to heal us Himself, if we would only just trust Him enough to let Him do it, to let Him close to us, even though we’re all dirty and scraped up. He’s the last to judge. He doesn’t want anything from us, no expectations or wishing we were just better like our other brothers and sisters. He just wants to love us. Each of us. He is love itself, to the point where He is so selfless that His happiness doesn’t have any self-interest in it, His only desire is to love us and see us completed and totally healed by that love. That’s what satisfies His heart.

And I try to love God, myself, and others not from some twisted, social obligation that comes from our relativistic society right after a recommendation that we buy Nike running wear and eat a holistic diet, but because I want to see the Beatific Vision when I die. And the more I practice living in love, the more I see it now, while here on earth. And my response to that love is why I come off to my cousin the way that I do.

And even though he doubts I know I’ll see Tom in heaven, especially now that he knows my secret. That I don’t deserve the Beatific Vision or any praise at all for anything, but I will accept heaven as a gift from my Father because He is generous and He loves me so much. And by being in His presence, both in my life on earth and long after my earthly death, I hope I learn to love Him too. And I hope the same for my cousin.

And in fact, I hope the same for you, whoever you are.