I am so grateful that Christianity is a religion for the weak. Sometimes I find I want God to take away the struggle so that I can shine for Him, so that I can be happy and energetic and feel like doing good things for others. That’s just my pride I know. But I find that what really attaches me to God is learning how to be with Him in the middle of a miracle. I prefer to be on the other side of a miracle looking back on the marvels God has done for me and testifying about that to others. But it’s here in the middle of the miracle in the midst of a slow deliverance that I am finding God’s faithful love, His merciful love. The kind of love that only God has- the kind that truly loves misery and weakness and struggle and imperfections and everything that repulses the world. The gentle, patient God who invites me to trust through the pain, persevere in faith and to remember that life has its seasons of joys and sorrows but that God is always God.
So I had an awkward moment today, not that that’s especially rare for me. After dinner I finished helping my grandma with something and she commented, “you’re very nice.” Her smile was so genuinely sincere that I felt awkward because I’m really not.
I know that sounds bad like I’m fishing for a compliment or have low self esteem but in truth I’m really not a nice person. I had a moment a few years ago that was a profound turning point for me where I saw who I was without God’s grace. And it was ugly. It came at the end of a series of lows both personally and professionally that had taxed me to my absolute limit and that’s what I saw before my eyes that day: limits. I saw a proud young woman who had rejected God thinking she would do things her way and didn’t need the suffering He was giving. And at the end of that ill-fated rebellion came the realization that every gift I had ever been given came directly from God and on my own I had nothing. All the accomplishments I had attributed to my various talents, even the personal things I liked about myself like being kind and having a sense of humor, were beautiful gifts that came as a result of the love that had flowed so freely from God to me and I felt the absence of it, the absence of that union with God the life of love and grace I had been living without realizing it, down to the absolute depths of my soul.
I was tempted to complete despair in my misery and wretchedness and the pride that had been so blind to it, but I was blessed by two wonderful things that saved me by completely turning it around. The first was a consecration to the Blessed Mother who gently guided me like a mother back into life. The second was the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the wellspring of merciful love I found within it which made that life worth living.
I’ve heard it said, regrettably I forget by whom, that “mercy is where love meets misery.” I’ve experienced that to be true and never before had I known a love so selfless and so completely forgiving, but what astounded me the most was how completely unchangeable it was. Jesus loved me as much at my best as He did when I was at my worst and I understood for the first time a little more of what real love was.
So now as you can judge for yourself I’m really not very nice. I’m genuinely nothing at all. But God loves me. And from that love I have life, the abundant life God promised in Scripture. And that life is what my grandma noticed when she told me that “I’m very nice.” I am very nice because God’s grace is stronger than my many many weaknesses and has been so transformative that I feel like a living miracle. I am very nice because the faithful love of God gives me great joy which circumstances cannot take away. I am very nice because the fountain of mercy from the pierced side of Christ on His cross has saved me and I look forward to eternal life in Heaven. I am nice not because of anything I am on my own but because God’s love is so perfect that it’s making me into His image which is not just “nice”, it’s perfect holiness which is an immersion in the perfect Love of the Trinity.
As a result of all this, what I am not good at anymore is accepting compliments because I always feel like the compliment belongs to God and to the love which He reveals by turning sinners into saints.
If you have not already read “I’m Not Sure I Want to be Catholic” I would recommend doing that now as this is its cleverly titled sequel.
In that article I spoke (wrote?) of a genuine love I have for people who struggle, my fellow imperfectionists, but I wanted to prove it by compiling a list of resources that certainly helped me strengthen my faith as well as the blog posts they inspired once I started putting my newfound faith into practice.
This is just a general and bare bones list for those just starting out in their faith walk, those looking to be inspired, those who are looking to understand their faith more deeply, those who don’t believe and think they might like to, those atheists/agnostics looking to challenge themselves or debate me in some way as a representative of the Christian religion they dislike, and/or those who don’t have faith anymore and would maybe like to have it back.
As much as you may think this post is a giant plug and be rolling your eyes, I promise I’m sincere. I know the ins and outs of internal struggle and it is just etched on my brain, which is to say, I remember vividly how difficult and isolating navigating those difficult big questions can be when your life just feels like a series of crossroads and you’re not sure which direction to walk in. And it’s hard to open up to people about that sometimes, I don’t even know why.
So I thought this would be nice because it’s totally anonymous, you don’t have to tell anyone you perused the lists, and even if absolutely no one reads anything I’ll feel a heck of a lot better and maybe one person will believe that I care from the effort itself.
Here goes nothing!
Things I have written on the topic (I put them in sequential order because they build off one another):
- The Bicycle
- A New Faith
- Don’t Give Up
- The Littler Way (personal favorite)
- The Presence of God
- What Is The True Nature of God?
Things people holier than me have written on the topic:
(Anything in parenthesis is an overview or explanation of why I added it to the list so you know what you’re getting yourself into. I tried to add something for everyone.)
- Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality by Mother Angelica (it’s like “the spiritual life for dummies” book so naturally it was very effective for me, she will give you a very strong foundation on which to build a relationship with God and/or give your pre-existing spiritual life some juice)
- You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado (really great integration of relatable life stories and powerful scripture, easy but effective read)
- Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley (clears up perceptions about how Jesus loves and how He wants to relate to you)
- 33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat In Preparation for Marian Consecration by Fr. Michael E. Gaitley (Gaitley will explain exactly what the consecration is but I would highly recommend trying it if you have been struggling with anything for a while and having trouble kicking it completely, this consecration opened the door to the faith described in all the above blog posts.)
- Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (if the modern world has you confused and lacking purpose he will set you straight. A witty defense of Christian faith and doctrine but I would recommend listening to it on tape via youtube or LibraVox because it is so rich)
I wouldn’t recommend anything that I didn’t think worth your time or which I had not read myself.