We feel…shame at seeing our misery and our baseness exposed. Yet this misery possesses the mysterious privilege of attracting our Lord. This is difficult to understand, yet it is an incontestable truth. Our nothingness and our misery constitute the force that attracts our Lord.
(Secrets of the Interior Life)
I’ve never really understood this idea of how our misery attracts the Lord to us. Generally, when I see my own miserableness, it is repulsive or something I want to hide. It isn’t something that is attractive or pleasant. When it comes to seeing the miserableness of others, I’m not much better. My personality is one that desires perfection. The people around me (including me) are continually letting me down because they don’t live up to my image of perfection.
Yet the Lord uses all things for good. The cheating incident I mentioned a couple posts back has really pushed my heart. It made me move from anger to forgiveness. A few days later when the individuals came back and we spoke, I found great freedom in being able to express how they had hurt me and to hear them apologize. The relief on their faces was incredible. It was though they walked into my room carrying a burden and then through the exchange of a few words, that burden was lifted. My burden was lifted, too.
Strangely, over the last couple weeks, I have found a special tenderness in my hearts toward those individuals. No longer angry, I am able to love them as they are: flawed human beings. The Lord knows I have difficulty loving people in their humanity and so I am beginning to be grateful for this incident. I don’t want to love them only when I think they are perfect, but for the beautiful complexity that is wrapped up within their hearts and souls. I know myself and so I know I do not want to be loved merely for my seeming perfection but rather in my entirety. In the midst of this, I experienced for the first time, at least consciously, the way that misery attracts my heart.
There is a connection I feel with these students. Together, we have endured something that strained our relationship and added stress to our lives. I know they are weak and capable of betraying my trust. Yet I know they are far more than that. In them, I see myself, weak and failing, wearily returning to the Lord time and time again with flaws too deep to heal on my own.
My heart is far from being like the Lord’s heart. Yet this event has filled me with a desire for that chasm to be lessened. What if I responded as the Lord? How strange that would seem! What if I lived as mercifully as I want the Lord to be toward me?
The Lord uses all things for His greater good. I find it interesting, though, that the flaws in others seem to point more clearly to the flaws in me. I don’t learn as much from the “good days” as I do on the days where I am pushed and stretched beyond my normal limits. It is in these difficult situations that the Lord gives us the chance to practice mercy. There is the beautiful theology of mercy and then there is the living it out with our lives as we guide others into our own wounds and enter into the wounds of others.
Merciful Heart of Jesus, purify our hearts and our desires. Make us like You.
(Artwork is Caravaggio’s Incredulity of Saint Thomas)