Their Eyes

I live for the moments when their eyes look like they did yesterday.  When I’m opening my heart because for a few moments it feels safe with a class, and their eyes are fastened on me.  I want to read the stories that are written there.  I want to profess my love for them even though it is all heightened and strengthened by the moment.  A few seem on the verge of tears, but all appear to grasp my sincerity and my desire to impart this knowledge to them.

I’m discerning on my feet if I should tell them about that powerful prayer experience I had a couple weeks ago.  And I do.  I talk about spiritual direction and share what I learned from it just the day before.

Maybe some are annoyed with my long preaching session, wondering if it is going to be required knowledge for the test.  But I cannot tell that those thoughts are running through their minds.  I can only see their eyes.  They are pools of experiences–hurt and joy.  And I desire to sit down with them and hear all the stories.  I don’t always feel that keen desire, sometimes I forget that their experiences are just as real as my own.

I’m trying to speak truth into situations that I do not know or understand, but I know they are in them.  Because I’m in similar situations.  It is part of the human condition.

The simple truth I desired to impart was this: Jesus knows.  He knows what it feels like to be in their shoes and to experience the pain they feel.  I spoke about how all of Jesus’ friends abandoned Him at the moment He most needed them.  He knows what it is like to feel betrayed and left alone.  He suffered for the sins and sufferings of the entire world, throughout all of history.  And He did this so that when we come to something that seems too much, He can tell us that He already passed through this, too.

And I asked them to find Jesus in the midst of it all.  How is Jesus loving you in this situation?  He is present in death, in their parents’ divorce, and in the betrayal of a friend.  He is loving us through every situation.

A priest pointed this out to me the other day–I told him I was seeking to see each experience as God trying to convert my heart and he included that each experience was God loving me.  How quick I am to shift the focus just enough that it distorts the image.  It is different to experience all as a means for my own conversion and quite another to see it as an avenue of His love.

“I don’t understand,” one student says.  “How can you find Jesus loving you in your parents’ divorce?”

And I don’t have a clear answer.  I can’t give them a Scripture passage or a Catechism reference to answer it nicely.  Instead, I must tell them that I don’t know how Jesus is seeking to love them in their difficulties, but I know that He is doing it.  That we need to open our hearts, to not pull back when we are wounded and to open them to the Healer.  I am speaking to myself as much as I am speaking to them.

Reminding them that Jesus is present in all, reinforces that belief in me.  All I’ve experienced He has already experienced and has thus sanctified the experience.  And each experience is a new way to receive His love.

All can be seen through the eyes of Love.

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Where is Jesus in it?

It is painfully beautiful to be alive.

I’ve experienced the piercing blade of beauty.  It makes you wince and feel more alive all at once.  The delicate blanket of fog that covers the lake nestled amidst the Swiss Alps.  A sunrise view atop a radio tower on a mountain in Austria.  Glorious fields of grain stretching to the horizon.  The crinkled eyes of a loved one when they are smiling.  Late nights spent talking with a friend you haven’t seen for too long.  In these moments, the beauty strikes our hearts and it is easy to see, take in, and embrace the glories of being alive.

Sometimes the emphasis seems to fall more on the side of pain as opposed to beauty.  Yet in most moments (I’m not certain if I can argue for all moments yet), one can find beauty in the pain, if one is willing to look for it.

The beauty found in the pain of: waking up early for work, a morning run with a dear friend when talking takes far too much effort, a heart overflowing with all sorts of emotions, and speaking difficult words that later bring peace.

And then there are the moments where life seems to blindside you, where the pain is evident but the beauty is masked.

A young person I barely knew recently died.  I guess I am uncertain what type of response I expected to have.  My heart ached and a heaviness filled it.  At one point, as captive tears broke free, I wondered if this is what it means to have a mature heart, one that can feel pain even when the tragedy doesn’t really change one’s life.  The pain didn’t just last for a few moments but seemed to linger, clouding my thoughts and casting a pallor over the next couple days.

It was uncertain how he died, but I kept imagining the different scenarios I was told.  At Mass on Saturday, I couldn’t help it.  My brain insisted on replaying the possible options, my heart aching with each dramatic death I imagined.  I hoped that maybe I would be able to speak to my spiritual director about it and gain his perspective.  Then I realized that I already knew what he would say to me.

He would ask, “Where is Jesus in it?”

So I tried it.  “Where is Jesus in this tragedy?”  I replayed the awful images but inserted Jesus into the mental video.  There He was–walking right beside the boy, tears coursing down His face, gently whispering his name.  It was a painfully beautiful experience as I watched Him carry him.  Soon I was including a guardian angel and the Blessed Mother into the picture.  It was transforming the scene.  The tragedy was still there, but the beautiful pain was making an appearance.

This truth that I had learned before was once again re-impressed on my heart: Christ never leaves us.  Regardless of what we do, how far we try to run, or what we tangibly experience, Jesus is always present, gently whispering our names, and desiring to enter into the wounds we try so hard to fill with insufficient medicine.

Throughout life, none of us walks or falls or lives alone.  Christ is always there in the midst.  And that is what makes life painfully beautiful.

“There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us.  There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered.  There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us.”     -St. John Paul the Great

The Providential God

The only thing certain about life is that it is uncertain. 

That isn’t deep or profound.  But it is true.  Yesterday I found out that a young woman I went to college with lost her husband of 5 months.  It made my heart ache even though we never talked much.  I was surprised the effect it had on me.  That evening and this morning I found myself thinking a lot about her and how hard it must be. 

Yet it made me worry for myself.  Too often I trick myself into thinking that my complete happiness will come when I am engaged, or finally married, or starting a family.  Everything is transient, though, and it can all be taken away in a moment.  My heart began to feel restricted and desired to be closed off.  I began to desire that I would never be in a situation where so much could be lost.  So quickly I was being tricked into thinking that to be closed off was a better option than suffering at the hands of love or for the sake of love.

I imagined what she was feeling and I knew I never wanted to feel that.  I didn’t ask the age-old question, “God, why do bad things happen to good people?  Why did this tragedy happen?”  I didn’t ask that question because I didn’t wonder it.  The question I asked instead was “What can I cling to, Lord?  How could I endure losing that which I hold closest to my heart?”  In honesty, I was thinking that having God alone wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted more than the assurance that God would always be with me.  Instead I wanted promises that specific people would always be in my life, that certain things would never happen to me, and that parts of my heart would be left unbroken. 

I know that God alone is enough.  That He provides the graces for every heartache.  Yet in all honesty, I do not live as though He is enough.  I do not cling to Him now as though He is all that is certain.  I cling to other superficial things or to things, good as they are, that cannot fulfill me.

My mind knows the correct answer.  God will provide.  In fact, God is providing.  It is not some future promise but rather a lived reality.  The paradox of love is that one must love with one’s heart vulnerable and revealed or it is not actually love.  Yet to love means one will suffer and feel sorrow.  I have a natural tendency to want to protect my heart, to guard it from all that could injure it.  This can be good but it can also close it off from a deep, penetrating love.  The battle within is between self-preservation and self-gift.

This little heart has a lot of expanding to do.  She needs to begin to live as though everything rests in the hands of God and that He will truly provide for every need.  To be so grounded in the Lord that should all else be lost, she could rest assured that not everything was truly lost.  Sacred Heart of Jesus, sanctify our hearts.

P.S. My household sister who lost her husband has a fund set up for her and their unborn baby.  If you feel your heart moved in that direction, please give a gift of money.  Regardless, please pray for them.

http://www.gofundme.com/5fd75k