And so, the summer draws to a close.
I just got back from vacation a few days back, and it was a much needed break from everything that’s been going on around me for the past few months.
I was able to step outside of myself by serving as a leader for a girls’ camp, and the greatest reward for this service was new or deeper friendships with people I love with all my heart.
But one thing that really resonates with me from vacation is the night I went to Adoration and Confession.
First of all, in itself, these two sacraments are worth blogging about – the beauty, the mystery, the glory…I could do on for days.
But it isn’t necessarily the form and matter of these sacraments that I’m still feeling fiery about, but more of what happened to me while I was present before Christ in the Eucharist and while I was experiencing Christ’s mercy through His servant.
So, readers, let me begin at the beginning. Bear with me.
A year of slight trouble, a semester of a little bit worse issues, and the Spring semester to rival Hell itself. Two years at this place and I’m just exhausted. Then this summer began and it was slow…quiet…empty.
Will I ever feel rested? Will I ever feel peace? Joy?
Then, this camp – 15 odd young girls who are looking to me for an example, for love, for joyfulness and peace .
And what can I give them but my scarred hands and scared heart?
Because that’s what I am – scarred and scared.
Adoration night comes, the Wednesday smack in the middle of camp, and I was nervous. Nervous because I blame myself in no small way for what has happened to me in the past, and nervous because I know that I’m not to blame and He doesn’t hate me, but I hate myself sometimes and isn’t that a slap in His face to hate His own creation?
I don’t want to slap Him in the face!
But I have, time and time again – I’ve sinned, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve been wounded and given wounds – each time driving that nail deeper and deeper, my every shame my every hammer.
So I was nervous.
Nervous because how can I sit in front of the Man who died for me and tell Him that He’s wrong to love me, wrong to forgive me, wrong to want me?
How can I sit at His feet and spit on them?
My friend told me a few times during the week of camp to stop hitting myself with a hammer – in other words, stop killing myself for something that has been forgiven of me.
Why would I hammer myself to the Cross Jesus already hangs on? – He has taken my stead, yet I refuse to accept that.
So I was nervous.
But then – love.
Pouring over the girls, from the girls, for the girls – pouring out of that Host being adored by His saints on earth…
A friend, a co-leader, shuffled back, unasked, to lay her hand on my knee. A little smile, prayers – how did she know that I needed someone to tell me that I’m worth it?
Another friend, the worship leader, beckoned me to her, laid her hands on my shoulders. Another smile, bigger, and prayers – how did she know that I needed someone to tell me that I’m worth it?
The tears started, the music softly lilting I love you I love you I love you over and over in my ears and heart.
How did He know I just wanted to feel like I’m worth it – I’m worth death, even my scarred scared self – how did He know?
I began to feel buoyant, light-headed. I joined my friends in praying over the girls, laying hands and giving smiles and pats here and there.
But then one girl came up to me, only me, and asked for words. I glanced around – all my friends were praying over girls or strumming a guitar.
So I prayed for myself and then began to pray for this girl – the words came tumbling from me and the tears came tumbling from her.
I remember saying this to her – “Daughter, you are good because I made you good. No wound of yours is so deep that Mine are not deeper.”
And she looked up at me and into my eyes, and He said listen to Me. Anna!
Listen to Me! You are good because I made you good! Do you not trust that I have made you perfectly and beautifully?
I told her again, over and over, you are good you are worth it you are loved and we cried and hugged and worshiped together in awe.
I went to the priest for Confession – Father, forgive me. Father! Daddy! Forgive me!
A balm – I do forgive you! With every hammering of the nail!
My nails, my hammer – and He forgives, but more than that, He loves.
I presented my confessor with problems – stay and carry my cross, leave and run away? How do I forgive him – how do I forgive myself? What if I accidentally make the wrong decision? What if I make the wrong decision on purpose?
You know what my confessor did?
He laughed at me in Confession.
Then he told me the following story, paraphrased: “When Peter saw Jesus standing in the water, he cried out ‘if you’re Jesus, tell me to step into the water!’ Now, suppose it weren’t Jesus. Suppose it were a demon, an apparition – the demon would’ve told Peter to step out of the boat and then would’ve let him drown. It was a really stupid way to find out whether the figure Peter could see was truly Jesus or not. But, while Jesus knew Peter was being absolutely stupid, He let him walk on water anyway.”
No matter how stupid we are, He is there.
But Father, I asked, I don’t want to be stupid, I want to make the right decision. What if I choose wrongly?
At this point, he stopped laughing at me and yelled instead – “Will you stop limiting God’s power and will and love! This isn’t a choose the right hand game – you can’t lose with God! God is in every decision, His Will is providential, not a choose-your-own-adventure!”
Here is where I began to feel incredibly Peter-like. Stupid.
I left confession. Cried some more. Prayed, loved, worshiped.
It was a wonderful, healing, night – a wonderful and healing week.
Readers, I tell you this story because I am still scarred and scared.
But when we offer Jesus our scarred hands and scared hearts, He makes them new!
There is no wound of yours that is so deep that His are not deeper.
He knows, He has suffered more than we ever will. He knows what it’s like to be scarred, and He knows what it’s like to be scared.
You know what He does when we kneel before Him and stretch out scarred hands holding scared hearts? You know what He says?
“Arise, my Darling, My beautiful one, come with Me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Arise, and come!” (read)
He takes one look at us – scarred scared us – and beckons to us.
On a night that I had a particularly fruitful chat with that first dear friend who placed her scarred hand over mine in Adoration, I posted a status on Facebook saying that it’s much more difficult to answer the call “Arise, come!” than one would think. But, I wrote “it’s clear now that the first step is not getting up and going anywhere…the first step is allowing yourself to be loved. If we refuse to allow ourselves to be loved by Him, if we can’t or won’t accept what He desires to give us, why would we bother meeting him anywhere? That’s the key to His command – he mandates “be loved” before He mandates “come,” and finally understanding that has made all the difference.”
Be loved, readers, that’s His ultimate command.
Yes, He commands us to love – but we can only love because He loved us first.
Look at your scarred hands and scared heart – stop hammering the nails in and let His love heal.
Stop hitting yourself with a hammer and let the love come from His wounds to fill up yours.
Readers, I am a little sporadic with my post tonight. I’m a little scatterbrained.
But I have to tell this story before I forget it – before I lose feeling by hammering myself numb.
I cannot go back to feeling the way I’ve felt the past two years – I do not want to.
But it might not matter about the location so much as it matters about my attitude.
It’s okay to be scarred and scared – we are all scarred and scared – but it’s okay to let Him love us, too.
I firmly believe that all suffering is redemptive – but that doesn’t give us the right to abuse what God created in love, for love, of love, to love.
No wound of ours is so deep that His are not deeper.
And so –
I still don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I’m going to answer His mandates.
Be Loved, and come!
Arise, beloved, and come with me!
Will you answer His call?