Satisfying Our Hearts

I used to have a really bad heart. Really. When I say heart, I am referring to my emotional state and emotions in general. I had a really bad heart; it was very damaged. I was in a very serious relationship for a long time–5 years to be exact. When the relationship ended, I hardly had any other friends and therefore hardly any support. My heart was so heavy, and yet so empty. Everything I did was to try and fill the emptiness, the cracks, and breaks in my heart. Trying to reconnect with my ex didn’t work out (all 80 times that I tired), each time backfiring with deeper woes. So I tried forming new connections of friendship once, twice… I had none. In that moment I was pretty hopeless, but completely numb. I was too numb to feel my hopelessness, too numb to feel empty or hurt…or even pleasure…even shallow pleasure.

In this numbness I figured I could be totally logical about life, and so I tried to be. I tried to make sense of the state that I was in. I figured that the human heart was really stupid, selfish, and shortsighted. Stupid because it only ever wanted things that it couldn’t have, and trying to have such things only caused more hurt. Selfish because it always wanted, and wanted more. Pretty annoying. Shortsighted because it wanted to feel better now, at any and all costs.

I kept these beliefs about the heart and emotions for a long time. Now many years from that part of my life, I have gained a better understanding of the desires of the human heart. Our hearts have real emotional needs. However, it is the brain that puts names to these needs throughout our lives. We experience a longing in our hearts and then our minds provide an explanation. The problem with this is that our minds can only give explanations using what they already know, what they have already experienced. This is why, all those years ago, what I so often craved emotionally were past experiences, past feelings from my relationship. Obviously, those feelings were problematic in the first place. Trying to replicate the feelings I had during a long relationship, but in a fraction of the time, had disastrous consequences.

You see, the signals of desire we experience don’t always (hardly ever, really) lead us to what we really need. This even happens physiologically. For example, our bodies did not develop a very effective way of letting us know that we need to drink water. Our brain often confuses thirst with hunger. A lot of the time when we feel hungry between meals, it is actually our body trying to signal that we are dehydrated and need water. Similarly, somewhere between our hearts and our heads, the signals of our desires get mixed up. We struggle to know how to truly satisfy our hearts and to understand what we need emotionally.

Of course, I have only come to understand all of this in retrospect. Now I see why and how this downward spiral of my heart got so low! I didn’t really know what my heart needed. It wasn’t the feelings from my past relationship that my heart was really looking for, but rather I was longing for the Love of loves, the Source of all love and intimacy. My heart was a parched desert, dried up from a broken relationship and failed attempts at healing. But how could I have turned to God’s quenching love if I had never known it? If I had never before truly experienced it?

Now I understand the symptoms of God calling my heart to Him. When my heart craves so much more than I could ever expect from people, I know I’m craving time in prayer. When I feel starved for attention, I know it’s intimate prayer time that I need. When I feel like I need to gain people’s acceptance, worrying about how I’m dressed, my hair, and the way I talk, I know I’m being called to find my self-security in my Father. When I feel entitled to the love of those closest to me, or when I start to do favors for others in hopes of getting love back from them, I know…beyond a doubt…that I need to turn to the One true source of satisfaction in prayer, and accept His love.

The secret is, I gotta know! I have got to know God loves me THAT much! That huge amount of love and fulfillment I’m looking for? He’s got it! He waits for MY attention, not the other way around. He takes me as I am, and loves me. He loves me so much; I want to be a better person, for Him. Most importantly, with His love, I KNOW I can continue to change for the better. My weaknesses and my life situations are not greater than His love for me.

SO! Brothers and sisters, what love do you know? What glimpses of love have you experienced that you are trying to put in the place of God’s love in your heart? Where do you go looking for love when you long for ultimate, perfect fulfillment? What do you do, because of past experiences, to get that quick fix of attention and care instead of turning to Him, the One who constantly waits for your attention? Who do you try to be, or where do you go for acceptance, as conditional and temporary as it may be, instead of falling into the unconditional and infinite arms of God? He is the only One who can provide the kind of love, peace, joy, security, acceptance, and attention that you so long for.

Get to know Him, and satisfy your heart.

Good Things!

“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good things? This also is vanity and a worthless task. Two are better than one… If the one falls, the other will lift up his companion. Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up.” -Ecclesiastes 4:8-10

Sometimes we find it easier to just keep to ourselves rather than making the effort to reach out to others to form new relationships or to build upon existing ones. Vulnerability is really hard for most of us and we usually play it safe by staying in our private comfort zones, even when we’re struggling. Deep down, we all long for fulfilling relationships; for Christlike brothers and sisters to walk with on our journey. These wholesome relationships and all the times of fellowship that come with them are GOOD things and great blessings. They bring joy, renewal, comfort, encouragement, and growth. But many of us “toil and deprive” ourselves of these kinds of relationships by not stepping out of our comfort zones, whether it’s due to our pride, fear of rejection, past hurts, or lack of courage. Who has God been tugging at your heart with to reach out to? To open up with? To encourage? Be bold! Humble yourself and take a leap of faith. Just as you hunger, so do they. Don’t deprive yourself of these good things. You are being called into all kinds of relationships every day. Start taking steps to foster these relationships and see what you’ve been missing. +

Take Off Your Mask

“Therefore, putting away all falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” -Ephesians 4:25

We are all so very good at wearing our masks. We hide behind false faces, routine responses, and surface-level interactions. We’re so used to doing this with both people and God, but it is a serious barrier between us all. What are your “masks”? What are some concrete ways that you can start “putting away all falsehood” and being more real with yourself, with God, and with everyone around you? It may be uncomfortable and unnatural at first, but it will be like a weight lifted off your heart every time you let go a little more of the control you exert over how others view you. When we reduce our focus on our own image and facade of perfection, we are able to better connect with our true selves, with God, and with everyone we encounter. Let’s work at this reckless abandon to who GOD has created us to be–with all our quirks and oddities–instead of who WE want to project ourselves as. Share that authentic YOU in truth and sincerity. You are hungry for authenticity, and so is everyone around you. +

Hard Love

“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” -Dorothy Day

Think about the person you just can’t stand, the person that hurt you, the person who rubs you the wrong way. Do you have a clear image of them? Are you feeling all those negative feelings for them? That’s how much you love God.

Ouch! If you’re anything like me (human), several different people came to mind just now. The above passage is from a book I am reading by Father Larry Richards titled Surrender! The Life-Changing Power of Doing God’s Will and let me tell you, it is kicking my behind! In this section of the book, Father Larry talks about the only commandment that Jesus ever gave us: to love.

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” -John 13:34

I know we’ve all heard this verse and the lesson to “love one another” countless times before, but some times we (especially I) need to think about it again and in a new way. How easily we all read and accept this verse without truly understanding what it means for us! Even more difficult is to remember this instruction of Christ when we are being called to put it into action. You see, the difficulty for us arises because Jesus didn’t say to love only those we feel good about loving. He didn’t say, “Love those who love you, who are nice to you, who are kind and good-hearted.” Neither did he say to only love those who are good people, who follow God’s teachings. Just the opposite!

The Son of God, our Savior and redeemer, commanded us: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” As He has loved us… So, how has He loved us? What does this commandment mean? It means authentically loving those people who came to mind when you started reading this post. That is how God has loved us. Despite our sin, even though we constantly turn away from Him, while we continue to choose things other than Him every day… He loves us. He loves us, His disobedient and deviant children, so much that He gave His life that we might live. Even moreso, He continues to forgive, and forgive, and forgive all the ways that we hurt Him because He loves us. This is the type of love we are called to. This is the type of love that will prove how much we really love God.

Remember that saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”? Who is it for you? Who do you find hard to love in your life? Who do you find hard to love as a Christian? You and I have got to become the ones who bring love into this world that does not know love!

Let’s review-

The person who cuts you off in traffic when you’re running late: Love them!

The person who annoys you the most: Love them!

The person who gossips about you: Love them!

The person who insults you, ridicules you, and makes fun of your faith: Love them!

The person who doesn’t believe in God: Love them!

The person who hurt you, lied to you, betrayed you, and left you broken: Yes, you must come to love them too.

I never said it would be easy. Jesus never said it would be easy. But it is what we must do if we are to be followers of Christ; if we desire eternity with Him.

Now, loving these people does not mean that we condone any wrong or hurtful actions that they do or may have done, but rather we love them in spite of those actions. Loving them means that we show them mercy when we want to hold a grudge; that we give them kindness when we want to give them scorn; that we show patience when we want to get angry. Above all, loving others (all others) means surrendering how we want to treat people and living out how Christ wants them treated.

Father Larry says:

“Love is hard. It is not like we hear in all our modern love songs. Love begins when you are willing to lay down your life for the person on the bottom of your list, the one you can’t stand. That is love. I like to say that we begin to know what it is to love like God when we start to hope that the person we can’t stand the most gets to sit right next to us in heaven for all eternity! What a hard thought. This is why we need God’s Amazing Grace. It takes the God of the Universe to love others in us and through us. That person on the bottom of your list is someone whom God loved and gave his life for. He tells us, ‘I want you to be my instrument of love to that person.’ And we respond, ‘Oh no, I don’t think so.’ But God encourages us, ‘That’s what I want you to do. I want you to be love in a world that does not know love.'”

Who are you being called to love in your life? I know who the people are that God is calling me to love, even though I don’t really want to. Will you take up this challenge with me? Will you join me in loving as Christ loves? If we do this, if we all do this, we really can bring light to a world that is so dark. They will know we are Christians by our love. So let’s start loving.