Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.
My departure from home to the Engels was bittersweet, of course. I was sad but resigned to going solo and making the most of my time alone with God. Even as I drove, I prayed for the ability to forgive my family, for Jodi (and Emma) to forgive my anger and hurtful words, and for God to have mercy on us all.
I arrived after dark, opened things up and turned on the lights, then turned Bruno and Dusty loose in the house together. Immediately they began tearing around the house, wagging, snarling, rolling, and wrestling. I began streaming the Friday night blues programming from Jazz88 and opened the windows to the lake breezes and nightly noises, then cracked a beer. I sat, watching the dogs, listening to the blues, nursing a beer, and feeling calm but discontented.
Finally I turned off the music and began to reflect. I had started my Marian reconsecration earlier in the day and made the following notes in my journal.
Remember to surrender to Christ’s love for me: I am the one who leans his head on Jesus’ breast and learns what He has to share. He is working in me and calling me now, as I am today. He loves me now. I will not disqualify myself from that love or whatever He has planned for me. I am called and chosen today!
As soon as I reflected on these words, I began to feel peaceful—loved by God—and yet sorrowful to the roots of my heart for the ways in which I hadn’t loved those He has entrusted to me. I began to long for a better, stronger, softer, and more loving heart: a heart more like His. And I began to think that God may have called me to the lake alone for a purpose. I wrote more.
I do not yet seek His sufferings, like St. Pio or St. Gemma—I am just learning to feel loved enough to be intimate or familiar with Him. He is, I think, calling me to re-creation—to rest with Him; to learn how to do that.
The words of Audrey Assad’s song “Lament” came to mind: “Why is it easy to work and hard to rest sometimes?” Again I wrote.
Help me, Lord, to receive your peace, your joy, your love—to receive and rest with you—to listen to your words, to trust and rejoice.
* * * * *
I woke in the morning before sunrise, to loons on the lake and a distant rooster. I felt bone-tired and yet rejuvenated somehow. I rose to put the dogs out, to start coffee, and to pray and reflect some more.
It is barely 6:00 a.m. and already I have caught myself saying, “If I do this, maybe I can get to heaven.”
It’s not flat-out wrong—we believe in faith and works—but it is insidious. We don’t have to earn God’s love or heaven. He loves us more than we can fathom and our souls are bought and paid for. We need only to struggle and finish the race.
Father said it’s not as though God’s mercy lowers the bar—He’s not saying, “Well, these people are pathetic, but maybe if we drop the standards, a few more can make it in.” No—His mercy raises us—as in marriage, when we know how much we are loved, we want to be better men.
Lord, I want to be a better man.
The readings for that morning were providential as well: The end of the first reading echoed the line from 1 Peter, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” and the responsorial, Psalm 141, included the line, “O Lord, set a watch before my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips.”
I hurt in the moment—but when I’m living in the spirit I won’t overreact, won’t hurt [others] in the moment, because I’ll recognize that whatever He does, He does for my sanctification.
Like this time alone with Him.
In the Gospel for the day, Jesus told His disciples to let the children come to Him, insisting, “[W]hoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Bishop Barron’s daily reflection focused on what this quote means.
[C]hildren are like stars or flowers or animals, things that are what they are, unambiguously, uncomplicatedly. They are in accord with God’s deepest intentions for them. The challenge of the spiritual life is to realize what God wants us to be—to find out what is in line with the deepest grain of our being—and thereby come to the same simplicity and directness in our existence.
Let me put this another way: children haven’t yet learned how to look at themselves. Why can a child immerse himself so eagerly and thoroughly in what he is doing? Because he can lose himself; because he is not looking at himself, conscious of the reactions, expectations, and approval of those around him. The best moments in life are when we lose ourselves in the world and just are as God wants us to be.
‘Round about this point, I texted my bride: “HE wanted me here alone. I forgive you and ask you to forgive me. Please tell Emma too.”
Later in the morning, as we waited for the live stream of Kate’s graduation to begin (me, at the lake; my family, at home), I took the opportunity to watch the new Joy-Filled Marriage DVDs we are considering for the engaged couples retreats at St. Michael. Again, Providence provided: Christopher West tells a story of when he and his bride were going through a rough patch and went out to dinner together. They asked each other how things were going, and agreed that things were going well, despite it all. Then they asked each other why they thought things were going well, and agreed it was because they had both come to the realization that their spouse could never satisfy them.
My bride will never satisfy me. And Lord knows I will never satisfy her.
Why? Because, to paraphrase St. Augustine, God made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.
So much pressure, released with that revelation…
* * * * *
We went to Mass separately after the graduation webcast: me, to St. Tim’s in Maple Lake; the rest of the family, to St. Michael.
Walking forward to receive the Eucharist—alone at St. Timothy’s—for the first time it seems like the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. I’m walking up the aisle with a smile on my face and peace in my heart, Father’s words echoing…’He chooses you—today—as you are.’
He chooses me.
I had much to share with my bride when she and the kids arrived at the lake. It was a joyous reunion.
* * * * *
Also on Friday night after I arrived: I located a biography of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. She is, it turns out, Kate’s patroness, so I had asked Kate if she had or could recommend a good book about her. Her sister Livi has just finished reading the one they had, she said—it should be in a stack of books and papers in the basement family room.
I went downstairs and found it, a young reader’s biography written almost as a novel. The connections to and between the various devotions I had been called to were so numerous, I couldn’t put it down. That will be the subject of my next post.
* * * * *
My journal entry for Sunday with my family was a single line:
RE-CREATION = Loved back into Being