Kallup! Kallup! Kallup! Kallup! That was the sound of our electrical snowblower pulling the cord around it’s wheels and blades when I ran over it while snowblowing. I collapsed in the driveway, frustrated with myself and angry. “I’m sorry! I’m such an idiot!” I said aloud as the thoughts in my head taunted me with much worse than I verbalized.
Up until that moment, I was thoroughly enjoying snowblowing for the first time, even with the inconvenience of keeping the cord out of the way. The exercise and fresh air were exhilarating and since work in my childhood home was unfairly gendered, it felt empowering and liberating.
“It IS a big deal,” I replied, wallowing in self pity. “I ruined the extension cord and now it’s all tangled. Who knows?! I probably ruined the snowblower too! All because I was careless and ran over it like an idiot.”
“Rach, quit” he said, “get those voices out of your head. It’s really not a big deal. You need to quit being so hard on yourself. You’re an amazing person” then looking me firmly in the eyes, he put his arm gently around me and said, “and I love you.”
I married a mensch, and it didn’t have to be that way. I recognize I could have easily ended up in an abusive situation in which the voice of my spouse did not echo the voice of God, and I sympathize with any person in a relationship in which the voice of someone closest to them echoes the voice of the Evil One, not the voice of God calling you the Beloved. A voice that controls, manipulates or insults your personhood is contrary to God’s plan for marriage, God’s plan for families and God’s plan for relationships.
In my own life, it was not my attentiveness, intelligence, looks, and it certainly was not my self-love or acceptance of my own belovedness that placed me in a beautiful relationship. Initially, it was a desire to be loved as I am, even at my worst, that led me to pursue Dylan’s love. And even though he showed me I could trust him by his words and actions, it took time and growing pains before I really trusted him and was able to reciprocate his love on a deeper level. I am grateful for him and that I can come closer to understanding God’s divine love through my husband’s love for me.
Not all my relationships are perfect. Most of them are not. For so long, I’ve been hung up on the Gospel’s teaching on forgiveness. I’ve interpreted forgiveness to mean “give the person who hurt you another chance. Let them start on a blank slate and love them again as if they didn’t injure you.” And while we are to forgive unceasingly, this self-harming way of forgiving and allowing yourself to be controlled, manipulated, used and injured is not the Gospel teaching.
If we look at the Holy Family as our example, when Herod decreed that all baby boys ages two and under were to be killed, Mary and Joseph did not go reason with Herod. They didn’t seek him out to forgive him. No, they listened to the angel who told them to flee to Egypt. They sought safety, and they stayed safe and kept Jesus safe. I’m sure that in spite of the pain, grief, and darkness of knowing those other precious, beloved baby boys were killed and in spite of crying out in sadness, they eventually forgave Herod. But their forgiveness was not an in-person act. Contrarily, they did not return from Egypt until Herod was dead and no longer a threat. Their act of forgiveness was an act that helped them move on. It was an act that allowed them to move on from the darkness of Herod’s actions and a desire to seek revenge.
I am not encouraging anyone to avoid active forgiveness. In fact, the Gospel also tells us when someone sins against us to let them know. If they don’t repent, bring one or two with you to establish facts and if the person refuses to listen still, take it to the Church. Well, there is only one Church Jesus founded so prior to the Reformation, this was obvious that you’d take it to the community of Christians.
Jesus encourages compassionate intervention, because people have the right to know what they’ve done wrong and should be given an opportunity to repent and make things right. BUT if you’ve already told them and they looped you back into a cycle of pain without changing OR if your safety or the safety of your children are at risk, for heaven’s sake, flee to Egypt.
The Gospel teaching is about love and we cannot love in our fullest without recognizing our own belovedness. It is hard to recognize our own belovedness if we are not safe, and safety includes safety from harmful words, actions, omission, inaction, indifference.
While Dylan has shown me through daily living that I am unconditionally *his* beloved, Henri Nouwen introduced me to the idea that fundamental to my identity as a human person is my belovedness. That’s right. Fundamental to my identity as a human person is my belovedness. And fundamental to *your* identity as a human person is your belovedness. We are created to love and to be loved.
“You are the Beloved,” Nouwen writes in his book, Life of the Beloved. “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence” (33).
In the podcast, Abiding Together, the podcasters talk about how God the Father’s love is not based on performance. Our identity as beloved is who we are! God’s love is unconditional, not based on our success or things that make us “important” on this earth. We do not need to perform to be loved, which is probably why so many of the saints are quoted as encouraging us to “be who you are!” They don’t say “Be someone else” or “Be successful on earth, then God will love you.”
Be who you are!!!!
Let’s be honest. We are all a lot like that broken snowblower. We are all tangled up by a cord of the things people have said or done or not said or not done that hurt and made us get wrapped up and feel unworthy of love. Our wheels are often paralyzed by that cord wrapped around them and that outside voice that has become our inner voice that tells us we are not enough. That inner voice that says “You are not enough” is from the Evil One, not God, so tell it to “go to hell!” Some of us spend most of our lives trying to prove our worthiness to people we think ought to love us. We “perform” for love and acceptance, only to learn the hard way that no matter how well we perform or what achievements we earn and what sacrifices we make to earn those achievements, we are not loved for who we are.
St. John Paul said, “Every human is deserving of being treated as an object of love, not an object of use.” So, don’t spend your energy trying to impress people who use you, reach out when they need something or to criticize you without ever checking up on you or getting to know you or your heart. The only opinion that matters is God’s, and you are His beloved.
And don’t worry! There’s hope! No amount of darkness can hide the flickering light of even a single flame.
If you have these feelings of hurt and brokenness, there’s hope. Your soul is calling to you, telling you there’s something not right. Perhaps God is calling you home, reminding you of your belovedness and encouraging you to be a spiritual refugee.
Spend time in prayer. Listen for the voice of God who wants to be close to you and accepts you as you are in your brokenness. He will illuminate your darkness. As you become closer to God, he will help you unwrap the tangled cords around your wheel and blades. It won’t be easy. It will take time. It will be tedious. You’ll be interrupted. Your fingers might get cut on the blade. You will sit in your woundedness and feel alone but you won’t BE alone. He will be there to help heal your brokenness if you let him. Ask his mother for her help. She always brings us closer to him and closer to that voice that calls you beloved.
Here are some resources to support you on your journey:
I only recently learned about “You Are Made New” (https://youaremadenew.com while on a pilgrimage to Mexico City with one of the founders. She’s amazing and so is this work she and her sister are doing. It is a wonderful resource and support for healing from emotional wounds and reclaiming our voice by integrating therapeutic tools with our Catholic faith. Check it out and let’s heal together!
Blessed Is She https://blessedisshe.net is a community of women devoted to prayer and sisterhood. One of my best friends invited me over to Editor, blogger and all-around amazing Nell O’Leary’s house for a fermentation workshop several years ago. I was in law school, and she is a self-proclaimed recovering lawyer. I reached out to her with some prayer intentions and she invited me to join this amazing sisterhood. I met some phenomenal sisters and close friends through attending events. I’ve bought a number of their products and love them all. A definite favorite is the Blessed Is She Planner. I purchased a planner two years ago and wouldn’t have survived Dylan’s mobilization overseas without it (or without the prayer warriors on the Blessed is She Facebook group). I received a planner as a gift this year after lamenting how disorganized I was last year without this specific planner. Sisters, I love planners and have purchased many and this is my fave. It’s still January so I highly recommend you purchase one today. https://blessedisshe.net/product-category/planners/
Speaking of Blessed Is She sisters, I met Kristin a few years ago at a Blessed is She Conference and we immediately connected. If you want some inspiration and support for your prayer life but don’t want to feel guilty, bad or inadequate, Kristin at http://onehailmaryatatime.com is super woman but does a wonderful job of empowering others by sharing the struggles, shortcuts and realities of being a busy working Mom. She inspires you to do better without feeling bad. In the hustle and bustle, she encourages the discipline of praying the rosary. She really inspired me to start praying the rosary as a family and now we pray the rosary together all the time! It’s been life changing! And you know how we started? One. Hail. Mary. At. A. Time! http://onehailmaryatatime.com
Lastly, I mentioned this resource above but I want to mention it again here: https://www.abidingtogetherpodcast.com
A dear friend and parish sister encouraged me to listen to this podcast this summer when our kids were attending Totus Tuus together. I blatantly refused, claiming lack of time and that I’m a reader, NOT a podcast-listener. She didn’t nag me, but she radiated joy whenever she talked about said podcast. I finally listened to it and haven’t stopped. If your home with your kids OR out in the work place for that matter, turning on this podcast is like doing coffee with a few of your best friends (you know, the ones that like to skip the small talk and get real with you) only there’s no need to dress for the occasion and you can listen whenever and wherever you are in your day. Tune in!
I hope you find these resources helpful and your new year is off to a great start! God bless and have a great day celebrating the baptism of our Lord!