Debra Black reflects upon our spiritual story: the journey to loving our Triune God.
Blood of Christ, relief of the burdened, save us. (The Litany of the Precious Blood of Jesus)
Each of us has our own spiritual story. Our spiritual journey is the story of our growth in relationship with God as our Father, Jesus our Lord, and the love of the Holy Spirit. Forming a vulnerable heart, one willing to open itself to its Creator, is needed for this relationship. Preventing this are wounds that come from our pop culture, family culture, economic strife, and even politics and governmental regimes. We also must own our own choices, the harm we have done to ourselves and others. And while this mostly manifests from these other wounds, it is often our own harmful choices that can prevent us from believing God loves us. The lies we hold about our own identity create a fear of the Truth that will transform and heal us.
Meanwhile, imperceptible to us is the life of Christ growing within us. That life is the light of grace which comes to us from the Sacraments (sanctifying grace) and which God bestows upon us and our everyday activities (actual grace). Many days may find you overwhelmed by duties, chaos, and unforeseen circumstances. Worst of all is when there seems to be no one who understands your plight or offers to help. We often hear the metaphor used to describe these times as a dry desert or a desert season.
Yet just as the desert is brought back to life with rain, the desert of the heart is brought to new life with Jesus’ abundant grace. It is precisely these times when no strength is left within you, and you are too tired to even try to find a path out of your troubles, that our Lord is most glorified in His loving aid. Your total emptiness leaves the most room for Jesus in your heart and mind. In your well of dryness, He will create a space for His living water to heal and sanctify you.
For my angel is with you, and he will keep watch on you. (Baruch 6:6)
While we know this truth from Scripture, it can be difficult to believe it during these times, particularly when the trials and chaos continue at length. Too often the voice of our own brokenness tells us the lie that God is punishing us for our sins. Our loving God, the God of second chances, never causes desolation or evil in our life. But He permits it so that we cling to Him. When we face the reality that just one of our mortal sins could separate us from Him for eternity, and our venial sins are barriers to His love, we can truly stand in awe of the fact that He in His unconditional love chooses to take us back.
He also understands how difficult it is for us to love others who do not love us and even harm us. He Himself suffered this; people who claimed to be His followers yet mistreated Him. All relationships have their struggles, but some are toxic. It is difficult for us to love the other person because we want love from them which they cannot give. It is only with the supernatural love of our Father that we can love those who are hard to love. And Jesus brings us this through grace.
It’s true, I suffer a great deal—but do I suffer well? That is the question. (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux)
All of this is the story of our life journey. It is up to us whether that be a story of journeying alone in the wilderness or the story of a life of grace, one walked arm-in-arm with Jesus and being carried by Him through the rough spots. Yes, it requires surrendering our vulnerability to Him, letting go of preconceived ideas of God as Father, and no longer being afraid to reveal to Him our deepest, darkest secrets.
He will reveal to us our true identity as His child, something unimaginable until experienced in Him. Similar to the woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon (Matthew 15:21-28), we will experience the paradigm shift of leaving behind our identity lies and experiencing the change of her heart that comes from knowing Him rather than knowing of Him. It is an encounter with Mercy.
The Chosen People discovered in their own weakness the true mystery of God. … Experiencing the desert will help you to discover the need for God, and to know that you are completely dependent on Him. … When you discover the truth about yourself and ask God for forgiveness, you will find, just as the Prodigal Son did, great tenderness in the Father and His extreme joy upon your return. (Father Tadeusz Dajczer)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
Copyright 2023 Debra Black
About the Author
Debra Black is a spiritual director, perpetual member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, international educator, and businesswoman. Her public service roles have spanned city commissioner, pregnancy clinic board of directors, youth and college ministry, public citizen activism, and homeless street ministry. Her writings can be found at TheFaceOfGraceProject.com, including her latest books, The Life Confession: A Discovery of God’s Mercy and Love and Kick Butt: The Quick Guide to Spiritual Warfare.