Do I really believe God loves me?

Have you ever asked yourself the question: “Do I really believe that God loves me?”

This is not the same as the question: “Does God love me?”

The latter is a question of objective truth or falsehood. Either God is real or not and He loves me or He doesn’t. But the former is much more subjective, yet just as important to our lives. If, as the Christian faith teaches, God is Love, then God will love me whether or not I believe in Him. A blind man may not believe that the sun is in the sky, but it will not stop the sun from shining on him. And this former question is the subject of my present reflection.

Some of you might look at the question and think it nonsense; of course every Christian believes that God loves us. It is at the very heart of our religion. You cannot be a believer without this article of faith rooted at the foundation. But I do not think that the matter is as simple as that.

I was listening to a talk by Steven Wood at the Argument of the Month Club (which is a wonderful online place with many great talks for Catholic men). During a discussion, he said that one of the biggest problems facing Catholics is the fact that so many of us don’t really believe God loves us. He was not speaking about those outside the Church, but of people who are fully aware of Christ and His love. This is the source of so much of our brokenness and sin. It is also, I think, the biggest stumbling block to holiness.

Perhaps I am over generalizing my own personal shortcomings. Perhaps you, dear reader, have fully embraced God’s love and it ignites every corner of your being. But my examination of conscience tells me that I do not.

I was a cradle Catholic and spent over 17 years raised in the faith. I went to Catholic school and performed my Catholic duties. But it wasn’t until I encountered Fr. Larry Richards (about whom I have already written here at New Evangelizers) that began to understand the depths of God’s love. The personal sacrifice of Christ on the cross was brought home to me in a new and blinding light. I had a spiritual epiphany and my life was separated into before and after. I finally understood how much God loves me.

Or so I thought.

As I have gotten older, I have had to confront the spiritual lethargy that often comes with age. And with that I encounter more worries and anxieties. My mind and heart are turned more and more to concerns of this world and not my true home. I feel like Peter who was given a gift of faith strong enough to walk on water, but then became shaken by the battering waves. But why doubt? Don’t I already believe that God loves me?

Please bear with this extended example, but I believe that it will be helpful to make my point. In the movie Good Will Hunting, Will is a genius with severe emotional issues. This all stems from the abuse he received from his foster father. Throughout the movie, he sees a therapist named Sean. At the end of the movie (WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD), Sean and Will begin to openly speak about Will’s abuse. Sean says to Will, “It’s not your fault.” Will then absently mutters, “I know,” as if he has acknowledged this truth a thousand times already.

But then Sean says again, “It’s not your fault.” Will, snaps out of his stupor. He looks at Sean and shrugs off his words and says, “I know.” This time he says it as if to acknowledge that he is not just reflexively answering. He tries to convey that he fully understands what Sean is saying and that it is something that is not news to him. It is not a big deal.

But Sean says again, “It’s not your fault.” Will becomes confused. He says again “I know,” but with a look of incredulity, as if to say, “Hey, I get it okay. I’ve already told you that I know it’s not my fault. Why are you telling me something I already know?” When Sean persists, Will stands up as if to leave but Sean won’t let him. Sean says again “It’s not your fault,” and will says again “I know,” but with more menace in his voice as if to say, “Let’s move on.”

Sean continues to corner him and say, “It’s not your fault.” Will becomes more and more uncomfortable. He looks away and begins to lose his composure. He tells Sean not to mess with him (but in more vulgar words) and hits him in the chest, but Sean will not back away.

Finally, Will lets Sean’s words get through and the young man begins to break down in tears.

Why did I take you on this long, detailed examination of this scene? Because I believe that this the journey that many of us are on. We accept intellectually that God loves us. But the reality of this truth has not penetrated as deeply as it should. I remember growing up believing that my father loved me. But then one day I learned about something significant my father sacrificed in order to hold on to his children. He said, years after the fact, “Without my kids, what good is my life.” It was then that I realized that I don’t think I REALLY knew how much my father loved me.

And the same applies to God. He constantly pursues us. And we constantly deflect and evade. I imagine a metaphorical conversation is present in the long and winding spiritual road we walk with Him.

God: I love you.
Me: I know. “Jesus, loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
God: I love you.
Me: I know. You died on the cross for my sins. The only reason I can go to Heaven is because of You.
God: I love you.
Me: I know, God. I get it. You are great and wonderful. You are Love Itself.
God: I love you.
Me: God, why do you keep saying that? I already get it. I’ve given my life to you. I follow you. I do the best to keep your commandments. Yes, I sin and I know this displeases you, but I am living the Catholic life as best I can.
God: I love you.
Me: Look, God, I know that you love a worthless sinner like me. But that is only because you are so kind and merciful. I mean, look at me! How many times have I turned away? How often must you endure my spiritual slowness with infinite patience? How is it you can love someone who is so broken and inconstant?
God: I love you.
Me: But you can’t mean that you actually enjoy me! You only mean that you tolerate faults and seek to forgive me. You lovingly took the cross to show your mercy, through bitter tears and pain. But in me there is nothing to delight. It is only your goodness that could see such things in me.
God: I love you.
Me: God, please, it is too much for me. You give and all I do is take. You love and I let you down. I constantly show me care and I constantly forget. How could look upon me with anything more than tolerance? How could you look upon me with affection and anticipation and with joy? How?
God: I love you.

How does the dialogue end?

I think it can end only one of two ways. Either I close or I open my heart to the truth that God loves me.

If I make the mistake of thinking that God’s love is limited like my own, then I will never be transformed.

But if I can somehow open myself to this mystery, this unspeakably unimaginable truth, then I think we cannot help but have our hearts transformed.

And so every day, I shall take time to let the Lord tell me that He loves me.

And maybe one day I will let the truth of that transform my life once more.

Copyright 2015, W.L.Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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