I’ll never forget that moment when a friend posed that question to me while we were walking in the park. I remember answering sadly, “I believe in my head that God loves me, but not in my heart.”
At the time I was working as a Youth Ministry Worker and Events Coordinator at Catholic Youth Ministry Perth. From an external perspective it seemed like I had a great and fulfilling life. I had a dream job in ministry, a good circle of friends, was well travelled and had a busy social life hanging at the beach, bars and restaurants. I certainly thought I had it all together and had an “insta-worthy” life.
While I prayed, went to mass and volunteered at church, I didn’t have a deep relationship with Christ. Life felt too busy to spend much time with God and I was constantly on the go. I felt like the Energizer bunny.
Not long after that walk in the park, I developed symptoms of burn out and had no choice but to take a break. I had never been much of a risk taker and preferred security and I now found myself in the deep waters of the unknown, uncertain where God was leading me. Turns out it was Tasmania!
Never in my life did I think I’d move to Tassie. I packed my life into two suitcases and somehow a “taste & see” turned into “I love Tassie” – I’m moving to this beautiful island! Though I’m not officially a Tasmanian yet as I haven’t embraced the mark of a true Tassie- the “Tasmanian tuxedo” (those big puffer jackets). Maybe a few more winters here will change that!
I recall I had prayed years earlier asking for God to mould me into the woman He wanted me to be. However, I didn’t anticipate God’s answer to that prayer would entail such a huge upheaval in my life and suffering. I didn’t sign up for that! As John Paul II wrote in his apostolic letter:
‘Salvifici Doloris’ – Apostolic letter of John Paul II on the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering
Progressively and painfully God started to strip me of what felt like everything. I went from having tons of energy to struggling with chronic fatigue which meant I couldn’t do much of what I had taken for granted in my life such as working, travelling, dating and being out most nights of the week. I was faced with the reality of where I had based my worth and identity.
I had no one or nothing external to cling to or distract myself with. I was left with no choice but to turn to God.
While it was eventually liberating and freeing, it was painful to be healed from all that I’d buried for so long and to experience my limitations. It was confronting to realise how this had affected areas of my life throughout my 20’s; such as seeking the approval of others, particularly men, and why I’d submerged myself in work and activity. It felt like the tears flowed endlessly. Forget toilet paper shortages at the shops- it seemed I was always running out of tissues!
As the behaviours I’d armoured myself with to numb the pain from wounds I’d acquired throughout my life were slowly shed and healed by God…
God revealed to me who I am in His eyes:
“You are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4).
I allowed myself to be loved under God’s gaze and rest in the arms of a Father who loves me just as I am. As Jacques Phillipe wrote in one of my favourite books, Interior Freedom;
“The look in God’s eyes is the purest, truest, tenderest, most loving and most hope-filled in the world. The greatest gift given those who seek God’s face by persevering in prayer may be that one day they will perceive something of this divine look upon themselves; they will feel themselves loved so tenderly that they will receive the grace of accepting themselves in depth.”
Jacques Phillipe – ‘Interior Freedom’
I also reflected on the suffering of Jesus and how severely God allowed him to be stripped. Jesus cries out alone and anxious in the garden of Gethsemane to His Father. He was beaten cruelly, spat on and stripped of His clothes. His friends betrayed and abandoned Him. He’s dehydrated, exhausted and keeps falling from the sheer weight of His cross.
He was mocked and tortured, nails were hammered into His flesh and He spends excruciating hours bleeding profusely and struggling to breathe. Jesus was completely emptied of Himself and dies an agonising death nailed to a cross. In a time of weakness, I took comfort and hope that in Jesus’ weakness, God’s power was manifested and Jesus was lifted up in the Resurrection to give me new life in Him.
I’m in awe of the incredible ways God showered grace on me during my years in the desert. God cultivated lifelong fruits I’ll be forever grateful for, and new life sprung forth, preparing me for the next season of my life. Becoming a new creation is not an overnight venture that’s for sure, but a lifelong journey.
There’s times something surfaces and I frustratingly think, “Really God? You want to pull more weeds out?! Isn’t there enough fruits already?” But after my brief dummy spit, I rest in the tenderness of a Father who loves me in all my frailty and weaknesses, who keeps lavishing more of His intimate love upon me, moulding me through all circumstances in my life, both the good and bad, to become who I am.
As Good Friday approaches once again, I’m reminded that God thinks we are all so precious and worthy in His sight. He went to such great lengths to show us just how much we are loved, allowing His only beloved Son to suffer in unimaginable ways and to die for us. There’s no greater love than that. So If I’m shedding some tears on Good Friday as I gaze upon the crucifix, it’s because I can now say with a resounding and joyful “Yes! I believe in my heart God loves me!”
Kim grew up in Perth and now resides in Hobart. You may remember her when she worked at CYM back in the Vincent & Eliza days when there was never a dull moment, not to mention cake! She has a passion for helping others realise their dignity and worth, loves brunches with friends after mass and ticking off her explore Tassie map.