As a child, entering my parish church’s hushed silence always made me feel insignificant. The building seemed to swallow me whole. A long center aisle, extended stained glass windows and huge crucifix hanging behind the altar made the stillness seem sacred, but didn’t make God feel approachable. Growing up Catholic, I’ve always felt God is strong, powerful and caring, yet there were nagging questions in the back of my mind. “God, do You love me? Simple, sinful me? Do You love me enough to use Your power in my life? Or do I have to be perfect in order for that to happen?”
I believed the priest when he said, “God loves us. God cares about our lives. God wants to be close to us.” But whenever I replaced the us in any of those sentences with me, well let’s just say the effort fell flat. I deeply desired maturity and intimacy with Him, yet I haven’t always been able to feel His love for me, just me alone and not as part of greater humanity.
Understanding God is strong is not the same thing as feeling His love. Believing He is powerful is not the same thing as feeling His love. Knowing God cares is not the same thing as feeling His love. The question remained: “God, do you really love simple, sinful me?” A cold shiver ran down my back whenever I imagined the answer coming back no.
If I forced myself, I could get myself to admit God loved me as an individual. Yet love was something I learned couldn’t be forced. I left Catholicism thinking I would never be worthy. That I was too messed up; it would be impossible for God to love me.
When you feel unloved by God, passively thinking about His love will do you no good. You have to do something. You have to decide to live it – to track love down by opening yourself up to being loved by your Creator. God doesn’t want us to earn His love. He doesn’t want us to beg for it. He doesn’t ask us to change so we can be loved by Him.
He pursued me even when I turned my back on Him. He consistently asked me to simply turn towards His love. It wasn’t in a building where I found God’s love. When I started to seek, He seemed to be everywhere. Watching the sunsets, red and golden. In green hues of the grass in my backyard. Under the cool shade of the trees during hot summers. Via a smile on a stranger’s face. Over a cup of tea with a friend as we shared our secrets.
He taught me my worth isn’t what the world says it is or isn’t. God finds us completely worthy just as we are. He doesn’t love us any less because we will always be a hot mess. He pursues us, every single one of us, with a relentless love. I began to realize just how deeply His heart beats for me. In order to feel His love, I had to release the idea I was unloveable.
Where you find God is as unique as you are. But remember, God’s love is never not available. It is always seeking you, forever looking for you. And even if you travel down the darkest roads, God is there right beside you extending His love for you to grab onto. God wants to passionately woo you for the rest of your days.
There are times I seek out the stillness of a Catholic church, times when I long to see the sun streaking through the stained glass windows, times when the stillness is exactly what my soul needs. I no longer feel insignificant, though. For I have learned the astonishing, breathtaking, exquisite truth that I, simple, sinful me, am the one who God loves.