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Inspire: Unfailing Love and a Heart Like Mine
By Jennifer Hartline
April 25th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
You and I are loved beyond our comprehension. No language exists that can capture the quality of His love for us and the lengths to which He has gone to rescue His lost children. Only the Word Himself can say it. He who owed me nothing at all, who had nothing to prove, patiently and gently proved to me that He rescued me from hell for the sake of pure love. Endless, unfathomable love... poured out on me, His beloved daughter.WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - Do you ever feel as though you're climbing an enormous mountain of rock, and there's a particular ledge you just cannot surmount? You claw your way up the steep face but can never pull yourself all the way up to the top. You slide down, again and again, and land on your rump in a heap, discouraged to the point of despair. This rock face may be a particular wound in your heart or a stumbling block in your faith that you can't seem to get past. Anybody out there relate to this?
There's a certain rock face that I have struggled to climb all my life; that is, until now. This Eastertide the Lord has answered my deepest, heartfelt cry and I cannot help but share it with you. Not so that you'll be amazed or burst into applause, but that you might be encouraged not to give up.
I do not know when, where, or how it became part of me, but from a very young age, I have carried a yoke of rejection and disfavor. I've worn it like an invisible scarlet letter on my chest, like a secret between me and God. Despite an aching desire to please the Lord, to serve Him, to follow Him and be like Him, there was ever-present in my deepest heart a nagging voice that said, "You're a disappointment to Him. You can tag along if you like, but you're nothing special. He'll probably never notice you."
None of the usual suspects are to blame - I had loving, attentive and holy parents and a happy family. I was raised in the Church and I knew that Jesus died for my sins that I might be saved for eternity. I was never harmed by anyone. Yet this heartache never really left me, and I can't count how many times I cried rivers of tears as I begged Jesus to love me as I loved Him. A corner of my heart seemed always fractured by this shaming belief that I was a disappointment to God.
My head knew that Jesus did love me; my heart and soul were never truly convinced. I lived with this bizarre dichotomy inside - part of me knowing the truth and part of me doing continuous battle with that nagging doubt, that despairing voice that kept me bound by fear and a belief that I was inadequate, unworthy, and undesirable.
So great was my frustration with my fractured heart that I finally cried (literally) to Jesus and said, "Forget about healing my heart. It's too pitiful. Just rip it out and give me Yours instead." (Perhaps the best prayer I've ever prayed!) In His perfect wisdom, He began showing me that what had started as insecurity had morphed into a habit of self-pity and self-loathing. He gently revealed that I was eating the strange fruit of pride. This "Oh woe is me, Jesus doesn't love me!" stuff is a beguiling impostor of lowliness! How is it possible that pride and feelings of worthlessness can go hand in hand? But they often do... and in me, they were two sides of the same coin.
Thanks be to God for His great mercy that allowed me to finally recognize this in myself. Without realizing it, I'd taken the long road trip from a little girl who wasn't really sure what made her special to a grown woman who'd decided she was only special because she was the one soul on earth whom Jesus could never really love.
Somewhere along the way my sincere pleas for Jesus' love warped into a blasphemy I wasn't even consciously aware of. I was calling Jesus a liar. I was saying His heart had room for everyone but me. I was saying the blood He shed washed everyone clean but me. I was "special" in my unworthiness. I required more than every other soul on earth. Pretty arrogant, eh? Pride is a clever chameleon.
Yet He, with perfect irony and poetry, stooped low enough to show me how great a price He paid for my sinful, pitiful heart. He who owed me nothing at all, who had nothing to prove, patiently and gently proved to me that He rescued me from hell for the sake of pure love. Endless, unfathomable love... poured out on me, His beloved daughter.
His severe mercy that plunged me into a brutally honest evaluation of myself had brought me so much healing and restoration. Little did I know that on Good Friday He would blow away the last remaining bits of debris and plant confidence in place of doubt.
I sat and watched "The Passion of the Christ" alone in my living room just before midnight. I'd never seen the movie before and I could barely make it through the brutality. The scourging was the worst part. I cried out loud to my television, "Stop it! Stop it! Leave Him alone!" Say what you will about artistic license and whether it really was as bloody, violent and merciless as it was portrayed, but for my money, it rang true. I think the movie got it as right as possible.
Seeing Jesus' savage death unfold before my eyes, my heart was pierced with these words: "I did this for you. I chose to suffer all this agony for you and if you were the only soul to ever live, I would have done it only for you. This is how much you are worth to Me."
Loosed in that moment was the last brittle claw of doubt and insecurity and it fell off my heart like dead wood. My Jesus reached down for me and pulled me securely to the top of that rock, and planted a confidence in my heart that was immovable.
You and I are loved beyond our comprehension. No language exists that can capture the quality of His love for us and the lengths to which He has gone to rescue His lost children. Only the Word Himself can say it.
You and I are wretched with sin; full of pride and selfishness; hard-hearted and easily tempted; slow to learn and slow to love. All that is true. Truer still is that the perfect Lamb of God has taken our punishment upon Himself, made Himself the sacrifice for our sins, plunged into hell and conquered death forever - all out of love. Truer still is that you and I are precious to His heart and worth the price of His own blood. Any feeling or thought or voice that says, "No, that's not true" is just the hiss of a snake.
If this matter isn't settled completely in your own heart, I pray it will be today. You are loved! I offer you the most amazing little prayer that was given to me by my pastor; a prayer for truth that has been very powerful for me: "Lord, tell me who You are, and then tell me who I am." I know He delights in answering those questions for me!
Jesus answered my prayer for a "heart transplant." That particular rock I believe I will not climb again; now on to the next one. Do not lose hope, weary climbers, but persevere in faith! He who loves us so deeply will not leave us in a heap on our rumps, but will set our feet high on that rock, where we will testify to His transforming love.
Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, a proud Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven). She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. She's also a serious chocoholic. Visit her at My Chocolate Heart.
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