A priest in the Bahamas related this story.  A two-story house caught fire.  The family– father, mother, several children– were on their way out when the smallest boy became terrified and ran back upstairs.  Seconds later, he appeared at a smoke-filled window. His father, outside, shouted to him, “Jump son, jump!  I’ll catch you.”  The boy cried:  “But Daddy, I can’t see you.”  “I know,” his father called, “I know.  But I can see you.” [restrict]

I prayed once, “God please teach me how to love you.  I don’t know how to love someone I can’t see. And truth be told, God, I have a hard time trusting your love too.  Sometimes I think you’re mean to allow bad things to happen to children like you took my father away when I needed him the most. Please reveal yourself to me as I would understand.  I don’t want some religious steps that I must follow… they seem so superficial. I want real stuff.”  And as he would have it, he sent good people who loved and accepted me just as I am not as I should be.  I didn’t know then but I began to see grace in action.

Henri Nouwen says that you can’t begin seek God to until he finds you. I think he found me because I pursued him with everything I’ve got.  Manning said, “You will trust God only as much as you love him.  And you will love him not because you have him; you will love him because you have touched him – in response to his touch. Even then your troubles are not over.  You may still quarrel with God.  And you may cry out with Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Only if you love will you make that final leap into darkness, trusting the Father sees you and will catch you.

Trusting in the love of the Father who loves you the best when you need him the most is what Easter is all about.  So I pray with the man who prayed, “Thank You, Jesus, for everything – including my alcoholism.  It took every drop I drank, and every shame I endured to bring me to where I am today, and I would not change it.  Thank you for the rejection, contempt, and desertion that have come from some people because of my marriage.  You have used them, Lord, to set me free from people-pleasing and the desire to be thought well of by everyone.”

I believe we are called to let go of the desire to appear good, to give up the appearance of being good, so that we can listen to the word within us and more in the mystery of who we are [that God would sacrifice his Son for].  The preoccupation with projecting the perfect image, of being a model Christian and edifying others with our goods, leads to self-consciousness, and one upsmanship behaviors that make us slaves to human regard.  Lucy Swindoll calls this, “Self-worship”.  It’s another form of idolatry.  This attitude stifles our freedom to love one another in a non-judgmental way.  [restrict]

God, thank you for everything.