Above my bed hangs a couple of one hundred-year-old pictures: one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the other of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I love them. I love that they hung on someone’s wall going back to the early 1900s. I love how they remind me that the Catholic Church spans across the world and throughout history. And I like to look into Jesus and Mary’s eyes as I go about my day—except when I am working out. With four tiny children, a gym membership is an impossibility, so my bedroom is also my gym. Whenever I hit the play button for my forty-minute exercise video, those pictures that I dearly love spark accusations in my mind. When I look at them, I hear: Why aren’t you using this time better? Couldn’t you be reading and studying for ministry? Shouldn’t you be meal planning right now? Yes, I probably should be meal planning. And I immediately feel the desire to hide. It becomes difficult for me to look into the eyes of the portraits even though I am fully aware that the accusations I hear do not come from the real Jesus or Mary that the portraits represent.
And it’s not just my workouts. Sometimes, I have a hard time looking at the tabernacle during Mass; because I am so busy chasing my almost-two-year-old, very few prayerful thoughts enter my mind. When I finally glance at the tabernacle, I shamefully think, Jesus, I am trying. Other times, I find myself wanting to walk into the adoration chapel with sunglasses on so maybe I can pray without being noticed by the Blessed Sacrament.
Although these moments don’t happen often (well, the workout one does), they happen enough for me to ask myself why. I know that God loves me and even likes me. I know that He is a good Father. I know Scripture tells me that I am chosen and precious in His sight. So why is it that even after learning all of this, I still believe in my heart of hearts that what God really wants is the cleaned-up version of me? After all this time, I act as though God’s love depends on my ever-wavering behavior instead of His steadfast goodness.
Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you know the Truth about God’s love and have experienced His love and His mercy again and again. Perhaps you recite Bible verses and battle the lies in your mind with the truth of Scripture, but in the everyday hustle, the remnants of those lies persist. They say, “God will love you more when you can get a grip at work, or stop nagging your children, or finally kick that sin, or become better organized, or get married, or have a better attitude about your tragic situation, or (insert struggle here).”
Why do you think those lies get at you? Why do you think you still have a lingering desire to hide from the God who loves you so much? I have done some searching in my own heart and have found an answer that might help you as well.
I realized that when reading the Bible’s descriptions of saintly living, I read them as though one day, if I try hard enough, I will finally possess what it takes to be holy. I don’t approach Scripture from the perspective that God has already given me the qualities of a saint simply by making me in His image. I fail to take joy in the fact that God sees me as good and is using that goodness to lead me further down the path of holiness. Instead, I think He sees me only as a project—not His daughter. This is a lie.
Recently, I finished watching season 2 of The Chosen, a series about the life of Jesus. If you haven’t taken the time to watch it, I highly recommend it. The finale of season 2 depicts Jesus preparing to give the “Sermon on the Mount” to a crowd of thousands. Throughout the episode, Jesus practices his sermon with Matthew, who eventually tells Jesus that He needs a better intro (keep in mind, this is a fictional portrayal of a real-life event). Jesus spends all night in prayer with the Father to complete the introduction to His sermon. In the morning, Jesus approaches Matthew and recites what we know as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). But as He does it, He thinks of each one of His disciples.
When He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He thinks of Nathaniel.
When He says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” He thinks of Peter and Andrew.
When He says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth,” He thinks of Thaddeus and James.
When He says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” He thinks of James and John.
When He says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy,” He thinks of Mary, His mother.
When He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” He thinks of Thomas.
When He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” He thinks about Phillip.
When He says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He thinks of John the Baptist.
And when He says, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” He looks lovingly at Matthew, who is writing down the sermon, unaware of the Master’s loving glance.
At this moment in the episode, I realized that when Jesus spoke about what it means to be holy, He did not speak about impersonal attributes in imaginary people. He spoke about what He already saw in those closest to Him as they unknowingly reflected God’s goodness in their everyday life. He was already pleased with His disciples. Despite their failings, they were already on their way to sainthood.
Does this not reveal God’s heart toward us? Those slight accusations that you and I hear are not from Him. When we allow them to stew within us, they keep us from recognizing just how much goodness is already within us. They keep us stuck—continually hiding from God who sees everything and still takes deep delight in who we are.
So the next time you are reading about how to live a holy life, I challenge you to read it as though God is looking directly at you and calling out what He already sees in you. Can you be better? Sure. But God has already placed Himself within you. Own it. Throw away any desire, however small, you have to hide from God, and let Him love you with abandon. Despite yourself, you are a delight to him, and that, dear friend, is enough.
 The Chosen, Season 2, excerpt from Episode 8, “The Beatitudes,” Youtube, 3:27, uploaded July 13, 2021, https://youtu.be/02hbIq7rFDs.
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