“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” – Psalm 143:8
As we enter the Fourth Week of Advent, the theme we focus our attention on is love. We throw around the word “love” for so many things such as “I love… that new toy, delicious food, fun game, sports team, etc.” There is SO much more to what love really means.
Love is not easy, and it is not pain-free. It is not an emotion through which we feel only happiness, but rather we can simultaneously feel both happiness and pain. True love holds us tight when we feel like we are falling apart. Authentic love knows, accepts, and supports us for who we are. Love is what fulfills the deepest need within a human heart.
With all that love is meant to be, it is crucial where and what kind of love we seek. The first place we must look is to God, for loving Him allows us to strive for more perfect love in all other ways. God’s love is ever-present. His love is not just in the good moments or when we are feeling His love. God’s love is not a feeling but His very being. Love is God and God is love. The practicing of our faith and beautiful Catholic traditions are all meant to lead us to LOVE and facilitate an ever-deepening experience of God’s love for us.
Over 14 years ago, I learned in a painfully, real way just how much God loved me. I also learned how He showers His love often ahead of a cross that we must bear. Its memory still gives me comfort and reminds me that God knows the plans He has for us. Even if they are painful plans, God will bring comfort to our hearts to give us the strength to endure the cross.
During my first pregnancy, I had a dream at almost ten weeks. In the dream, I was gathered with my loved ones in my living room. At the center of the room was present a beautiful little girl but not “visible” to any of our eyes. It was a peaceful dream and all I could do was ponder its meaning. Within two weeks, I learned that this would be a reality as I lost my first child to miscarriage. Despite the devastating news, I cling to the gift of grace God gave me in that dream. It filled my broken heart with His love and reminded me that our eyes cannot always “see” the love that surrounds us. My sweet Ariel May, as we came to call her, is my little saint in heaven praying for us. The shock of this first loss of life weighed on my heart, and I felt I could no longer trust my body. But not for a single moment did I ever doubt God’s love and care for me.
As my body and heart began to heal, it came time for the season of Advent. I found it the hardest season for me that year. As I pondered the miraculous and life-giving Birth of Jesus, there was a painful sadness at the life no longer with me. The pain of no dreams of a future together here on earth with my baby.
I wanted so desperately to journey with Mary during the Advent season, but the pain was still there. I knew in my heart that I just needed to share even more personally with Mary and Jesus. I had to be open enough to express my deep sadness. I also trusted them enough to share my worries as I longed to be open to another child but feared the agony of an additional loss.
Through that painful surrender, I found a new way to journey with Mary and St. Joseph that Advent — surrendering to God’s plan and will for us when it is not how we planned it to be. The pain did not end right away but I continued to open up more and more to God. I knew He loved me and wanted to help carry my burden. I look back at that time in my life and I truly felt, through the pain and tears, the most tender love of God holding me tight.
His love and mercies never ended, and I found out on Christmas Day that I was pregnant again. Joy rushed into my heart. I entrusted my life and the life of my little one into God’s hands. That second pregnancy brought the joy of my now amazing 13-year-old son into my life. I am blessed now to have three children to love and hold here – ages 13, 11 and 8. But the love of God has gotten me through a total of three early pregnancy losses among many other crosses in my life that He knew I had the strength to endure since He was right beside me.
Let us be reassured that no matter what losses, pains, sins, or worries that we undergo, God’s love and tender care is greater. Go to Him. Let Him love us and restore our trust in Him. The more we tune our hearts to see His presence in our lives the easier it is to experience His constant love. Allow Him to give us the courage to entrust our lives once again to Him. And remember that our loved ones are nearer than our eyes can “see” even if they are awaiting us in Heaven or too far across the country to visit. GOD LOVES YOU!!
Reflect upon these statements and embrace in a new way the love of God:
- God shares His love before we are aware of the need for His love.
- God’s love is given whether we ask Him or not.
- God’s love is not something we can ever earn but is freely and generously given to everyone.
- God continually pours out His love even if we ignore it and do not deserve it.
How can we allow God’s love to truly penetrate our hearts? Spend some extra time with Him this week to facilitate an outpouring of His love into our souls on Christmas Day.
Author: Laura Stephens, FF Sacrament Preparation Catechist