Do you REALLY know how much God loves you?
We’ve all heard that “Jesus loves you!” but do you ever take the time to ponder that? Do you ever stop to think about how the Creator of this universe loves you more than anyone else has ever (or will ever) love you?
I find it to be an ongoing topic in spiritual direction. A directee will say to me: “I know God loves me in my head, but I don’t feel it in my heart. I really don’t believe God loves me uniquely.”
The truth is we’ve all been there. We’ve all said this, even if just to ourselves internally. And the fact of the matter is, even religious sisters have felt this. Or at least one in particular: Sister Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T., host extraordinaire of the Abiding Together Podcast.
In Sister Miriam’s book “Loved as I Am” she shares her own conversion story and ongoing healing journey to show you and me that God is alive and His love for you and me is real. While we may not be in a place to receive this reality, get ready, because God is coming for you (as He always does), in this very moment, just where you are. If you can’t seem to let your guard down though, don’t worry. He is patient and He won’t seize on inviting and calling. (I give you permission, just save this blog post for later.)
As I share some of the primary truths Sister Miriam speaks about in her book (that you’ll want to read for yourself! And journal with the reflection questions at the end of each chapter), consider this as one of the many invitations God is inviting you to discover for the first time (or a new!), His design for you, which includes a deep understanding of your identity and worth that are rooted in His love for you!
Tell Me Who I Am
We all just want a place we can call home, don’t we? We want to feel at home in ourselves, where we can be authentically us and accepted as such. But because of the fear of rejection of not fitting in we do everything we can to fit in even if that means we change ourselves to what we think others want and go looking for belonging and the happiness we are seeking in places that will never be fulfilling and can sometimes actually be destructive.
The odd thing is, we know something is off when we try to fill ourselves with things God didn’t design us for materialism, drugs, comparison, excessive drinking, non-committal sex. Fill in the blank. We know something is off and we know we are made for something beyond. Something more lasting. Because really, this can’t be all there is! There’s gotta be long-lasting fulfillment out there. And you’re right. There is! (That’s God’s design talking in you. (Gn. 1:26)) And the Church and Sister Miriam James tells us that what we’re longing for can be found in the life of Jesus.
Have you ever noticed in the Gospels that Jesus wasn’t insecure? He never sought acceptance. Why? Because He knew who He was. And He moved out of His true identity as the beloved Son of God.
In our brokenness, we as humans tend to move out of everything except our God-given identity. (It’s as if we don’t know that God is the Creator and we are the created! We need to know where we have come from in order to know where we are going. We belong to God.)
And this and so much more we can learn from Jesus. Our identity is based on the eternal foundation of God the Father. You and me, we share the same identity as Jesus, we are beloved children of God and no one can change that. We can’t change that. Our good and bad choices can’t ever change that.
And Jesus is our example of how to live our lives as beloved sons and daughters of God.
But wait. It gets even better. As men and women, we are even the crown of God’s creation. Humanity was made “very good” because God loved us so much He made us in His image and likeness (Gn 1:31).
When we truly love someone we want to be with them forever, right? God certainly did that. God made us and we belong to Him forever. Now, that’s love.
You are God’s daughter. This is not a mistake because God doesn’t make mistakes. No one can take this relationship away from you. You were created by Love, for love.
Show Me My Purpose
We seek fulfillment, even if it is in areas that are not life-giving or even harmful because God designed you and me to love and be loved. Experience has shown Sister Miriam James, myself, and I am wondering for you as well, that when we disregard God, use others for our own motivations including lust and pleasure, it always leads to unhappiness and not the real security and happiness we long for.
By seeking these things we are grasping and not receiving. God wants to heal this and every part of us: our bodies and our souls. Because your body and soul are special. (God would know, he designed them!)
In fact, as Sister Miriam explains: “There is no one like you. [God] does not compare you to your older brother or sister. His love is not divided. He does not wish you were a boy or a girl. To Him, you are not “unplanned” or an “accident.” You are meant to be here on this earth. You are willed to be here, and you have a great destiny.”
You are unique and unrepeatable. No one has ever or ever will be like you. What a creative God! You are so very loved by Him and He greatly delights in you.
Come and Find Me
Whether we’re ready to admit it to ourselves or not, we need others. God actually made us in such a way that we need to be in communion with other people and with Him. Sister Miriam says: “Communion and relationships speak to us on the deepest levels. The relationships we have on earth are supposed to reflect the deep love and care that God has for us. The intimacy we experience with one another is a small spark of the intimacy God desires to have with us.”
What does this have to do with believing God loves you uniquely? Our relationships in the here and now actually reveal to us the Father’s love.
So, a few questions: Do your relationships help you know love? Do you know what it’s like to be sought after, found, and held? All who the perfect father, who is God, is seeking to do for you right now. Again, our relationships are supposed to reflect the love and care God has for us.
As Sister Miriam powerfully explains: “[God] seeks communion with us and He seeks to restore us to relationship with Himself, ourselves, and others. He longs to touch what is disordered within us so we can live with joy in his love. You and I don’t need to live in fear because God goes before us, and He is the Father who never leaves or forsakes us. Let Him find you and delight in you.”
Mend My Broken Heart
The reality is that the circumstances around our birth or our childhood can impact whether or not we believe God really loves us. Because negative and positive experiences impact the way we see ourselves and our identity.
Before you read this, take a deep breath in and out. Now, read slowly: No matter the circumstances, you are not a mistake or an accident to God. No matter how long this truth takes to permeate your heart it is and always will be true.
Another truth is that our lives will always be impacted by the choices of others. Good or bad. There are consequences. But, as Sister Miriam explains, “[b]ecause of God and His love for us, there is always hope for redemption. No matter what we have done or what has been done to us.”
Opening ourselves to the lifelong journey of seeking healing and wholeness can be difficult. But, be encouraged by Sister Miriam’s words that come from her own experience: “The journey of honesty about pain while waiting for healing with an open heart isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. We don’t have to live with the darkness that stalks the corners of our hearts and minds and cast shadows upon the light of joy. You and I have a good Father who loves us with a tremendous love and who has the power to make crooked ways straight.”
Untangle My Secrets
Depending on where you are in your journey and your self-awareness, you may have discovered or realized once or twice that what you struggle with whether it’s an addiction or habit, reflects something greater – a symptom of sadness or something you’re seeking to escape: abuse, an illness, same-sex attraction, perfection, anger, etc.
Whether we are unsure about what we are seeking to escape, Sister Miriam tells us that: “God has not abandoned us. He sees and knows everything, and within the painful mysteries of our life that Satan uses to try to destroy us, God the Warrior fights for our redemption and healing.”
God wants to face every bit of our hurt with us. Why? Because God’s love for you is real. And real love doesn’t abandon, it meets you where you are and offers the last Word. Because indeed as Sister Miriam emphasizes: “While we are on this earth, there is always hope for restoration and resurrection.”
Wipe Away My Tears
God didn’t create death. In the same way, we were never meant to suffer. God is only goodness and can’t create anything outside of Himself.
Sister Miriam explains: “We are all made for life and we will live forever, whether with God or without him.”
We don’t run from suffering and we can look to Mary as an example of one who didn’t run. However, we have to choose what to do with our suffering and at the same time what to do with the time we are gifted on this earth.
Even in our suffering, in the midst of the things we wished never happened, Jesus shows up and offers redemption. It’s interesting how our suffering leads us out of ourselves and into relationships.
Jesus is our high priest who sympathizes with us (Heb. 4:15). Not far off in the distance, but right there in the thick of things. Now if that’s not love I don’t know what is.
Heal My Wounds
Just like the ones closest to us and whom we love, God knows our sadness. And like a good lover, He is not indifferent to it. No, instead He seeks you out to offer you Himself in his tenderness, care, and healing. Even in your most difficult moments, He will never, ever, abandon you.
Sister Miriam explains this is what Jesus came to tell us. By belonging to the Father; everything is different. Even sin and death are destroyed. You are invited into abundant life forever. And He will continue to extend this invitation and pursue your heart until your last breath.
To know and then receive His love, we must ask for the grace to 1) heal your identity, of who you are as a daughter of the Father, 2) accept the invitation to an abundant life and 3) not run from your issues, but go to the Cross with Jesus so true resurrection to take place.
God loves you. You have a home in Him. Even more: You belong to Him. You are never alone.
Set Me Free
God made you for a free and full life. Do you feel like you’re living that right now? If not, what needs to change? Sister Miriam says: “As we journey through life, we are always becoming who are created to be. In other words, you’re never done learning, growing, and converting.”
There are things in our lives that can keep us from this freedom. And this freedom is ultimately what allows us to know and experience God’s love for us.
One of the first steps to seek this freedom is being honest with good people about what it is we’re battling. This begins our journey of transformation.
No matter how long or how this transformation comes about, remember you are made to live a life fully alive. God knows you long for this and he is making it available to you right now. Why? As Sister Miriam explains: “You are too beautiful for a life of sin; you are made for more.” That is Jesus speaking to you. He thinks you’re beautiful and oh so very worthy of the best.
Open My Heart to Love
How would you define love? However, you define it, is that how you would describe the love you long for from God?
The love that God offers is restorative. It is the type of love that Sister Miriam says: “…is found not in the absence of trial and suffering but in a commitment to the good of the other, whether we feel like it or not.”
Now, think about who is Jesus to you? I invite you to sit with this powerful description of Jesus offered by Sister: “Jesus isn’t just a wise healer, a nice philanthropist, or a homeboy. He isn’t dull, mild, or tame. Jesus is the fierce tender Lover whom death cannot bind or sin destroy. It’s often been said that our view of God isn’t something so large that it overwhelms us; it’s usually far too small.”
As you reflected on these truths from Sister Miriam’s book “Loved as I Am”, did you realize there may be something from your past, or presently in your life, keeping you from the freedom to be able to know the love of God for you and receive it? If so, I want to encourage the following resources to you:
- “Loved as I Am” by Sister Miriam James Heidlant, S.O.L.T.
- “Be Healed” by Dr. Bob Schuchts
- “Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World” by Dr. Mary Healy