Love Languages and The Crucifixion

Throughout the season of Lent, if there is one thing that has become increasingly apparent to me in my spiritual life, it is how God loves our hearts so well. That may seem like a very naive realization – after all, we’ve been singing “Jesus loves me” since kindergarten, so the idea that God loves us on a personal level shouldn’t be a shocker.  But the further I fall in love with the maker of my soul, the more I realize that His love is radical and specific to the desires of our heart.

Which makes sense of course – the very essence of God is love (1 John 4:8).  His ultimate gift to us is salvation and the gift of Heaven  – if we choose, through acts of the will, to align our lives in accordance with His plan.  For a God whose very essence is love, it makes sense that the cross has the ability to be inclusive of every human being’s love language.  Christ’s love demonstrated on the cross is not an exclusive, members-only love.  Instead, it is an all-encompassing love affair between God and His people.

Gary Chapman is the famed author of the book “5 Love Languages,” in which he explains that every person has a love language that they speak – one that best fills their love tank to the brim.  In relationships, romantic especially, two people can speak different love languages, and misinterpret the other’s desire to love them.

“In the book, I share some of my encounters with couples through the years that brought me to realize that what makes one person feel loved does not necessarily make another person feel loved. For a number of years, I have been helping couples in the counseling office discover what their spouse desired in order to feel loved. Eventually, I began to see a pattern in their responses. Therefore, I decided to read the notes I had made over twelve years of counseling couples and ask myself the question, “When someone sat in my office and said, ‘I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,’ what did they want?” Their answers fell into five categories. I later called them the five love languages.”

But there never has to be that confusion from God concerning how to love YOU.  He made you and knows the count of hairs on your head.  So loving you but failing to speak your love language isn’t possible with Him. His sacrifice on the cross encompasses ever love language possible.

Find your love language below and discover Christ’s love for you and your heart on the cross.

Quality Time:

Christ loves you so desperately that he would rather hang on a tree than run the risk of not spending eternity with you. There is an incredible amount of love through the language of  quality time felt throughout the crucifixion process and even after Christ’s death here on earth.

The Crucifixion opens up an incredible potential for quality time with Christ – essentially because the crucifixion is not bound by the human concept of time.  Christ died for every sin that was and would be, so his crucifixion exists out of time.  This means that even today, in 2016, Christ’s crucifixion is still present, and our interaction with Him and with sin have potential to add weight to the cross.

Yet, because of Christ’s actions during the last supper, He is available all the time even today through His true presence in the Eucharist. He’s never not present in the consecrated host.  In my life, There are times when I desperately ache for interaction with my boyfriend, my best friend, and my sisters.  Yet they’re not there constantly, they aren’t always accessible.  They’re in meetings, in different towns, at the doctors, working on homework, eating dinner, out with friends, you name it.  But Christ is always there, waiting for interaction and quality time with me.  That quality time originates at the Last Supper, and is brought to fruition on the cross.

Physical Touch:

Beautifully, the tangible love of God is not bound by the nails that hold His hands and feet to the cross. Instead, the physical aspect of His love continues with the sacrament of the Eucharist.  In Persona Christi, through the priest, Christ offers His body relentlessly in the Mass daily throughout the world.

Christopher West speaks about this when he talks about his wife’s father, who he never met.  He tells the story  “At Mass the day after his wedding, having just consummated his marriage the night before, he was in tears after receiving the Eucharist. When his new bride inquired, he said, ‘For the first time in my life, I understood the meaning of Christ’s words, ‘This is my body given for you.’”

Christ gives us His very body – not holding any part of Himself back.  His sacrificial love is a free, total, faithful and fruitful gift for His bride, the Church.  Beautifully, here at the cross, Christ also embodies the beauty Pope Saint John Paul II taught about through Theology of the Body…but that’s a whole other blog post.

Acts of Service:

Christ hung on the cross for over three hours, His breath ragged, His body desperately yearning for relief.  He hung on that cross for you – the ultimate act of service, especially in comparison to our human attempts at acts of selfless love.  Christ’s death on the cross was not for your temporary good  – Dear, let me unload the dishwasher for you so that you have more time…even though I’ll have to unload it again tomorrow too.  Nor was it for His own benefit – Here, let me help you go get groceries so we can get the pantry stocked and make dinner.

His death was the most selfless act of service that has ever existed.  Christ was not tainted by the presence of sin, yet He took upon Himself the weight of your sins so that He could love you eternally.

Words of Affirmation:

Gary Chapman touches on this, pointing to Luke 23:24, “Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'”

Yet Catholicism offers a continuation of that love thanks to the beauty of Holy Thursday.  Christ gave his disciples the power of the persona of Christ – whose sins they forgave, they were forgiven.  Whose sins they retained, they were retained.  And so, the most beautiful words of affirmation that a human being can hear are those in the confessional:

God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of Your Son, you have reconciled the world to yourself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.  Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace.  And I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Gift Giving:

There are an incredible amount of gifts that Christ gives to you during His time on the cross.

“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Christ gives us His mother, with his disciple representing humankind.  Mary becomes a channel through which we can grow closer to the heart of Christ, thanks to her intercession.

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.” Matthew 27:50  The Son of God, the Second person in the Blessed Trinity, gives the gift of His life so that you can live eternally with Him

It’s a gift – it isn’t forced, or mandatory or non-returnable.  The beauty of the gifts that Christ pours out on the cross lies in the fact that you have the choice to accept them.  Will you?

John Paul II Proves Men and Women Can Be Friends

It is no secret that I am such a fan-girl of Pope Saint John Paul II.  I’ve loved him as a saint, his writing sends chills down my spine, and he is the greatest contributor to my favorite subject – Theology of the Body.  He’s the patron saint of my relationship, my best friend to talk to in the car, and my constant companion as I embark on my writing journey.  You really can’t go wrong.  He hiked mountains, traveled the world, canonized so many of my heavenly friends and showed me that it is possible for guys and girls to be friends.

John Paul II had deep friendships with the women in his life and he left us a trail to follow in order to learn how to love {read:agape} others so well.  On an insanely exciting level, new letters have just been released documenting John Paul II’s friendship with a woman named Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.

They wrote philosophy together, hiked mountains with youth groups, enjoyed the outdoors, meaningful conversation and genuine friendship.

But then, in 1975, Anna-Teresa wrote that she loved then-Cardinal Karol.  His reaction was not the typical, worldly response.  He could have easily given into the temptation, but instead he sent her a scapular as a reminder of the purpose of their friendship: Heaven.  To push each other to be the best-versions-of-themselves and value the roles of their respective vocations.

Granted, that is the best case scenario response.  The typical JPII response, which of course is completely counter cultural and non-typical for the society we live in today and the cycle of use that has existed since Adam and Eve disobeyed God.

Gosh darn it Adam and Eve – that’s the most heart wrenching after-affect of original sin.  The beauty of the complete appreciation of other human beings for who they are and not what they can give was destroyed when sin entered the world.  Human beings had to put clothes on and become conscious of the concupiscence that now became a factor in their life.  But more importantly, the tendency to use others – especially those of the opposite sex – started tearing apart at the human foundation of interaction and virtuous friendship got a heck of a lot harder with the introduction of the supposed friend zone.

The dreaded ‘friend zone. – when one of the people in the friendship starts developing feelings at an unmatched or unrequited level.  I’m not a fan of the friend zone.  This dislike doesn’t arise from the fact that I’ve spent time in that zone, or banished others to there.  Here’s the thing.  If the only reason that you are entering into a friendship is so that there is potential for being more-than-friends later on, than you’ve already started spiraling into a cycle of use.  You’re not appreciating the image of God within the other person, but instead are reducing them down to what they can give you.  Whether that is emotions or security or status…you’re using them.  The relationship is what you can get, and not what you can give.  Is their friendship not good enough unless it blossoms into something? Or is their friendship a good in and of itself?

Call me crazy, but I truly believe men and women can be friends.  Look at all of the saintly friendships as examples.  Men and women who have strived after God’s heart and sainthood and they did it along side the opposite gender.  Saint Francis and Saint Claire.  Saint Pope John Paul II and {soon-to-be} Saint Mother Teresa.  St. Teresa of Avila and  Don Francisco de Salcedo.  St. Ignatius and Dona Isabel Roser.  St. Boniface and Abbess Eangyth.  The list goes on and on – because it is possible.  The world taints and skews and rips apart what friendship has the potential for…but at it’s core, a virtuous friendship is possible.

However, the culture today results in a very perilous predicament.  The hyper-sexualization of society in general results in the blatant acceptance of use.  It is an everyday occurrence to abuse the femininity and masculinity of others in order to advance one’s own standing in life.  In the ideal world, these friendships would come naturally and not stir up the wrong type of love.  Philial friendship does not have to lead into Eros love…but we tend to push it that way.  Additionally, even if a man and a woman maintain a solid virtuous friendship, the world constantly asks why they aren’t a couple – it’s the assumed next step.

Fact: Masculinity and femininity compliment each other beautifully.  Why? Because it’s ingrained into how God made the two sexes.  Men think differently than women, and vice versa.  In a multitude of scenarios, the solution begs for both vantage points.  But that won’t occur if we are perpetually declaring that men and women simply cannot channel their emotions and appreciate the other as a child of God.

So if there is a constant struggle within your relationships to maintain a healthy friendship, then perhaps the friendship that truly needs rehabilitation is the ultimate friendship: Christ and yourself.  Because from that foundation, everything is built upon, and without it, nothing makes sense.

 

The Danger of the Pinterest Life

I’m going to come clean.  I love pinterest.  No, that’s a drastic understatement.  I adore Pinterest.  The organizing personality aspect of me relishes in the clean tile design.  The optimistic creative spirit inside me revels in the possibility of new crafts and projects – which will inevitably have a 97% failure rate, but that 3% possibility is exciting and full of promise.  There is a constant stream of inspiration that comes across my board in everything from mountain views to toddlers in Halloween costumes.  No judgement.

My boards are not quite up to par – mostly because I get wrapped up and distracted looking at other people’s boards and creativity and don’t ever remember to pin anything of my own.  There is a mix of present and future all mixed together and resulting in a little electronic version of my brain.

But Pinterest is quite the double edged sword.  Because despite the beauty of lining up all of my dreams in order, Pinterest is quite a beast.  A really pretty beast, decorated in sparkles and glitter and painted in ombre tones fitting to the season.

Pinterest is the perfect monster. 

The perfect wardrobe, exceptional fashion and accessory coordinating, creative teaching, delicious cooking, brilliant landscaping and seemingly constant presence of perfectionism eats into me as I scroll through at the end of the night.  The constant stream of perfection wrenches further and further into my self-esteem and can {read: does} leave me feeling worthless, imperfect and lacking confidence in my ability to match cardigans with button-up tops.

That isn’t even starting into the incredible controlling aspect of Pinterest.  Not in the sense that it controls me {although my 1:00 am log-ons would beg to differ} but in the fact that it perpetrates the idea that your perfect plan is the only way things can happen.  Can you {gasp} imagine if you got married and your wedding ceremony didn’t have those little mason jars lining the sidewalk and your dress didn’t look like it does on that Italian model?  Or when you cook, the frustration experienced when your chocolate chip-Oreo-cream cheese- cinnamon rolls don’t end up looking exactly like the ones on your board?

It’s control.  I have to fight the desire to constantly control everything and make sure my plan happens.  Make sure my sisters see what I’ve been pinning so that when it comes time for my birthday, they’ll know what I’m interested in.  Make sure my fashion board looks coordinated enough so that, in a rush, I can make sure I have some inspiration for the days when the snooze button wins.  Control…control…perfection…control.  Don’t let anyone see that you don’t have it together sometimes.

The solution? As in all things, virtue stands in the middle.  So don’t get me wrong – I’m not telling you to delete Pinterest and shun all things that spark creativity with the fear that you will never create something worthy of a random board of things pinned by people you’ll never meet.  What I am gently advising is, as with all things, a sense of quiet discernment.  Yes, even with your Pinterest board.

Pin with intention. {embroider that phrase on a throw pillow, would ya?} Is what you are pinning distracting you from the life you are living now? Is it hindering your ability to see the beauty of your present moment, even if that moment means that your hair looks like the opposite of your inspiration page and your cardigan is slightly wrinkled?  Then it’s time to re-evaluate.

Be intentional.

If having a wedding pinterest board is not letting you enjoy your current vocation, delete it.  It’s better to go into Heaven with one less wedding dress pin than to enter purgatory bemoaning the times you let emotional chastity catch you up (Matthew 25:4…or something like that).  Point being, it’s not bad to be excited about the life God has planned for you – when that’s coupled with a trust in His plan…regardless of whether it involves keyhole wedding dresses or campus ministry or school work or whatever beauty He has in mind for you (Jeremiah 29:11…a real Bible verse that has an insane amount of promise packed into a few words.  Check it out.)

Enjoy Pinterest for what it is…don’t make your life cycle around the perfection or non-perfection of your current state.  Authentically enjoy every stage and don’t get wrapped up in the pinterest-qualities of things.  Trust me, it’ll be a lot more rewarding.

Not Just Another Relationship Article

Facebook knows me all too well, darn social media advertisement algorithms.  It seems that each time I log into my account {which is way too often} a new article pops up on my feed, promising all the secrets of relationships.

5 Tips to Perfect Communication with the Opposite Sex

How to Perfect Your Relationship

Romantic Secrets Everyone Should Know

I’m done with those articles.

Before I started dating, and even at the beginning of my relationship, I read them like they were going out business.  But, if there was one thing that reading all of those blogs, articles and books failed to teach me it was that no one is “by the book.”  When I would struggle with how to react to a situation and seek advice from those resources, I’d always come up frustrated that no one was writing on what I was going through – there wasn’t an article just for my relationship.

Honestly, to consider that each relationship issue, problem, decision or positive impression can be solve by a simple google search or thumbing through a book by a so-called expert is a huge injustice to people as unique and individual children of God.

This isn’t to discount the beauty of advice, good counsel and awareness.  There are some amazing resources out there that focus on a holistic view of a relationship.  But click-bait articles from Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire do not help in the formation of a relationship.  If anything, they actually hurt interactions because, in general, they reduce your relationship down to a cycle of use – whether that be for emotional, physical or even spiritual objectification.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship – or a perfect soul mate that has been destined by God from the beginning of time to fix all of your problems and be the strengths to all of your weaknesses.  Hold on, before you start yelling ‘cynic’ and ‘pessimist,’ hear me out.  I’m not saying that you can’t find or be found by someone who compliments you well, and with whom you can valiantly struggle with towards holiness despite your areas that aren’t complimentary.  But, even in the case of a beautiful, sainthood-as-the-goal relationship, it won’t fulfill you.

In your heart is a gaping hole – you know which one I’m talking about, the hole that has eaten you when you’re lying awake at night, walking on your way to class or sitting at Church.  It’s an aching that you can’t dismiss and it seems to pop up at the most inconvenient of moments.  But the most glaring characteristic of this hole is that it is God-shaped…which we want to ignore.  Because it’s easier to stuff things that aren’t God into this hole for temporary relief.  This isn’t to discount the beauty of how your relationship with God can influence and interact with your relationship with others.

If you’re in a relationship, take time to truly and genuinely get to know the other person.  What their likes, dislikes, passions, pet peeves, frustrations, joys and struggles are cannot be found in the latest dating blog.  Experiences, laughter, tears, and the gift of a life lived together cannot be revealed to you by Aziz Ansari – and I wouldn’t trust him even if he did.  You’re in a relationship with a human being who was created by God in a unique way, so don’t try to squish him or her down into a simple method of relationship tips you found in a google search.  Human beings are messy and muddy and they can’t be reduced down to the way you would like the relationship to go.

If you’re not in a relationship, the temptation to generalize comes in a whole new slew of ways.  To categorize the opposite sex as “all men” and “all women” simply because it hasn’t gone well with a certain few of them is falling into the same trap as I did with my article reading – a failure to realize the beauty of the human experience.  Look at the world the way that God sees it – an adventure full of excitement.  And don’t forget the most important relationship in your life, your relationship with God.  Yes, it sounds cheesy and you’ve probably heard it more than you want to…but it’s true. Finding the foundation of that relationship with Christ will make an incredible difference when it does come time to build other relationships.

This weekend is Valentines Day, which means that the world recognizes that human relationships {romantic or not} offer a unique opportunity to love.  However, don’t forget that each day you wake up breathing offers a unique opportunity to love.  So tell the people in your life that they are loved, respected and cherished…and don’t be afraid to remind them that God loves them more than you will ever be able to.

 

 

 

God Broke My Heart

 

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26

Throughout my whole life, I wanted the flesh heart that Ezekiel talked about.  I remember this verse and being intrigued by the idea of a real heart in terms of the interior life.  I knew that I had a physically real heart beating within my chest, but in terms of my spiritual life, the landscape of my heart looked more like a stone mountain range instead of a fertile planting ground for God to take root in.

So I took my desires to adoration and prayer and began to ask God to give me this real, fleshed out spiritual heart for His plan and will in my life – even though it would mean having to daily, if not hourly, combat the pride that stood in the way of the destruction of my cold, dead heart.

Yet instead of giving the hammer to God and asking Him to do exactly as He said He could, I pridefully took control of the hammer and began to chip away at my own heart.

Chipping away was probably an optimistic overstatement.  It was like I had a huge boulder to break down inside of my soul, but instead of pulling out a jackhammer and dedicating every waking moment that I had into smashing that stone encasement to smithereens, I was scratching at it with my fingernails in my spare time.

It wasn’t working.  The stone was still there and but I was hurting, aching, longing for anything different.  Although it was cold and hard, the stone was at least familiar and comfortable.  Having a flesh heart would hurt – the vulnerability and lack of control of a tender heart scared me to death and I was content with my stone.

“Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”
– Fulton Sheen.

God had the incredible ability to, if he so desired, simply glance at my stone heart and do the shatter-and-replacement mission in a split second.  Yet He, out of complete love for me and the desiring of my good, chose to break my heart first so it would mend and bind to His heart in the healing process.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, the character of Eustace, an English school boy, is turned into a dragon because of his selfish desires and hardened heart to his role in the Narnia quest.  There is a beautiful scene that resonated with my own story within the pages of the book.  Eustace returns to camp, transformed back into a boy, and tells his cousins the story of his transformation.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sorts of things and snakes can cast of their skin.  Oh of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means.  So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place….

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – You will have to let me undress you.  I was afraid of His claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.  So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right through my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I had ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure feeling the stuff peel off.

Well he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only even so much thicker, and darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been.  And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.  Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water.  It smarted like anything but only for a moment.  After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm.  And then I saw why, I’d turned into a boy again.

When Eustace tried to scratch away his dragon scales himself, he readily admitted that it hadn’t hurt.  It was only when he lay vulnerable to Aslan’s claws, although they terrified him, that the transformation back into His real self was possible.

The beauty of the Catholic faith is that it is the only religion that makes sense out of suffering.  In light of the cross, the suffering that we have is transformed and redeemed into a beauty from ashes.  Because Christ’s death is outside of the limits of time, each time trials or hardships are placed in our spiritual journey, we have the unique opportunity to unite those sufferings with those of Christ crucified.

My heart isn’t all the way transformed into it’s best-version-of-itself flesh state.  There are still many areas along it’s surface that are rough with calloused, hardened stone that God is still ripping off and breaking off in front of my eyes.  And, like Eustace’s transformation, I look at the pieces of my stone heart that lie in front of me, knowing that those are chunks of stone that would have taken me decades to smash myself.

God is good.  

I feel like I say that everyday, but it is the only phrase that my simple heart can utter in light of the incredible mercy and grace He has shown me.

The process still stings, but when I’m thrown into the waters of grace through confession, the pain is but moment and the joy is life-long.  And the tender heart that God is slowly transplanting into my chest is one of the most beautiful things that I have seen – tender and vulnerable, but protected by His hand and heart in ways I could have never imagined.