It’s a feeling no one wants to experience, yet there isn’t a life on earth that won’t feel the pain of a hollow heart at some point. That deep void that we search to fill. There are many reasons that one’s heart can ache in such a way – but they all center around loss. Not only a physical loss of someone, but the lost sense of purpose that person or circumstance provided in our own life. Last year, I posted an article about my last child, my son, going off to college and the inevitable emptiness that surrounded this life event. For others, this loss could be a physical one, or the betrayal of a friend or family member, or the longing for something that will never be.
“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
As I reflect upon Sunday’s Gospel reading and the sting in its words, I place myself within the story and ask God to teach me what He wants me to know.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
“Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”. For over 30 years of my life, my children have been a huge part of “my purpose” in life. It has been the best job I’ve ever had and I thank God every day for allowing me this grace and blessing of motherhood. Do I love them more than God? Yes, I suppose, sometimes I do. This honesty, is the power that comes from reflecting upon scripture and learning more about the vertical part of that holy cross.
Years ago, our pastor shared a visual example of the cross – the center of our Christianity. The Divine balance between love of God and service to others. The Divine balance – THAT is where I suppose the struggle is for most people. Do we tend to tip the scale too much towards one side? In this weekend’s homily on Matthew 10: 37- 42, a story was shared of a family who lost their only child. Of course, it was a painful story of the mother’s struggle and her anger with God. Her need to hear her daughter’s voice again and see the smile upon her face. It caught my attention because I too remember a time in my life where my anger was raw and very real with God.
It was early in my marriage and my husband and I had stopped attending church on a regular basis. I had just miscarried our first child. I remember being completely miserable. The pain and anger consumed me. One day, I found myself at the little church in town. I remember almost sneaking through the front doors as if I was sneaking up on God! I proceeded to unload about my loss and with each word that escaped my mouth, the pounding of my heart grew stronger as did my anger. Before I knew it, I found myself screaming at the foot of the cross. I left our little church that day never planning on coming back, but it’s been over 25 years now that I’ve attended that same little church. God used that painful moment to draw me back but it took many years for me to see that.
The memory of my own anger and loss drew me deeper into this mom’s experience and my heart ached for her. Her story ended with a moment where she too was screaming at God in the middle of the woods when she saw a deer out of the corner of her eye and it made her pause. This little distraction was just long enough to get her to stop and hear the words “You will see your daughter again, but you must go through me first.” These words became the place where God led her to seek Him and helped her bring her emotions in check with her priorities and beliefs. This is where she realized that she made her daughter her God.
A few nights before I heard this homily, I had been nonchalantly sharing with friends how it was easier for me to serve others in Christ’s name (the horizontal relationship of the cross) but still had work to do with God coming before everyone and everything else (the vertical relationship of the cross) in my life. These words – “I had made my daughter my God” were so powerful to me. When God says in the 10th Commandment “You shall not have any other God’s before me”, I’ve always been able to visualize that as meaning possessions, but never my family, never my husband and children. But today, I hear these words and it brings a whole new perspective to that Commandment.
I suppose the beginning of healing our hollowed hearts begins with the premise that God, once again, has this bigger plan that often we do not understand. By surrendering our pain, our loss, our anger, and our frustrations into His hands, we learn to trust. We look in so many other places to find peace and satisfaction and after years of searching and trying things that do not satisfy, we find our faithful Father waiting there patiently to fill the deep voids of our soul. The places only He can reach. The cycle of searching for the one that fills that void, is satisfied when we seek God first in all things; a practice I need to work on every moment of every day of my life.
You have made us for yourself oh Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you. ~ St. Augustine