It’s really the same way I am with God. Sometimes when I make an effort to pray, I can chit-chat to Him and sugar coat everything, as if my scars and hurts aren’t really a problem and everything is perfectly fine. This ‘prayer’ is unproductive and honestly, so ridiculous because God already knows me inside and out. I imagine Him sitting there, when I pray like that with raised eyebrows, just smiling and nodding and saying, “Okay dear daughter, I’ll still be here when you’re ready to really open up to me…”
These walls around my heart and my entire thought process – or lack thereof – really came to light when I attended a conference last weekend. The day was filled with dynamic speakers that had heart-hitting messages on how to grow in virtue and womanhood and how to enjoy our daily labors. At one point, one of the speakers, Father Mathias, led us in an exercise in which we closed our eyes and identified things that we were holding onto that we didn’t want to give up to Jesus. Then, we had to take our closed fists of ‘things’ and physically reach out and imagine giving it to Jesus in front of us.
This simple exercise was so powerful and I found myself crying almost instantly as Father was helping us identify things we may be holding onto, “Any hurt that you’ve endured, any walls that are up around your heart, anytime you haven’t felt listened to, anytime your husband has said something that hurt you, or done something that hurt you, anytime you didn’t feel worthy…” my tears were flowing as I was finally starting to let my guard down and recognize some hurt in my heart that I’ve been ignoring. As Father led us to imagine giving these things to Jesus, I cried even harder. I was actually embarrassed and shameful that certain things did hurt me so why would poor, pitiful me, give these to Jesus? They’re not a gift! They’re ridiculous, petty things and situations that I shouldn’t even be sitting here crying about. Just then, Father said, “I want you to imagine Jesus looking at you, and I want you to just look back at Him…” I was crying even harder, on the verge of full out shoulder shaking, deep gasping bawling because even imagining this, I didn’t want Jesus to look at me! I have nothing to offer! Father miraculously addressed this, “Some of you may not want the Lord to look at you, or you may not want to look at Him and that’s okay…”. The exercise ended and I was emotionally exhausted as I grabbed for tissues and dabbed my cheeks and eyes, putting the walls all back up and trying to distract myself by cracking jokes with the women next to me. But what the heck was that that had just happened?
During this conference, there were prayer teams offered and I felt so drawn to being prayed over. This is not like me – being prayed over makes me uncomfortable. In fact, our parish has an amazing ministry and we are routinely given opportunities to be prayed over, but I always shy away from it because it’s just outside of my comfort zone. However, I thought now presented a good opportunity to try it out because the setting was pretty private and the prayer teams were people I didn’t know and would probably never see again – for some reason, this seemed easier. As I was walking to the prayer teams, it occurred to me that the reason I don’t like being prayed over is because it makes me so vulnerable. In order to bear the fruits of it, I know that you really need to open up and let your guard down. Is this why I avoid prayer teams at my parish? Is this why I get so uncomfortable when my husband and I try to pray with each other and pray over each other? If this why my personal prayer life is so superficial at times? Is this another wall around my heart? I sat down with the prayer team, two older women, and just started crying. I’m thinking, Ana, get it together! Where is this coming from?! I proceed to tell them that I don’t even know what I want, but I do know that I am struggling with completely opening up to my husband, and to God. That’s all they needed and they got to work. While being prayed over, I didn’t physically feel anything or have any spectacular visions or manifestations, I was just trying to compose myself and listen to them call out to the Holy Spirit. When they were done, I felt a little more relaxed but still didn’t feel like I had any answers or a plan. As I thanked them and got up to leave, one of the ladies sat me back down and said,
“God really wants you to know that you are worthy of everything He gives you. He sees your efforts and your obedience, and He is so pleased with you. Don’t be ashamed to come to Him and bring all of your hurt and your weaknesses. He loves your weaknesses. He knows that you hate your weaknesses, but he LOVES them, because in your weakness, you seek Him.”
And there I go, crying again – this time, bawling. Those words, ‘You are worthy. It’s okay to be hurt. Your weaknesses are okay, in fact, someone thinks they are beautiful.’ No one has ever, ever, ever told me that before – if they did, I wasn’t listening. I’ve always looked at my weaknesses with such shame. Shame to the point that I hide them. I hide my selfishness from my husband. I hide my pride from God. I hide every rotten thought in my mind (that doesn’t escape out my mouth) deep in my heart and chastise myself for thinking like that. I hide my hurt and slap on a smile. I hide my hurt and say “nothing” and “I’m fine” when my husband questions my bad mood. I hide so much of myself that I can’t truly open up to my husband or to God and that is damaging me, my marriage and my faith life in the long run.
For the first time, I started to understand that I really need to acknowledge and embrace my hurts and weaknesses (my crosses) and not be ashamed of them. They are important factors that - once restored - will lead me to be able to truly love God, to truly love others, and to truly love myself. Once God helps me identify my hurts and weaknesses, He begins to heal and I can begin to work through them. In his speech, Father Mathias said the best way to do this is to ask God to show you what you are holding onto or what is holding you back from Him, and expect an answer. You can always double check that God is listening to you with this prayer, or with a prayer asking for humility, I have never found a prayer answered more quickly than these two.
In the past, I had been led into a similar exercise of identifying and releasing hurts and weaknesses and completely ignored the fact that my husband could have caused some of the walls in my heart, which in hindsight is really naïve. I remember thinking, “He is my soulmate, sure he’s hurt me with little things, but I can’t really ponder that…this exercise must be for deeper, bigger hurts in my past…” But that’s not always the case. For example, every time my husband looks at his phone when I am talking to him, I don’t feel listened to. Every time he has made comments about the house being a mess, I feel criticized. When he confessed to me that he had viewed pornography, I felt not good enough for him and unworthy. Those day-to-day things add up, and we are really good at brushing off that hurt and pretending to let it roll off our backs, when in honesty, we are just fortifying the walls around our heart. The beauty of revealing all of this hurt to God is that He has the ability to take it away from you. He takes it upon Himself and he holds you and He heals you, if you let Him. So when you meditate on what the root cause of your hurts and weaknesses are, remember that no one and no thing is off limits. God will reveal what is holding you back from Him if you completely open your heart to Him.
It feels so freeing to acknowledge and address some hurt and be able to ‘get real’ with my husband, and with God. It’s definitely not a change that happens overnight and it’s certainly not effortless. I have to take time to find the right words and a loving way to tell to my husband that what he just did/didn’t do/said hurt me and why. The same way with God, sometimes I get mad at Him – it happens – and instead of pretending that I’m alright, I just love being real with Him and shouting, “I’m really mad at you right now! What are you doing?!” The best part is, even after I abruptly quit talking to Him after my outbursts, He is the most loving, forgiving Father, sitting there, waiting to embrace me when I come around and say, “Alright Father, you were right and I’m sorry…”
So the whole point of this post is to let you know that you are not alone. I understand those strong, immovable walls around your heart and the guilt you may feel just for having them. Maybe your walls are 100 feet high and guarded by giants, or maybe they’re a mere brick or two tall and easily destructible with some prayer. Regardless of the size, we all have those walls up to some degree. I am confident that, with God’s help, you can discover what has caused the walls and that hurt in your heart and begin to allow the Great Physician to heal you while He showers you with graces so that you may begin to work on strengthening your weaknesses.
You are worthy and God really does love your weaknesses, even if you don’t.
Don’t be so hard on yourself.
You are a good mother.
You are a good daughter.
You are a good sister.
You are worthy of every joy and happiness that God blesses you with and I challenge you to start thinking that way.
I pray today for you, reading this blog. First, in thanksgiving that you read to the end (this one was my longest post yet) and second, that God may reveal to your humble heart, anything that is stopping you from completely falling helplessly in love with Him. If you're struggling in identifying any of your 'walls', get in contact with me and I will - no questions asked - be your guest and accompany you to a visit with an amazing prayer team.