How is it possible to love someone deeply who you can’t see, feel or know for sure even exists? People worldwide manage this very thing with God. I am no different and the depth of my love for Him is something most people around me are totally unaware of.
I prefer it this way, because my relationship with God is too precious, too private to share with others. I don’t need to wear it on my sleeve and preach about it everywhere I go in normal every day life, because by doing so, it would achieve nothing but attract attention to me rather than God.
Love doesn’t always have to be about sharing everything with the world, telling innermost thoughts to everyone we meet, but in recent years I’ve been asked by heaven to do that very thing. No one, but three people who are the closest to me in my personal life, are aware how difficult sharing deeply private thoughts and information has been for me.
In my opening sentence, I asked how we could love someone we can’t see or feel, yet feeling God is something some of us have actually experienced. When God touches you, allows you to feel Him, it is as nothing anything this world can offer or even come close to.
There is knowing He is with us and feeling warmth as He watches over us at all times, but what I speak of here is very different. To actually be allowed to be in God’s presence and be given feelings not of this world is beyond words. How easy it is to love Him when this has happened. My love started well before, but since such experiences, it’s only served to make my love even deeper.
As a young child, I was always very shy and hardly spoke a word. No one knowing me today would ever think this possible or very likely, but I was cripplingly shy until about the age of thirteen when I rebelled a bit at school. I suppose I rebelled due to the fact I knew I didn’t fit in and was possibly doing it to try to be one of the girls.
Despite being so shy, the one time anyone would hear me speak up in class was when the priest was there reading his stories to us and explaining them. As a child of around the age of seven or eight, I was so eager to hear more and would ask him to explain more in-depth about certain parts I never understood. I wasn’t doing it to be disruptive, I was hungry to learn and understand. I wanted to feel so much closer to the people being talked of and their lives and be part of it. Something about it all resonated with me and made me feel different, but I didn’t understand why.
Instead of having my questions answered, I was often told to stand outside the door of the classroom in disgrace for interrupting. As an adult, and someone who now teaches others myself, I can understand how my interruptions must have irritated the poor priest. After all, he was trying his best to explain in words children could relate to and everyone but me was happy with his explanations. For the rest of the class what he said was always enough, but I was always looking deeper and asking questions most people never even thought of asking.
I loved hearing bible stories and wanted to get to know the people in those stories properly. I wanted to understand what everything we were hearing meant, but so much was in words not easy to understand for such young ears.
The stories of Jesus were especially moving to me. Gethsemane was, and still is, the most incredible thing I have ever heard about in my life. In my adult life, I have even been allowed to experience the tiniest, most minute sample of the suffering Jesus went through for us. Those who know of me, my work and of what happens to me will understand why I say this. Others won’t, but hopefully, by the end of reading this account of my relationship with God they might.
The second story that has stayed with me through my life is the one about Bernadette and Our Lady at Lourdes. I ended up taking Saint Bernadette’s name at my confirmation due to how I somehow felt connected to her and felt I knew her. I still feel close to her to this day.
Another memory from my earliest years was of going several times into the closed Carmelite convent about forty minutes away from where we lived. We’d see the nuns sitting behind a grille and the first time I went there with my mother, I asked her why they were ‘behind bars’. As a little girl, I hadn’t realised some nuns lived in a closed convent and others were of the world.
I still didn’t fully understand it until older, but despite it being a contemplative order, we were allowed to visit them once in a while and they were given permission to sit and talk with us. Not all spoke to us as I recall, only a couple of them did, but the others were allowed to sit, listen and watch.
One thing that always stood out to me above all else was their faces. Not one had a line on it. I’m sure some did in reality, but even the older nuns had a look about them that was different to people we met outside. As a small child, all I knew is they seemed to glow and looked so young. Even the older ones had a look about them different to people we saw each day.
I never understood why they looked so different, but used to think of them often when back at home remembering how happy they all looked. Their smiles were so open and friendly, their excitement at seeing us obvious. Maybe I was looking beyond their earthly appearance and seeing more of what God saw.
As an adult, I can now understand the glow I saw, their seeming innocence, clear faces and eyes were due to being untroubled by life and the world as we are day to day. Their prayer life had brought them so close to God. The outside world was something far removed from their thoughts and minds, as they were focused more on the spiritual realms rather than the earthly ones.
During recent years, as I’ve drawn closer to God due to what’s been happening to me, I can understand totally how they felt comfortable being cut off as they were. I too have cut off from the world in so many ways and become almost reclusive at times. I wouldn’t want to be quite so cut off as a contemplative order, but could easily live in such a sheltered place as long as I could still go about doing my work wherever it may take me.
Another thing I adored as a child was when missionary fathers came to speak at the church. Instead of the usual sermon, we had priests who’d come over from Africa to share with us their stories. They were so magical, so real and so heart warming.
I used to sit on the edge of my seat glued to every word with my heart bursting with love for them, their work and how many people they brought to God. Here were true men of God, people who went out and taught how to know God, to love Him and to want to serve Him.
They had stories about real people, how those people loved and served God without need for all the parrot fashion trappings done halfheartedly as seen elsewhere. These were people who sounded to me like they had truly found God rather than religion. Heartwarming stories of kindness, laughter, joy at knowing God and doing all He asks of us. This to me was how it should be. I could relate to all of that so much easier.
Those were the days I’d come home from church feeling warm and as though something had touched deep inside me. I wanted to be as them and to share in such wonderful experiences of helping people come to know God as He really was and is.
No one knew how I felt. I was so shy, so quiet in those days that I never told anyone my feelings. It is only in recent years at God’s request, I have opened this side of myself up for others to hear and know of. It is those ways I would love to see again, but everywhere. To sit with such people, share incredible stories with others in the ways we heard about them.
Even back then, something told me what was happening each Sunday at mass wasn’t the same thing at all. They can’t be compared, but even though mass didn’t leave me feeling as it did when the missionaries visited, at least it was far more reverential than any I go to today.
It was more moving and allowed you to see the love the priest had for God. Even the people sitting in church were different, behaved as though they were there to be with God, to talk to Him, to listen to Him for answers to their questions. There was peace, quiet, only hushed whispers and no loud voices as we hear today. Everyone knelt and prayed before mass started rather than chat, laugh and gossip.
There was a love that made me as a child want to become holier, a better person and one who would bring others to love Him as all the people around me did. Priests would give sermons that were often hard hitting. Sermons that made people sit up and think hard about how they were living and how it wasn’t as God asked of us all. That too is something we rarely see today. They may not have been the same as the missionaries talks, but they still made an impression.
Some of the sermons were way over a child’s head, which is why I preferred the missionaries and their wonderful stories about real people. Children were seen and not heard in church. They were made to behave or taken outside so as not to disturb those at prayer and so the priest could be heard when talking to us all.
How things have changed. Walking into a church today is similar to walking into a pub, theatre or any other place where noise levels are high and chatter incessant. Hardly anyone walks in quietly, kneels (or sits) down and prays till mass starts. Where is the preparation before mass? Where is the contemplation and wish to put oneself as close to God as they can before the service begins?
Today, an empty church is far nicer to me. They make me feel far closer to God and my prayers more meaningful. No noise, chatter or incessant running up and down by uncontrolled noisy children or adults wanting to show off they have a job to do and are important.
I want those days back of when I was a child and enjoyed being in church. When being there made me feel I had gone to visit God in His home on earth. When people sat in reverential peace and respect for where they were and why they were there.
Nothing in me has changed about wanting to talk to people as the missionaries did – and still do. They reached out to everyone. There was no division between everyone as all the Christian Churches display so arrogantly. There is no hierarchy in such places, no superiority and no egos running amok.
They taught about God, but in a way filled with love, acceptance and joy. They taught that each of us can be filled with and touched by the Holy Spirit. They showed that love and service of God can be done without need for formality done just out of a sense of duty. They believed what they preached and taught, because they knew it to be the truth, because God told us how to love, how to serve and how to unite not divide.
In church, we are taught we can be touched by the Holy Spirit, but they also bind us. They only accept we can be touched in the ways they approve of…
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