You Were Worth Dying For: My Lenten Dating Fast, Day 20

I needed to reach a breaking point in the dating fast. And I did.

My dare for Day 17 was to meditate in front of a crucifix. The idea was to imagine Christ on the cross saying to me, “I did this for you. Just for you.”

My problem is that I really, really suck at meditating. My brain is always buzzing with 10 different ideas at once. When I try to focus on my post-Communion prayer during Mass, I inevitably think about something else the whole time and then do a quick father-son-holy-spirit-amen after the priest says, “Let us pray.” However, I’ve found that my brain is more inclined to focus, especially during prayer, when my hands are occupied. So to combat any mental wanderings, I brought my journal with me into the meditation chapel on campus. After a minute or two in front of the cross, I opened up my journal and began to write: “Are you just as you were when you were 15?”

At age 15, I felt called to take ownership of my faith in a way I hadn’t before, which is a story for another time. As I wrote in the meditation chapel, the question that plagued me was whether God had really made me a better, more holy person in those six years. And for the first two-thirds of the time I spent there, I thought that I was the same person as I was at 15, just with more sin.

As I wrote, I felt the weight of all the things I had done wrong in the past six years, even the ones that had been absolved through confession. My heart felt like lead. I began to cry. I’m generally not a crier during prayer, but God brought me to my knees in that moment. I asked Jesus, “Why was I worth dying for? I have all this sin on my heart. I hate myself for all the ways I’ve hurt You and others. How can You say You love someone like me? I don’t deserve it.”

I was writing furiously and sobbing alternately. Here I was trying to grow closer to God, doing all the right things — going to Mass three times a week, praying, going on a dating fast, listening to Christian music, etc. — yet I still felt like a horrible human being. I couldn’t see God working in my life. I wasn’t a saint, therefore, I had to be the worst sinner in the world.

Suddenly, everything changed. I began to write out the lyrics to “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North: “Why are you striving these days? Why are you trying to earn grace? … Look at these hands and my side. They swallowed the grave on that night, when I drank the world’s sin, so I could carry you in and give you life.” After I had written out a good chunk of the lyrics, I turned the page and wrote five words in huge letters: “YOU WERE WORTH DYING FOR.”

In that moment, Jesus’ mercy penetrated all the layers of shame and self-loathing that had been weighing me down just a few minutes prior. Mark 2:17 reads, “‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”

For much of my spiritual journey, I have battled the false idea that I need to cross off every item on a spiritual checklist before God can love me. God never said, “I will only love you if you don’t sin.” If that was the case, He wouldn’t have sent us His only Son, Jesus Christ, so that we might be free and forgiven from our sins.

This is our faith. This is amazing grace. Believe it. Jesus’ mercy is yours. Take it.

À bientôt!

– Vicky

What are some of your favorite ways to pray? Tell me in the comments below!

Loving Regina George

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(Photo credit to shame-full.com)

I’M BAAAACK!!! (in the States, that is.)

Don’t get me wrong; I loved my life in France. But one of the things I missed the most about America was my college’s Catholic community. I was reminded of how much I missed it three weeks ago during our Fall Retreat. Our theme for the weekend was community: what it is, how we could strengthen our bonds of community at our school, and how we could bring that same spirit of community to the rest of the world.

One of the most poignant and challenging talks of the weekend came from one of our new campus ministers. He talked about community through the lens of Jean Vanier’s book “Community and Growth.” Vanier is a Canadian Catholic theologian who founded L’Arche, a community for adults with developmental disabilities that has offshoots all over the world. One part of the book discusses enemies, or people we don’t like for one reason or another. How can we love them as God loves us? Vanier says that in order to build community throughout the world, we have to recognize that every single person has flaws and virtues alike.

During that section, one scene from Mean Girls played through my head. Cady (Lindsay Lohan) demands of Aaron Samuels what good he sees in his girlfriend, queen bee Regina George (Rachael McAdams). Aaron retorts with, “There’s good and bad in everybody. Regina’s just more up front about it.”

I think everyone can name one or two people in their lives who were their own Regina Georges — people who were just so mean and nasty that you couldn’t help but hate them. After our campus minister finished his talk, I realized how much of a grudge I still held for my own Regina Georges, even though hadn’t seen them since high school! I still associated anger, pain and malice with their memories because I had never found a constructive outlet through which I could express my feelings (and no, I’m not talking about hitting them over the head with a croquet mallet.) Anyone who knows me personally knows how much I hate confrontation. I just can’t do it. Even though these few individuals in high school were mean to me and to others, I could never bring myself to tell it to their faces. So I turned to God.

When I got back to my room that night, I wrote in my journal: “10 Things I Admire About ________” I made myself list 10 different things for each person. It was hard! I had to let go of my prejudices and see these people for who they really were: flawed human beings, yet beloved children of God. To each list, I added a bonus #11: “He/She is my brother/sister in Christ, therefore I should love them accordingly.” As soon as I finished, a wave of relief washed over me, as if my heart had just dropped a heavy burden that it had been carrying for many years. Jesus calls us to forgive one another, every single time, every single day. Believe me when I say forgiveness doesn’t just heal the person you forgive; it heals you, the forgiver.

Vanier also suggests that our enemies are a reflection of our own flaws: “Their presence seems to awaken our own poverty, guilt feelings and inner wounds; it seems menacing and brings out in us either aggression or a sort of fear and servile regression…Others bring out our envy and jealousy; they are everything we wish we were ourselves. Their presence reminds us of what we are not; their radiance and their intelligence underline our own poverty.”

When I looked over the lists I had made, the one trait that dominated them was confidence. These people knew their worth, and would walk into a room with their heads held high, talking to anyone and everyone with no trouble at all. These are traits that I don’t have. Therefore, I saw their confidence as arrogance and ridiculed them, thinking “I’m better than them because I tear myself down daily, become a wallflower at parties, and tell myself I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, etc.” That is a false sense of modesty. True modesty says “I am beautifully and wonderfully made, but not more or less so than anyone else in the world.”

So if you’re butting heads with your own Regina George, try making a list of his or her most admirable qualities. If you prefer, you can change #11 to: “This person is a human being, with both flaws and virtues. Therefore, I should treat them with the same amount of respect and love that I would show the person I love the most.” Even if it doesn’t change this person’s attitude toward you, it will change the way you act and think about them, and the world will be a little more peaceful for it. Remember, we are all human, and God loves us all.

À bientôt!

Vicky