“This helplessness, what’s it like?” asked my spiritual director.
It took me a few minutes to let the feeling return to my body. It’s how I felt the night I was driving to a friend’s house in the rain. I was pressed for time, couldn’t find the address, and had forgotten my cell phone. “Panic,” I said as tears came.
Then I remembered how I eventually found her door and was warmly welcomed. I wasn’t even late. “But there’s a bottom to it,” I added. “Like I’m being held.”
“Like being held,” she said, savouring the thought.
“I visited my friend Bonnie* this week. She’s been ill for some time,” I said. “She’s so weak, she can’t do much of anything. She told me she finds it difficult to concentrate long enough to pray. Then she said, ‘I end up picturing myself on a cross with Jesus, and God is holding us both. That brings me some comfort.’ Beautiful, eh? So tender.”
I wiped the tears from my cheeks. “Bonnie told me how hard it is for her–having been a strong, active person her whole life–to be so powerless and needy. She wanted to know what to do to get her strength back, yet even thinking of doing anything exhausted her.”
“And what did you want to say to her?”
“I wanted to say, ‘Just rest here in this holy place and be loved.'” More tears. I knew that’s what God wanted to tell me, too.
I visited Bonnie again a few days later and told her what happened in spiritual direction.
“This helplessness, it’s supposed to be salvific,” she said. “That’s what a priest told me years ago when I went through a dark night like this. He said it as if he were announcing great news, ‘Bonnie,’ he said, ‘this is salvific!’ It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? While I lie here, not doing much of anything, God is saving me.”
Let me not run from the love which you offer.
–Soul of Christ Prayer
paraphrased by David L. Fleming, SJ
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“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it,” wrote Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel. Richard Francis Xavier Manning (1934 – 2013), best known as Brennan Manning, was a Franciscan priest who left the priesthood to marry and later divorced. Alcoholism and one failure after another opened him to receive God’s salvific love. This self-declared ragamuffin knew, like few others, the depth of God’s love. Through his writing and speaking, along with millions of others, I was transformed. I discovered grace and began to believe that God really does love me.