I remember Sr. Carol Ann, my high school religion teacher, writing that on the board in big letters. Our religion is about relationship. It’s how God reveals Himself to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to Moses and the Israelites. He calls them into relationship.
I tried walking away from that relationship. In my blog, Stumbling Back to the Heart of God, I talk more about that journey.
God led me to my moment of conversion, and it was a moment of crushing. It was a moment where my heart was so broken, I was open to accepting the reality that He is the only thing I need. He is the only One who is able to provide what I need.
I’d tried to push Him away. I’d tried to pretend I didn’t really believe in Him. Too often, though, I was aware of Him in the little beautiful things of the world. A little plant growing up through the cracks of a sidewalk. The way a mist would drift across a city street late at night. The immense brilliance of the stars. The bigness of the vast universe.
He spoke to me, too. He asked me to come back to His Church. But I ignored Him. The world doesn’t like Christians very much. I thought it was easier not to be one.
So He allowed my crushing.
Grapes are crushed to make wine. Wheat is ground down to a fine powder to become the flour from which we make our bread. There is stirring and shaping, fermenting and waiting, allowing to rise.
“Many things need rest,” my spiritual director observed recently. Rest is an essential part of the process of growth. Waiting. Allowing the time it takes for a thing to become what it should be.
We require rest. So often my mind is so full of thinking about tasks that need to be done, the next project or projects that need to be completed, and that clouding of my thoughts begins to pollute my heart. When I’m rested, I can complete my tasks without allowing the concerns of the world to overflow into my heart. When I’m pushing on and on and on to the next thing, the next thing, past the point of exhaustion, the song of my heart is just a clanging gong, a clashing cymbal.
Back to the wheat and the grapes, there’s all this effort in cultivating, crushing, grinding down, preparing, and waiting. But all of that is meaningless on its own. Bread is still bread, wine is still wine, unless we offer it at the altar of sacrifice.
That offering is an act of surrender. And a moment where we have to be vulnerable. We must be honest with ourselves and God about what we’re offering and what we even have to offer. And then we have to let go.
After my Old Testament class with Sr. Carol Ann, I got in the habit of telling God about my day. Just sitting, talking to Him, and then listening to Him. But at one point, I started thinking, “God is so busy, He can’t possibly care about the little events of my day. I’m so small; how could He care about me, and what do I have to tell Him that He doesn’t already know?” So although I still had the desire to rest in His arms and speak openly with Him, I held myself, my life, and my heart back from Him. I put up a wall around my heart and clung tightly to my own life, my own ideals, my own brokenness.
He desires our surrender. He’ll bring us to those places where we have to surrender, where the ground is shaking so terribly underneath our feet that it’s all we can do to throw down our burdens and cling to the wood of the cross.
His wounds are my refuge. His wounded, pierced heart is where I go to be healed. I can’t cling to the bread or the wine of my life. I have to let it go. I have to let Him transform the ordinary, the worldly, the simple. It’s only in my act of surrender that those things become holy. It’s only in handing over my life to God that I can allow Him to transform me into the person He made me to be.
Like the Eucharist, this transformation of my broken self into the image of God isn’t visible on the outside. I don’t look any different when I become fully His. And yet when my heart is united with God’s Heart, God’s will, my entire being is totally transformed.
I’m still me, but I am not my own.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”1 John 4:4