A spiritual writer, who has helped me on the journey is Father Thomas Keating ( I discovered him in 1984). He makes this observation regarding a quote from St Therese of Lisieux, “This is one to the greatest insights of all time into the nature of God and of our relationship to him.” Here is her quote: “Even if I had on my conscience every conceivable sin, I would lose nothing of my confidence. My heart overflowing with love, I would throw myself into the arms of the Father, and I am certain that I would be warmly received.” I must confess that in the early days of “my kingdom building” I could not relate very well to this quote. It might be that some of you men have the same reaction.
I want to share three truths that I have learned over the years that allow me to say “amen” to this quote from Theresa. I don’t know why it took so long to have these convictions formed in my soul. But I am motivated to share my story with other men, so they do not have to wallow in the pit of despair, doubt and condemnation. I encourage each man to take Paul’s warning to the Galatians to heart. “When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace…..What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love” (Gal 5: 4,6 – Message).
First, I know at the deepest level of my soul that God loves me in all my shame and vulnerability. When I began to expose the dark side of my heart to God and spiritual friends, I came to know God’s love for me. I am his beloved. With Therese, I can throw myself into “the arms of the Father,” being confident of his love. Yes, and I know that I will be “warmly received” because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1)
Secondly I am a Beloved sinner. I am a man born into sin. I have developed deep sin patterns in my life, some of which I am still discovering. It is similar to a spiral that goes ever deeper in the cleansing of my soul. Yes, I am deeply flawed, but I am the beloved of God. Paul said of himself, “Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I’m proof – Public Sinner Number One – of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy” (I Tim 1:15). I say amen.
Thirdly, I am under construction. The image of God within me is tarnished. Experiencing God’s love for me at a deeper level, has gives me the vulnerability to acknowledge my fallen state before God and other brothers. It brings a lot of relief to not have to perform, but freely admit that I am tarnished. I still pretend at times, but not like I did in the past. Now it is easier to relax and just let it be, knowing that I am “warmly received.”