Tuesday, 22 December 2015

To Be Someone's Darling

I'm one of those head instead of heart people. But if you knew your Myers-Brigg, you'd already know that. The 'T' can sometimes translate as hard-hearted, coldly logical, or just not very affectionate. Over the years as I came to know the God of love, and spent time with Christian community, He began to soften my rough edges, move me from hard-heartedness to soft-heartedness.

Still, I often find it hard to show or receive affection. Indian families are not usually very demonstrative, cuddles are unusual, and saying "I love you" as a matter of course is unusual. Add to that the British influence in my family, we can be pretty undemonstrative, more prone to sarcastic dry, witty comments than showering someone with affection. I didn't really think that was a big deal, until I began to wonder why I find it hard to 'experience' God's love (which I accepted intellectually).

I recently attended a retreat where we talked about every human being's desire to be delighted in, to be 'seen', without criticism, expectation, or demands. I knew God loved me, I had seen so many ways He had answered my prayers, begun to change me, save me from my selfishness, bring healing to my relationships. And yet, when I sat down to be with Him in prayer, contemplation- "I look at God and He looks at me' often evaded me.

A few days ago I read this article:

When Being Called a “Child of God” Draws a Blank

For many, Christmas means trying to grasp God's all-consuming love for us, without the helpful perspective of having once been someone's darling.

And this one-

Oxymoron of an Anchoress on a Silent Retreat 

As I sat in the Gaze of Mercy, I felt Our Lord ask “Let me look at you…I love to look at you.” These words were from a shared story, which goes something like this: Each day, after school, a mother would wash and press her young daughter’s uniform. In the morning the child would be clean and fresh for a new day of learning. Before the child left for school the mother would say to her, “Let me look at you” checking her from head to toe, then “I just love to look at you.” 

They struck a chord, even though I have come from a stable family- have never been abused or abandoned, have been protected, valued, loved. And yet, I feel like I have hardly experienced that gaze of attentive, unconditional, delighted love. How few of us have. Brokenness passes from one generation to the next. It spreads within a culture. Our schools and our school teachers reinforce this brokenness. I was with some schoolchildren and teachers recently, and the only way the teachers could relate to the children (whom I know they genuinely care about) was to correct them or instruct them in gruff tones- "Stand straight! Don't stand there! Say thank you!"etc.

I tried to communicate the love of the Father to the students as I did a session about Christmas with them. "God loves you! He looks at you and says, 'How beautiful'" I told them as I put my hand on one student's cheek, trying to communicate God's delight. Her eyes lit up. Who had ever said that to her?

The beauty of existence, loved into it, and through it, pierced my heart. There was joy in knowing what it is to be the child of a parent looking upon you in all your sweet wonders. It is good to be somebody’s beloved daughter. 

But I did know that intimacy. I HAD tasted it.

The author of the articles wrote, 'Being single and childless — I feel curious. Curious enough to ask my friends about it. “What do you, as parents, feel when gazing upon your children?” I have asked. “As a beloved child, when young — or now, looking back as an adult with children of your own — what was in the moments you experienced, that you became aware of such a gaze?"'

I am single and childless, and yet God awakened intimacy in my soul through the birth of my little nieces. I was on the other end of the delight, but I suddenly found parts of my soul I didn't know existed. As babies, I longed to hold them, just stare at their perfect little faces, their curves, listen to their sweet baby gurgles. What contentment as they nestled close against me.

As they grew older, I loved to hear them talk, every word was greeted with delight. What joy when they said our names (and what jealousy when they said the other aunts' or uncles' first) We'd get them to repeat words they didn't understand after us- "That's ridicklus!"and just revel in these little creatures who were OURS. Even now as lanky 6 and 7 year olds who can barely fit on my lap, I find such joy in their silly, innocent love for me, the things they want to show me, their observations about life, their openness, their questions, just THEM. Their existence. Their humanity.

I look at them the way God looks at me. The way He wants me to look at every human being, especially my family. To SEE them. And to allow Him to SEE me.

Last night I sat before the Blessed Sacrament with the Christian young professionals' group I belong to, just sat, for an hour, in silence before Him. Allowing Him to love me. Last night I also sat with my mum, as she set aside her to do lists to listen to me, and love me. 'Wasting' time.

It's beginning.

1 comment:

  1. Author James Martin, S.J. describes similar feelings upon the birth of his nephews in "The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything".