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Everyday Faith

 

“Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

The most compelling evidence for the existence of God is this simple quote by Saint Augustine. We might call our restless heart by different names: our search for meaning, our desire for significance, the fuel that drives our accumulation of money and power, but I believe it is our soul longing for its creator.

I feel so strongly about this metaphor that I included it my last novel, A Map of Heaven. My main character travels to hell and is surprised when instead of fire and brimstone, she discovers a place of absolute silence and cold darkness. When she askes a woman standing nearby, the woman explains:

“If God is described as the light of the world, then I can only conclude that hell would be the absence of light. Our souls know there is a God, even if we spend our conscious lives denying His existence. The soul understands the unbearable torture of forever being separated from its Creator. This isolation where the singular craving is for unification, becomes the eternal torment that is more unbearable than any punishment. After all, one can assume that a flame might ultimately consume itself, whereas longing lasts forever.”

That longing lives within us until we find communion with God and experience his love. It is only in God that our restless hearts can rest. Otherwise, we spend our days trying to silence our longing with food and drink and money and sex and power. None of it works.

Pope Francis defined St. Augustine’s restlessness, our restlessness, as: “the restlessness of spiritual seeking, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.”

The restlessness of spiritual seeking is what we find in the hundreds of names we have for God. The myriad religions, spiritual practices, we may have dabbled in throughout our lives. As a college student, I sought God as I read books on Eastern spiritual teachings, New Age books, and visited countless churches. Eventually I found my home in the Catholic Church.

But I still lacked a personal encounter with God and an intimate understanding of God’s love for me. Recently, I told a friend that although I’ve been a Christian my entire life, it feels as if only in the past year have I begun to encounter and experience the richness of life with God. A life of faith.

What changed between then and now? I believe it happened when encountering God became a daily priority in my life. Spending a few minutes in prayer in the morning. Seeking God as I read the Bible each day. Father Michael once suggested we keep a Bible next to the place we sit down each morning and spend just a minute or two reading a few verses from one of the Gospels. As we walk out the door to begin our day, reflecting on what we’ve read, we ask God to show us Himself as we move through our day.

These briefest encounters create a thirst for more of God, which grows each day. “As a deer pants for water, so my soul longs for you, O Lord.”

At the center of of this longing for God is the most essential: we must experience God’s love. It sounds easy, and for some it is, yet I have often found it elusive. My easy ability to condemn myself causes me to doubt that God could love a wretch like me. My doubt is akin to turning my back on God’s open embrace, not realizing that the antidote for this emptiness is Love. Pure love doesn’t see our flaws as we see them. We were created by the source of love to be loved. God’s love for us cannot be anything but love, because God is nothing but love.

If we are to walk with Jesus to the Cross, we must experience Jesus doing this as love poured out for us. Each step being love freely given. Let’s endeavor to walk so closely with Jesus that our pain is consumed in the flame of his heart, so we are freed to experience his perfect love. Let’s offer our restless hearts to God and rest in his love for us.

 

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