Excerpt from Augustine’s Confessions, Book 10; section 4.
“I do Your bidding in word and deed alike. I do it beneath the protection of your wings, for the peril would be too great, if it were not that my soul has submitted to You and sought the shelter of Your wings and that my weakness is known to You. I am no more than a child, but my Father lives for ever and I have a Protector great enough to save me. For He who begot me and He who watches over me are one and the same, and for me there is no good but You, the Almighty, who are with me even before I am with you.”
Is it not comforting that our weakness is known to God?
We live in a society addicted to image, always presenting the best of ourselves so that we might not feel the shame and fear of our brokenness exposed. We don’t like vulnerability because those we are vulnerable to are broken just like us, and so the fear and the hurt never ceases. We fear that the awareness of our deepest darkest places will make us outcasts; rejected and alone. So we pretend. We put on our happy faces, our best clothes, our makeup, and our most attractive lies, and go to work. Because that’s what it is: it is hard work to live a pretense and to attempt to impart ourselves as better than we are. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
But what pure relief! What relief is ours when we reflect on the immeasurable love of the Almighty who knows every weakness that we try to hide from others, every sin that we try to hide even from ourselves, and yet cradles us in the strength of His arms and tells us He loves us! Is there a joy comparable to that reflection on His undeserved yet richly bestowed grace, forgiveness, and love?
No need to hide, no need to fear, no need to pretend. Wouldn’t we like to experience that kind of helpless freedom here on earth though? The helpless freedom of being loved despite all the pain and weakness. God speaks intangibly to us through a tangible world, and we doubt God’s mercy and love, because in this broken and sinful world we don’t experience that same unconditional quality of relationship. We experience pictures of it in certain relationships and roles. We experience something like unconditional love and forgiveness from our mothers and fathers, a relationship designed to demonstrate our Heavenly Father’s love for us; but even that breaks down in this world. We experience something like unconditional love and forgiveness in our churches, a relationship designed to represent the familial fellowship of Jesus with His fellow heirs and brothers; but even our churches fail us. Even more, we experience something like unconditional love and forgiveness in marriage, the ultimate metaphor of God’s romance with His chosen people. And in a God-centered marriage, we hope to have the safest possible place in this unsafe world to experience such things; but even marriages break apart.
Sounds tragic, no? Can there be a happy ending for our needy hearts when we live in a universe that knows only sin and broken selfishness?
Fortunately, life isn’t a tragedy. It’s a comedy. Our happy ending is already written, and what now we can only dream of tangibly feeling, one day we will bask in the physical presence and comfort of the only One who can truly and does truly love our beautiful broken souls in ultimate forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion, and intense driving love. And when we bask, our souls will be broken no more, as the healing of the King renews our very being and makes us whole!
Find comfort in embracing weakness. Don’t wear yourself out with endless hours of pretense and masks, but wear your true self boldly, knowing that the only One who really sees all, loves you anyway. And in this temporal world, it is only the ones who reflect The One who will also love you even when they see your weakness revealed, and those are the ones you should be glad to fellowship with, experiencing a momentary glimpse of the joy we expect in the final presence of our Lover and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And in the mean time, strive to give that kind of love to others, who need it as much as you do. Because, after all, we are called to be like Jesus.
“You have forgiven my past sins and drawn a veil over them, and in this way You have given me happiness in Yourself, changing my life by faith and your sacrament.” -St. Augustine