I had an epiphany in the Adoration Chapel on Tuesday morning, on the real Feast of the Epiphany.
After the past few weeks of Christmas craziness and sporadic, half-baked prayer time, my husband Mark and I happily settled back on Monday into our morning routine of “wasting” lavish time with the Lord in the chapel before Mass. Yay! But I showed up at the chapel that day agitated and distracted, unable to concentrate or pray. I was preoccupied with my sins and myself, and proceeded to present my list of leftover holiday “junk” to the Lord.
“Ok, Lord,” I started. “I did it again this Christmas. I prayed too little, spent too much, ate too much, drank too much and gossiped too much…So much for my intention of having a holy, prayerful Christmas.”
I was disconcerted throughout the hour, certain that God was as disgusted with me as I was with myself. After heading home, I spent the rest of the day wasting lavish time on Facebook and other Internet excursions, ending the day with a stiff neck, more irritated with myself than when the day began.
Back in the chapel Tuesday morning, on the real Feast of the Epiphany, I opened to the morning readings:
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you. Zephaniah 3:17
Those words rang at me. “You will sing joyfully because of me, Lord?” I asked. “You rejoice over me?”
I sat there with my eyes shut tight in our sunny little chapel, trying to picture God singing joyfully over me. It was pretty hard to imagine. I then tried to recall the times in my own life when I had sung joyfully over others, and two vivid images came to mind.
First, I remembered the many times I had nursed my children at my breast while singing to them, along with the surge of joy I had experienced as I beheld a beautiful baby in my arms. I remembered the happy surprise of falling madly in love with each child, experiencing a depth of love I'd never even dreamed was possible. I had sung over my children and rejoiced.
He will sing joyfully because of you.
As I further pondered those words, a second, more recent memory came to mind, which occurred when I married my husband, Mark. For months, I walked around the house constantly singing a song I’d made up to the tune of “Emmanuel.” My silly song went like this: “Markisimo...Gelisimo...your name is called...Markisimo.” (No, Kara did not get her songwriting skills from me:)
“I’ve never had anyone sing my name before,” Mark responded to my singing, delighted that I sang joyfully out of love for him.
“Judy, that’s just an inkling of the way that I love you,” I heard the Lord gently whisper as I smiled. “There is nothing you or anyone else can do to make me love you more or less. I love you infinitely. I am love.” With that, my heart filled with joy.
Moments later, I opened the book I had brought to the chapel to read, and amazingly, found my apparently all-too-common dilemma on the page before my eyes:
"The sadness of not being perfect is a feeling that is much too human, it can even border on idolatry,” I read St. Francis of Assisi's words to his friend, Brother Leo, who was depressed and defeated by his sins. “Focus your vision outside of yourself, on the beauty, graciousness and compassion of Jesus Christ,” St. Francis advised. “Accept being shipwrecked. See only the compassion, the infinite patience and the tender love of Christ. Jesus is Lord. That suffices.”
I am learning that God does not relish in my getting it right, doing it right, or being right. Instead, He delights when I let go of my futile attempts at performance and let Him love me. Our God is a merciful Father who sings over His children, a Father who tenderly picks us up when we fall and who rejoices over us with gladness simply because He loves us. May this epiphany hold me fast throughout the coming year.