This is a poem written a few months ago, in empathy for struggles that I have encountered in many different people. Praying about these things, I see that the central struggle that each of us has is, each in our own unique path, acceptance of the immense love that God has for us.

My heart thirsts so deeply, my dear Father,
to be loved and accepted as I am.
I feel deep inside me that just one love,
one kind of love alone is deep enough for me.
I cannot receive a love that merely washes
over me like an impersonal waterfall.
I cannot feel truly loved, deeply cherished,
merely because you are loving in yourself,
but only when I am loved for me myself,
for what you see in me, loving me for who I am.

I strive and I strive to make myself something
that will attract your tender and loving eyes,
and yet I find myself burdened every day
by this bitter shame and deepest regret,
chaining me down in self-hatred and despair.
I push against this wall holding me back,
until my arms in weakness give way, exhausted;
and I punch against the bricks, again and again,
until my knuckles begin to crack and to bleed.

Father, I don’t want to be just “another,”
an anonymous human who is washed over in your love.
But when I look deep inside of me,
what I see is not beautiful uniqueness,
but an individual who fills me with disgust.
There is nothing, indeed, within me
that could draw your eyes in love,
except what you yourself have placed there,
and this itself I have deeply profaned.

What are you saying, my dearest child?
Where have you heard and learned all these lies?
You need to look still deeper, under the surface,
to learn to see with the eyes that gaze within.
When I look upon you at every moment,
I do not see a “sinner” or a “failure,”
but a beloved child and a precious spouse,
deeper than all of her brokenness and sin.

My love is not some vague reality,
but a flame casting immense, radiant light,
to reveal the hidden beauty in the darkest place,
to awaken the loveliness alive within,
just as all goodness, in the beginning,
was imparted by me, and in every moment
is renewed in pure and gratuitous grace.
I am pure Love, this is true,
but it is a Love that has perceptive eyes,
loving, not blindly, but with full knowledge,
able to respond to beauty deep within,
a loveliness which humans often never see.

And you, child whom I see, are not merely
one among a multitude of children,
lost in the crowd of “beloved ones.”
No, my child, you are loved by me
as the only person there has ever been, or will be.
When my eyes are turned to you
(as they are without ceasing)
my own Heart is ravished by your beauty,
the beauty which I perceive inside of you.

How can you see beauty, my Father,
when I fail to offer you a single day that is pure?
What do I have that is not your gift?

My child, why would it be necessary
to give me something that you have not first received?
Why, indeed, do you feel you need to give anything
in order for me to love and cherish you,
rejoicing in deep gladness, unceasingly,
in the beauty that I know lives in you?

But, God almighty, I feel so deeply
that you must be angry with me
in this deep wretchedness and sin.
I have turned from you so many times,
to go after fleeting things, quickly passing,
drawn by disordered desire and bitter fear.
By this point you must be unwilling,
finally, to receive me back.

My child, I am not an angry Father,
lashing out in vengeance, to cast you away
because you do not measure up.
And even were you to truly forget me,
turning to seek your own way, alone,
the aloneness would come from your choice…
but the door of my Mercy stands always open.

Do not imagine that the “anger of God”
is made in the image of human rage,
or is even the source of this kind of violence.
No, my holy wrath and pure indignation,
just like the truth of my justice,
is nothing but an expression of eternal Love.
It is enfolded in Love and there lies its truth.
For nowhere have I told you so fully who I am
as when I told you: “God is Love.”

When the sinner feels on his shoulders
the burden of guilt and shame,
and the stinging remorse of sadness,
this is a sign, not that I have rejected him,
but that my grace is at work within him,
drawing him unceasingly to bring him back.
The fire of anger that flashes forth when I encounter sin
is imaged in true human love: in the exasperation
of a loving mother as she sees her beloved son
decaying and fading away in slavery to drugs.
It is precisely her intense love for him
that makes her hate so deeply what is destroying him.
You see, my child: there is no fire within me
except the Fire of Love and Mercy.
All else is contained in this.

When I look upon you, child,
do you now understand what I see?
You hate your sins and your brokenness,
but you often struggle to see any more than this.
I hate them too, in that they hurt you whom I love,
separating you from the joy I want to give
and hindering you from giving yourself to me,
as I yearn for you to give, that I may receive.
But this is never all that I see,
nor is it the deepest truth upon which my eyes fall:
in the midst of everything I see a child
irradiated in the light of my eternal Love,
and called, without ceasing, to the fullness of life.

But it is only a seed, my God, only a seed,
still to germinate and grow deep within!
Why am I never even a sapling,
but rather pushing up against soil,
too thick to break through?

If anything is lacking, my child,
it is the grace of acceptance.
I do not require of you more sacrifices,
more impeccable “performance,”
but only a greater space to receive my love.
Do you not see?
Every call to giving is itself a gift,
and every gift is only another form of acceptance.
Every gift itself is an invitation,
not so much to do as to be,
to give what is filling up that space
which is meant to receive my gift,
and to let it flow out in every word and deed.

In the garden in the beginning,
the responsibility of Adam and Eve
was enfolded entirely in the realm of Gift.
They knew that stewardship was nothing
but receiving the gift as it is meant to be received.
Every manner of giving was letting oneself be given,
—given by me, the Giver of every good thing—
and also the opening up of hands and heart
to accept more deeply the gift of one approaching,
a gift of my love, flowing from my hands.

Only when seduced by the tempter’s wiles
did they begin to think that responsibility was otherwise,
something existing outside the realm of pure love.
When all things are no longer seen as pure gift
flowing from the Heart of a loving Father,
then they become a burdensome task and a demand.
And then the human heart can choose independence
as if it were freedom from a heavy yoke,
though it is actually the choice of slavery
to the need to control and to achieve,
bringing forth from within oneself
what comes only as a gift from me.
And when the heart wants to be dependent,
to turn back, converting from slavery to sin,
it imagines that it is turning from one yoke
to a yoke that, though better, is perhaps heavier still.

Yet conversion does not mean meriting my love,
but simply turning back from the place of fragmentation,
to rediscover the love I always have for you.
This pure gift of love bears in itself a meaning
which awakens and sustains your reverent response.
And the burden of responsibility
is not meant to exist in a realm of slavery,
but, in a deeper place, in the freedom of a child.
The slave serves because he fears punishment,
or because he wants to receive approval and reward,
or because he has no choice, for daily bread.

But the child serves in what is hardly called service
—in the way that you often tend to think of this.
Yet she serves, in this way, not less, but more profoundly.
She gives herself entirely for her parents,
not so that they will love her, but because they do.
The love they have for her awakens,
—giving birth spontaneously within her heart—
a responding love and desire to reciprocate,
to be healed and transformed, to become loving too.