I recently moved back with my parents in Dallas, Texas. I have no job, and not much of a clue as to what I am supposed to be doing. It’s a tough time in life. Every time I have to use the word discernment I cringe a little bit because of how many times I say it each day, trying to reassure others and myself, “it’s going to be okay God has a plan for my life." It’s been a sobering time for me.
It’s almost impossible to know what to tell people without feeling redundant, pitiable, or useless. It’s compounded by how I don’t think I even deserve pity because I am a white male who has had every opportunity to succeed and has been given every social benefit that anyone could ever want. I should be thriving. It’s terrible knowing you could be doing amazing things but you’re not. Knowing you have everything necessary to succeed but you are wasting your “best years”, living at home, back on the family chores list. I am 27 years old, with nothing keeping me from a bright future, and yet I feel so lost. When I dwell on it, I feel miserable and worthless. I have to think, “What is wrong with me? What did or didn’t I do to bring myself to this place?” Unfortunately there are a million good reasons why I, kept myself from success.
This is the place where I am, a place of confusion and desperation, and ultimately, longing for worth. Yet, strangely enough, this is where God has been able to show his original disposition towards me most clearly.
A few weeks ago my family and I arrived late to a Catholic group for an afternoon of faith sharing and prayer. As we arrived, I was not really in the mood to talk to people, especially since this was the first time being back around these people. Most of these people have known me my whole life.
My family and I made our way towards some seats. I felt uncomfortable as the gaze of people who had not seen me in a long time turned towards me. I tried to avoid eye contact and looked away from people so I would not have to draw more attention to myself. But sure enough, God had other plans. I walked by one family who lives a few blocks away from my family. We have known them for a long time and spent several summers taking turns hanging out at each other’s houses constantly.
The whole family turned around from praising God and brought me in for the hug. I remember all of them telling me one by one, with utmost sincerity, “We are so happy to have you back”. In those moments that followed it felt like something inside me screamed. I could do nothing but put on a fake smile as I walked away wondering if they really would be so happy to have me back if they knew, if they only knew, how worthless and meaningless my existence on this earth is. How little I had accomplished. If they only knew how low of an opinion I had about myself, and that deep down I hated myself. Why should I not feel this way? It is only right and just that I feel this way about myself. I was the servant squandering all the talens I had been given (Matthew 25:24-30).
I tried to bring my thoughts away from the sad pit of despair and self-pity and enter into the worship that was happening. I will admit there were some good moments, and I was feeling more comfortable as I just settled in and “disappeared” into the group. But then it came time for sharing. People have a time to share what God has placed on their hearts throughout the week with the community. A few people shared about some great things, but I couldn’t help but imagine if I was speaking to people what I would say. Probably along the lines of, “I am desperate, someone help me!”
Out of nowhere it was like God broke through my thoughts of gloom, as the Mom in the family I had seen as I walked in stood up to share with everybody, and immediately brought my presence to light by saying, “Isn’t it great, Phil Ward is back?” she turned and looked at me, along with everyone in the room. I smiled politely, but inside I was mortified. “God, you are so hilarious!” I thought, not quite sure if I was being sarcastic or not.
“Do you know Phil is home and living here in Dallas again?” at this a few people clapped. She continued, “I hope I am not putting you on the spot Phil.”
“God… this is ridiculous!” I said to myself as I grinned like an idiot.
“I was … I was just filled with delight, when I saw Phil Ward walk through the doors today”, She started to tear up and her voice quivered a bit, “There was just so much joy in my heart… and you know that I love all of you so much, but I was just overcome with so much delight to see Phil after not seeing him in so long… it reminded me of the delight that God has for us, that he loves us so much… but he delights in us at every moment!”
My eyes filled with tears as I experienced the love of God through this person. Not even a warm fuzzy feeling, but a deep authentic feeling of worth. It was not like God even just liked me, or found me amusing. This was pure love. This love didn’t need me to be successful to find me invaluable. This love didn’t need me to have everything together, to delight in my existence.
Maybe I am worthless in the eyes of the world. Maybe I am under-achieving in life. Maybe I still don’t even really like myself that much. But the one thing that matters, which became clear in that moment, and in every moment and time, is that God delights in me.
In the first paragraph of the Catechism under the title “The Life of Man” the Church like the true mother she is, reveals to every person his or her worth:
“God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength.”
This is something I have meditated on many times. I have it memorized. Why? Because, it says everything: It says everything about the purpose of life, and how blessed we are that our very existence, the fact that we are, came from the delight of God and is the delight of God. Yes, God wants us to be close to us, always, and share in that delight.
You might not believe this, and heck, I may not always believe this, because lets face it we don’t always feel like we deserve this kind of love. Sometimes it’s easier to say like the prodigal son in Luke 15:19, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son...make me as one of your hired men.”’ And lower our expectations to believe that God just puts up with us, or tolerates us at best. To be honest, we don’t deserve the kind of love that God has for us. This does not change the fact that the original and eternal disposition of God towards us is one of sheer pleasure. Luke goes on to record the parable as follows “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20).
We just don’t always believe or realize God’s loving look of delight towards us in every moment. It is happening though! God delights in us! Right now, as you read these words, God is delighting in you! He is delighting in you as if he saw you walk through the door for the first time.
The invitation for you and me then is this: will we allow God to delight in us? When we go about our day forgetting about this security we have in God, and we start leaning on the understanding of the world, or even worst our own understanding, we start to think about ourselves in terms of efficiency, “I cannot seem to find anything of importance in myself, so I am worthless” or “I should be more successful than I am, but I’m not, I’m a loser” or “my identity that I invested everything in is gone, where is my value now?” By the worlds standards those things might certainly be true. But, we should never forget that our true dignity and worth comes from the fact that God wanted us to exist, that we came from delight, and are destined for the heart of that delight. God’s perpetual disposition for us is one of delight.
May God give us the peace so as to rest in his delight this day.