Fr. G. and the Gift of Tears

#breakups #Godislove #tears

I sat in his classroom and I simply began to cry. I had never met anyone like him. He was, next to my father, the best teacher I ever had. In some ways I felt robbed I didn’t get to meet him until my senior year, but it was all in God’s providential timing.

The class I was taking my senior year at John Carroll University was on the ‘Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.’ If you don’t know what spiritual exercises are or who St. Ignatius of Loyola is that’s ok – I faintly had a clue when I signed up to take the class. A few of my buddies were taking it and for me to get another minor in religious studies all I had to was take this class.

What I encountered was not a professor who used the latest media, or someone who even had a great pedagogical style, rather he did maybe what no teacher should do in class: he would often close his eyes. When he closed his eyes though, that’s when the tears would often flow.

I was just getting off a really hard break-up. I was doing something I knew in my heart I shouldn’t be doing, I was sleeping with my girlfriend. It was tearing me up inside, but yet I had the hardest time peeling away. When I finally did it was like ripping duct tape off of my hairy arm, or rather, it felt like a divorce. I’d give anything to not have given my virginity away.

But I did, and I was getting through this messy breakup because I knew God was calling me to it. Let me pause: if you are in an unhealthy relationship right now and you need to get away – you know God is calling you to do that - I know it’s hard, I know it’s hard – but God is worth it, you are worth it, break away… You’ll be happier when you follow the will of God… But back to Fr. G.:

He closed his eyes, and he just began to speak from the heart. Words of God’s love for me, God’s care for me, God’s mercy for me, God’s truth for me, oozed out of every syllable that he spoke. I swore he was speaking only to me, like suddenly I found myself in a classroom all by myself and through the tunnel of Fr. G’s closed eyes and his open heart I was being bathed in tears of newness. God forgives me, he loves me, I can forgive myself.

I’ve spent the past 33 years of my life trying to earn God’s love and this has often translated to my prayer. I often try to perform for God, even in prayer. Doing this or that expecting that if I do this or that I will be rewarded. Yet, I’ve come to embrace something about prayer that Fr. G. said in class one time, that again made me cry. He said, prayer is about encounter, not performance. We go to prayer not to earn God’s grace, but to receive it. We go to prayer not to change God, but to simply be with him. To listen to Him. We go to prayer to encounter Jesus, the Son of God who desires to be our friend.

Do you find yourself performing for God? Stop. You can’t earn his love. He just loves you. He loves you, he loves you, he loves you, because that’s who He is. He is love. Maybe close your eyes now, place your hand over your heart and repeat after me, He loves me. Oh, how he loves me. He forgives me. He is with me. He sees me. He loves me. Oh, how he loves me… Don’t be afraid if you start to cry, that’s what St. Ignatius would say is the ‘gift of tears’- a true encounter with God.

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