I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this way, but recently I discovered that I often live like an orphan.
Although I am steeped in the sacramental life of the Church, attend daily mass, and pray every day, I confess that it is sometimes difficult to sense God’s love for me. As a result, I tend to live as though I were not loved. I live as though I can only rely on myself. I live as though I was an orphan.
What a sad reality, that it is possible for our hearts to have access to the Triune God and yet not be open to experiencing it. How tragic that we can live like one not loved while we are held in the gaze of the One Who loves us most of all. When we live in this way, we experience anguish, loneliness, pressure, and despair. We give into anxieties and come to believe that everything depends on us. Our frustration consumes us as we grapple with the reality that we cannot change everything that we think we should have power to change. We grasp for control, and come up empty. And all the while our hearts grow cold, forgetting the longing engrained within us to be held and cared for by our loving Creator.
In short, when we live like orphans, we are living as though we were already in hell.
For the souls in hell have chosen to accept a lie. They say, “You do not love me, and therefore I will not love you.” We cannot choose to love God without accepting that He has loved us first. Therefore, a soul with no love in his heart is empty because he has not chosen the love of God. And I think it is most often the case that he has not chosen it because he has failed to recognize it.
So, how do we respond when we find ourselves in the place of the orphan? When we uncover the coldness of our hearts and see the reality of our emptiness?
Perhaps in these moments, we can take our posture from the holy souls in purgatory, who, although suffering the pains of purification for the ways they did not love God on earth, keep their gaze fixed heavenward and allow their longing for God to be reawakened. These souls accept the flames and surrender their experiences to the Almighty, saying “I know I have failed to recognize Your love. I know I have chosen to go my own way. I do not desire this anymore. Take it away from me.” In this way they allow the Lord to gradually remove their orphanhood and replace it with the truth of their divine sonship. They allow Him to establish that reality in their hearts so that they may be ready to embrace the courts of heaven. And we can have great hope that the Lord will do this for us, if only we turn Him when we feel the weight of our own orphanhood.
I know this imagery can be difficult to read. The realities of heaven and hell, suffering and purification, are sometimes not pleasant ones. There was a time when even considering these realities would have filled me with anxiety and fear. But as I’ve experienced the purifying work of God, I have begun to accept that this is truly necessary and will ultimately lead to my greater happiness. Because it is only in learning to cast off our orphanhood and embrace our Father in this life that we can be prepared to enjoy eternity with Him in the next.
So in those moments when your heart feels like wailing, and you find in frustration to be grinding your teeth, darling, let Him touch you. And let the reality of His love gently unclench your jaw.