Throughout my life, I have struggled to believe I am loved. People who love me have surrounded me throughout my entire life. However, I have failed to see that love over and over. I thought love was something I had to earn through academics and other accomplishments. I worked my tail off and spread myself thin in my attempt to “earn” the love of my friends, family, and God.
Business, stress, and chaos filled my life. No matter how many activities I was involved in, how many awards I received, how many accomplishments I made, or how great my grades were; I still believed I needed to do more before I could be loved.
Before I could overcome the belief that I had to earn love, I had to admit it was a lie.
The summer before my sophomore year of high school I faced this lie for the first time at a Steubenville Youth Conference. This conference is a weekend retreat for high school students with talks, music, prayer, and adoration. During adoration on the last night of the retreat, the Lord began to reveal His love for me. He spoke to my heart and told me I am loved. I thought I heard Him wrong because I did not believe that I had done anything worthy of His love.
Being told, “I love you,” has always been something difficult for me to hear, and even harder for me to understand. I rolled my eyes every single time I heard the words: I love you. Trapped by darkness of my sins and failures, I did not know how to escape. I did not know how to let the Lord shine His light on me and into the darkness and the lies that consumed my being. I could not overcome the darkness of my sin, the fears I faced, and the lies that engulfed me by myself.
I needed to surrender to the Lord.
I found myself standing in line with hundreds of other youth waiting to go to confession. After what seemed like hours, I sat next to a priest. Once he started us in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I poured out my soul to the priest in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. For the first time in years, I held nothing back. I confessed everything weighing down my heart and holding me back from living in the presence of Christ. I surrendered all the baggage I carried with me to Jesus. The priest gave me my penance, which was to pray the Thomas Merton Prayer. Then, he prayed the prayer of absolution, w hich is a prayer that lets the mercy of God take away our sins.
In that moment, I had never felt so free and loved. I was made new through the Lord’s forgiveness. My heart opened to the Lord in a new way. That night, I discovered I am loved and that is something I cannot change.
There is nothing I can do to earn love or for love to be taken away.
Since my first experience of God’s love, my life has been a constant journey of accepting His love, striving for grace, and living in His presence. However, I still fail, but God continues to prove His love for me.
I am loved and so are you.
The Lord reveals His love for us through the things we take joy in like sunsets, ladybugs, and the people who surround us. We must seek communion with His love through prayer. God is faithful and His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever.
1 Chronicles 16:34
© 2017 Emily Pillatzki
Photo Credit: Emily Pillatzki