Last week’s Missionary Thought generated a good deal of discussion, which is exactly what we hope for week by week. Thanks to everyone who shared feedback and asked questions. In a sense, our weekly posts are thoughts on human spirituality, “letting people with autism lead the discussion.” It is true that people with autism offer a fresh perspective on interpersonal connection, a distinct manner of looking at the philosophy of relationships, and perhaps draw different conclusions than we are accustomed to hearing.
Revisiting last week, we said that there are limitless ways we could say that God sees us, but the one we pick for our Mission’s focus is God perceiving us as who He imagines us to be, in the fullness of our potential. The closest we ordinarily come to seeing others in this way is when we encounter children.
To expound on that a little more before going on, we want to add back in what we discussed previously – that, in order to be known, we have to be willing to be known. In order to be seen as the children we once were, we must know that aspect of ourselves... and allow it to be known.
Here is what that means, in practical terms.
As children first encounter each element of the world around them, emotions are felt more profoundly than after those things are experienced routinely. The older we get, the more accustomed we are to things around us, and the less we notice them. Children, on the other hand, are easily mesmerized by things we take for granted. Colors… sounds… shapes… birds… vehicles… machines… things that evoke wonder, or joy, or delight… or fear, uncertainty, or trepidation, for that matter. The size, predictability and intensity of each new thing plays a large role in how they are perceived, as does the reactions observed of other people nearby. If an animal looks charming but is treated fearfully by adults in the vicinity, it is more likely to be feared by the child seeing it for the first time.
All of these emotions are intense, and betray our vulnerability – particularly because, at this age, we do not have enough experience to know what will happen, and we lack the words to explain how we feel.
Any one of us who has been in a new place without a guide has these feelings all over again.
Any one of us with sensory processing dysfunction has these feelings all the time.
Any one of us with speech impairment knows the vulnerability of emotion without words.
No matter what age: the deeper the emotion, the more difficult to assemble words to adequately explain ourselves to others.
And so, now, we look at that second sense of the question, “How does God see us?” – meaning, in what manner does God take us into His perception?
We, the Missionaries of Saint Thorlak, propose as our particular focus, that God sees us as someone who waits.
God, the Unseen Creator, is not one who intrudes, overwhelms or insinuates. He waits. He meets us where we are, and until we willingly expose our hearts to Him, He waits.
And, here is the biggest rub. God is God. People are not. People are everything from sensitive to insensitive, compassionate to indifferent, thoughtful to clueless. When we reveal our deepest emotions to other people, we get a huge range of reactions which shape the way we trust and relate to others. If we expose our hearts to people who ignore or hurt us in our vulnerability, we quickly learn to keep ourselves hidden. Inversely, when we reveal our deepest joys and are met with joy in return, we learn the joy of being known... and are more comfortable being vulnerable.
How can we know? How can we tell which people will treat our exposed hearts with care, and which will walk past – or, worse, mock our littleness?
But we CAN be 100% certain that God will meet us with perfect love, perfect care, perfect joy, perfect understanding. He imagined us. He knows us even better than we know ourselves.
Any time we have the human need to be known, we can turn to God, Who waits until we are ready to expose our hearts to Him, and then receives us with perfect knowledge.
All we need to do is make ourselves known to Him.
Pray: Dear God… in order that You may know me better, I offer to You today the things that affect me the most. Help me to be aware of Your presence and feel You with me, that I may learn to trust You more.
Contemplate: Take that prayer one step further and imagine God present at each deep movement of our emotions. Is it comforting, or unsettling, to think that God sees us in these moments?
Relate: How often do we include others in our deepest experiences? How does that reflect our readiness to be seen by God?
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak