It was May of 2008 and I was flying to Kolkata, India to serve with the Missionaries of Charity with FOCUS. I was a senior in college, and Eric Clark was one of the FOCUS missionaries leading the trip. He was sitting to my left on the plane. Here I was excited for this opportunity to go to India to serve but incredibly nervous at the same time. What will India be like? Will I actually be able to help the people there? I wonder what their reaction to us will be?
While these and other thought raced through my mind, Eric turned to me and said, “Maura, would you like to see a picture of my girlfriend?” Oh good, normal conversation, I thought to myself. “I would love to see a picture of your girlfriend.” He smiled and pulled out a prayer card of Saint Faustina and handed it to me to hold. “Isn’t she beautiful?” “She’s beautiful alright, but isn’t this a saint?” I asked. He laughed.
Later on in India, Eric gave a talk about God the Father’s love. I broke down and wept. Having lived through nearly two decades of abuse I had never heard about a love like that before. I couldn’t fathom someone loving me the way in which Eric described how God loves us. He used adjectives to describe God the Father that were foreign to me. He said God was gentle, loving, merciful, understanding, compassionate, and that He adored us. It was exceedingly challenging for me to digest what Eric was saying. But there was something about God the Father that captivated me. Even though I didn’t know Him or understand how He could love me, I yearned to with all my heart. I desperately craved love. And not the counterfeit love that the world offers, but genuine authentic love – the love of the Father.
After Eric’s talk I went up to him in tears. “Eric I want to know God like that. Can you teach me?” One of the things Eric told me was that in order to know God, I must frequent the sacraments. So I made a commitment that I would attend daily Mass, go to adoration and go to confession more.
It changed my life.
I used to shun every reflection of myself, whether that be in a mirror, window, water, or glass. If I saw myself I shuddered. Ahh, I’m so ugly, I would whisper. I can’t even stand the sight of myself. India changed that. One woman there who weighed probably fifty pounds gently touched my face with her dry, shriveled and dying hand and said, “Pretty.” Tears formed in my eyes, rolled down my cheeks and onto her bed. She took my hand and said, “Strong.” As I fed her she said, “Thank you.” She hugged me and said, “Brave.” At first I didn’t understand. Then she kissed me softly and said, “Love.”
That woman showed me a glimpse of God the Father’s love, and the beauty that He sees in each of us. The concept of being beautiful took me years to unravel and I will never stop growing and learning. I use to think everyone else was worthy of being beautiful, everyone but me. My time in India changed that. When I came home, I removed the towels I use to put on my mirrors. I washed my face and combed my hair, as I glanced in the mirror without cringing. I wore short sleeves and shorts. I went running in the daylight. I gazed at my reflection from time to time and didn’t see an ugly human being anymore.
How can you see beauty in yourself? How can you get to know God as Father?
I want to suggest that each morning when you look at yourself in the mirror, instead of being hard on yourself and seeing all of your imperfections to say the following: Father in Heaven, please show me the dignity I possess as Your daughter. I’m beautiful because I’m your daughter, created in Your image and likeness, show me the beauty You see. Show me how precious I am in Your eyes, for I long to see it. Even if you don’t feel like saying this, do it anyway. I prayed that prayer for over two years when I was struggling, and continue to say it daily.
I want to lovingly encourage you that no matter where you are with your relationship with God to make a commitment to get to know Him more. If you don’t pray at all, then pray for 5 mins. If you don’t go to Sunday Mass, go this Sunday. If you already go to Sunday Mass then pick an extra day to go during the week, too. Pray the Rosary and if you’ve never prayed it, that’s okay, just start. Take little steps each day at furthering your relationship with God the Father. And sit in silence, too, and ask Him to show you who you are as His son or daughter. He sees beauty in you. Tell Him you long to see it, too.
Beg, borrow or buy, but don’t steal, a copy of the book The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. It changed my life and I know it will change yours too. I always have mine with me.
Always remember, no matter what you have done, the Father adores you. He died to take your sin. You are His creation. He created you out of love, to be loved. He has a plan for you! You have a purpose. Go to Him. He is waiting with His loving, compassionate and gentle arms to forgive, heal, and restore you.
God is hope, love, gentleness, compassion and mercy. No matter where you are today, He wants you. He yearns for you. It doesn’t matter if you have an eating disorder, an addiction to pornography, had sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend, or are 19 and just found out that you are pregnant. He still desires you. He desperately seeks to make good out of whatever situation you are in. Approach Him today. He is the most gentle Father. I know because I’ve seen what He can do and I’ve felt Him. Give Him a chance to help you. He thirsts for you.
P.S. You are enough.