I have been an armchair scholar of scripture for 35 years and am aware the greatest message of faith is of love and encouragement for the world, the church and individuals but, as my friend Joe Brown, would say, “The longest 18 inches in the world is from your head to your heart.”
It is easy to believe God cares for, admires and believes others are capable and worthy. That isn’t a struggle for me for one minute but believing it for myself is a whole other ball game. The other day I came face to face with that reality and the distance between head and heart has become considerably shorter.
I was speaking with a friend I don’t see often and having a real heart to heart discussion about our goals and desires in this life. From his lips, I heard words like, “I see great potential in you and believe you can make this happen.” In that moment something happened in my heart. A little flame of hope flickered and it glowed all day and well into the next. I know other people have said similar things to me along the way. There were a couple of teachers, some friends and some counsellors who voiced those things. When they said them the reaction was the same. For a moment in time I could believe in myself and feel worthy and hopeful but I had never really examined the impact of those words of encouragement and faith before.
The following day as I discussed it with my spiritual director the reality of the strength of those kinds of words began to explode in my heart. I suddenly understood with my heart that those are the words my Creator speaks to me all the time but for some reason, I have not been able to hear them.
Why is so hard for me to hear those words from the heart of God? Perhaps it is because I never heard words like that from my parents. I don’t recall once that either of my parents told me they were proud of me or believed in my ability. I recall once being surprised to discover my Dad had saved every article I had written in the local paper. That showed me he was proud but I wasn’t supposed to know about it. He had kept that pride in me a secret.
There were many times I heard words of discouragement from my mother in particular. She often reminded me about my inabilities and my failings but not once did she tell me she believed in me.
I remember being very proud of my children as they grew up but I’m sure I didn’t tell them enough. From learning to walk to taking off into new lives beyond home they were told I thought they could do it. I hope they heard my faith in them. I hope they believe that I believe in them because having our parents believe in us is the beginning of believing in ourselves. When we don’t receive that message of encouragement it takes a long time for the Divine voice of faith to get through to our hearts.
So now it is my quest to discover what other things stand in the way of my hearing that loving voice of encouragement. I will listen with an open heart to those words of unconditional love and assurance which wrap themselves around the cosmos. I will listen with ears ready to receive that message and a heart willing to embrace its truth.