Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for 'transformation'

Studies in attachment reveal that it’s the repair of breaks in attachment, not their absence, that builds security and solidifies a child’s sense of being loved and lovable. Rupture and repair is an expected and necessary feature of all enduring relationships. In fact, even people like myself, who grew up with an insecure attachment pattern, can go on to form lasting love bonds by making sense of our painful developmental years.

Similarly, it isn’t the absence of sin that deepens our capacity for love, but sin itself is the way God’s love enters our hearts. In our brokenness we cry out for help, we open our hearts to God’s love so that as we are forgiven, we can also forgive ourselves and extend forgiveness to others. Sin is a rupture in relationship–with God, with ourselves, with each other.  Forgiveness is the way love repairs the rupture.

Sin teaches us about love.

There’s a story about a female “sinner” massaging Jesus’ feet with oil, crying tears of love over him and breaking all the rules of polite dinner parties. Jesus welcomes her affection and even turns it into a lesson on love and forgiveness. Speaking to the well respected host who isn’t  identified as a sinner in the story, Jesus says:

“Her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much, but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

In my teenage and young adult years I strongly identified with this woman. While the more respectable church goers didn’t reveal blatant struggles with sin, I regularly showed up requesting prayer for my struggles with substance use, misuse and abuse. Like the apostle Paul,who didn’t understand himself because he didn’t do the good he wanted but did the very thing he hated, I too felt like the chief sinner amongst my peers.

During the years when sin obscured my capacity to behave in a  respectable, church going, lady like manner, I still knew that God loved me. I knew that there was nothing I could do to make God love me more and nothing I could do to make God love me less. Each fall into sin became an opportunity to open to love.

Learning to receive forgiveness for the behavioral sins of my early years prepared me to work with myself and others on the more complex and entrenched character defects, deficits and defenses that “respectable” people struggle with: greed, self-righteousness, insecurity, fear, envy, jealousy, carelessness with words and humor, procrastination…to name a few.

I’m pretty sure that my musings on sin, love and forgiveness don’t line up very well with what the Catholic Church taught me or what I learned in seminary. But it’s the way I’ve made sense of what I read in the Bible in light of my personal experience, research &  training and work with others.

I’m hopeful that my story will help you access compassion for your “failures” and the “failures” of others. I’m hopeful that it will help you make sense of your struggles with sin.  I’m hopeful that it will help you open your heart more widely to God’s forgiveness so that you will become a great lover of God, yourself and your neighbors.

She who is forgiven much, loves much.

May it be so.

Reflecting on death on Ash Wednesday I found myself telling my small group about all the losses I’ve faced: my niece Anna died at 16 in a car crash, a year and a half later my Mom died, a few years later my sister Christeen died, and a few years after that my Dad joined them.

Years of living without these loved ones has taught me that my longing for them in their absence is itself a way to connect with the love we shared.

In my Henri Nouwen devotional for today I read: “The mystery of God’s presence…can be touched only by a deep awareness of his absence.  It is in the center of our longing for the absent God that we discover his footprints, and realize that our desire to love God is born out of the love with which he has touched us.  In the patient waiting for the loved one, we discover how much he has filled our lives already.”

The love that satisfies us in our deepest emptiness can’t be stolen by death.  That love endures…forever.  It isn’t just a human love, though we glimpse it in our human loves. It is a love bigger than life and death.

When I long for God, in what feels like an absence, or for the living presence of my loved ones, I try to remember that the feelings of sadness and longing are themselves evidence of the great love with which I have been loved.

Jesus’ disciple John preached the good news of God’s love in Christ well into his 90’s.  Even after  he was frail, weak, and could no longer preach, he loved participating in the community gatherings.  Because he was John, the last alive of Jesus’ original disciples, when he showed up everyone wanted to hear from him.

Over and over again at every gathering he attended, all he had to say was “Little children, love one another.”

One day, someone asked why he never said anything new or different.  He replied: “If you do it, it will be enough.”

What else matters?

Apart from love, what else really matters? Good health?  Money? Professional success?

Without love, all the rest is meaningless.

The first questions to ask when it comes to improving your health aren’t about your body–they are about your heart:

Who do you love?

What do you love?

Who and what do you live for?

And, perhaps even–who and what would you be willing to die for?

Many chronic health conditions could be improved and even reversed with  lifestyle changes. Yet, just knowing we should make changes doesn’t motive most of us to do so.

Live long enough to fulfill and enjoy your dreams - eat a vegetable!

Sustainable change is enhanced by linking desired changes to the people and dreams you live for and might even be willing to die for. For instance, what sounds more inspiring — “I’m going to choose broccoli instead of French fries so I can reduce my risk of cardiovascular disease” or “I’m going to choose broccoli instead of fries so I can see my nieces grow up, have kids and take them to Disneyland on their birthdays just like I did with their moms.”

Identifying who and what you love is a good place to begin when starting a new diet or fitness regimen.

What does it look like? Create a list or a collage of pictures that remind you of who and what you love.  Alongside, write down one change you want to make to improve your health.  Make it simple.  Make it achievable.  Make it something you know you can do. Small changes can make a big difference. On a recent trip I met an airport security official who’d lost 40 pounds just by eliminating all fluids except water!  A few suggestions:

Drink a glass of water or green tea instead of a soda or coffee.

Eat a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts instead of candy bar, chips or cookie.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Walk around your neighborhood for 15 minutes either before or after work.

Get to bed by 10 p.m.

Tell one  person you love–and whom you trust will be supportive, not critical–your plan.  Check-in with him/her at a specific time each week (i.e.  email on Friday afternoon with a report).  Commit to  four weeks and see what happens.

If and when you fall short, practice self-compassion. Nobody’s perfect.  Don’t marinate in your failure.  Contrary to popular thought, self-compassion is a better motivator for change than self-criticism.

Wise old John knew that love really is all we need! All things came into being through the love of God the Creator.  The harmony, happiness, and health of everyone and everything increases when we love one another, ourselves, and all of creation.

Practice loving yourself by making one small change for the next four weeks.  Treat your body with the kind of care you really need and deserve.

Please let me know if you do and how it goes.  I know that if you love yourself with the kind of love John was talking about, all things are possible.

My morning email included the following subject lines: “the three tricks to organize yourself” and “six secrets of great sex”–both from service providers I respect.   I laughed out loud.  How ridiculous is that?  They know better, don’t they??

Secrets and tricks are not sustainable solutions to real life problems! They may sell products, but real change comes from consistent integration of new thought patterns and habits. It isn’t magic.  It’s discipline.

Real change is part of a bigger process of transformation or metamorphosis. It’s the journey of the caterpillar to butterfly.  The journey from squirming around in the dirt to soaring above it entails breaking down into a soupy mass that has no resemblance to either the before or after version.  When all the old self is broken down a few key cells spark the process of transformation out of which the butterfly emerges.

God’s love is the cellular fire that fuels transformation in every arena.  My spiritual connection to God’s love through Christ is the “secret” to my physical, mental, emotional health.

Love is patient.  Love doesn’t give up after a few failures.  Love doesn’t give up after ten thousand failures.  Love forgives.  Love is disciplined.

Discipline entails commitment. I commit myself to something that I really want. Then I stick with it–especially when it involves delaying gratification, facing my demons, and learning from my tens of thousands of failures.

A disciplined life of growing in God’s love is the only path I know that leads to sustainable change. Love isn’t quick. It isn’t easy. It can’t be bought or sold.

Love doesn’t sell a lot of products or services.  But in the long run, it’s really what we all want even more than being organized or having better sex!