IIC 99: Why We Catholics Reject God's Love for Us and How to Embrace That Love
It is so common for Catholics (and others) to reject the love of God, to not let that love in. Join Dr. Peter for this episode where we explore in depth the eight natural, human formation reasons why we refuse God’s love. We also look at what Hell really is and why it really exists. Through examples, quotes, and an exploration of Dr. Peter’s own parts, listen to how this critical, central topic comes alive. And then Dr. Peter presents the an action plan for accepting and embracing God’s love.
“It’s very hard for most of us to tolerate being loved.” That’s psychiatrist and Harvard professor George Vaillant. The hardest thing about love for many of us Catholics, is to be loved–to tolerate being loved first. We can’t love unless we take love in first. We can’t generate love out of nothing on our own. We just don’t have that power.
And the truth is, many Catholics make sacrifices great and small in their attempts to love others. Many Catholics go to great lengths to try to please God and to love their neighbor–very busy people, most parishes have a few of these always–volunteering, always working, always making things happen, St. Vincent de Paul, soup kitchens, corporal works of mercy, working so hard to live out the Gospel as they understand it, but it’s all external. They are very out of touch with their internal lives. Their prayer lives are shallow and sketchy, and they’re often really uncomfortable in their own skin. They will not tolerate silence, which is why they’re always on the move–why they’re always going, going, going.The vast majority of us Catholics will not tolerate being loved deeply or fully by God. We shy away from receiving that love. We get so uncomfortable, we skirt around the edges of being loved. Or we allow love into us, but only so far–only so far. We set limits, we set boundaries, we won’t let God’s love permeate all of our being. We let the “acceptable parts” of us to be loved. Those parts that we allow in the shop window, those parts that we believe others will accept, those parts that we believe God likes. But to allow God to love all of you, including your nasty parts, your shameful parts, your disgusting parts, your hidden lepers, your sinful parts, those tax collector parts, those inner prostitutes and blasphemers, your Pharisee parts, the parts of you that are so lost and so isolated and so angry and hateful, those parts? Most of us will say “no way, no way does anyone get to see those parts if I can help it, let alone love those parts. Love those parts? That’s crazy.” How about your terrified parts, your desperate parts, your wounded, traumatized parts? The ones that no one seems to want? The parts of you that have been rejected by everybody, including yourself.This podcast is for us Catholics who understand at least intellectually, that we have those parts. And that those parts need to be loved, and that those parts also need to be redeemed. Now for anyone out there who is saying, “Well, I don’t think I have any parts like that, Dr. Peter, I don’t have any problems being loved.” Well, my response to that is one of two possibilities. Either you are 1) a very special person who has been freed from our fallen human condition, and you’ve achieved an extraordinary degree of perfection in the natural and spiritual realms, and if so, congratulations. You don’t need this podcast. You don’t need this episode. You are so far above the rest of us–I’m in awe of you. You don’t need what I have to offer. That’s the first possibility.Second possibility? You don’t know yourself very well. You are out of touch with yourself and your parts–you are disconnected inside. Unless you’ve reached a fair degree of sanctity, it is especially hard for you to tolerate being loved by God and our refusal to accept the love of God throughout all of us. That’s the primary reason we don’t love God back. That’s also the primary reason we don’t love our neighbor, and why we don’t love ourselves. We won’t be loved first.God loved us first. It all starts with God’s love, not our love. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in his book, ‘Shaken’ says, “We were created by love, in love and for love.” And St. Paul, he tells us in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God loved us first.And the world does not know God. Christianity is the way to discover who God actually is–to discover who love actually is. 1 John 3:1, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” What I want you to remember, St. John in his first letter says, “We love because he first loved us.” We love because God first loved us, and it’s up to us to take that love in, to let that love come into every corner of our being. And that doesn’t sound easy, and it’s not as easy as it sounds.I am Dr. Peter Malinoski, a.k.a. Dr. Peter, clinical psychologist, trauma therapist, podcaster, blogger, cofounder and president of Souls and Hearts–but most of all, I am a beloved little son of God, a passionate Catholic who wants to help you experience the height and depth and breadth and warmth and the light of the love of God, especially God, the Father and our primary mother, Mary. What I want for you more than anything else is that you enter into a deep, intimate, personal, loving relationship with the three persons of the Trinity and with our Lady. This is what this Interior Integration for Catholics podcast is all about. This is what Souls and Hearts is all about–all about shoring up the natural foundation for the spiritual life of intimacy with God, all about overcoming the natural human formation, deficits and obstacles to contemplative union with God our Father, and with our Lady, our Mother.We are on an adventure of love together. Episode 94 of this podcast focused on the primacy of love in the Catholic life. Episode 95 focused on trauma’s devastating impact on our capacity to love. Episode 96 discussed how trauma hardens us against being loved. Episode 97 discussed how trauma predisposes us to self-hatred and indifference to ourselves, a refusal to love ourselves. And Episode 98. the last episode was all about ordered self-love, how we need to love ourselves in an ordered way in order to love God and neighbor, to carry out the two great commandments.Today, we are going to take a step back. We’re going to look at the most critical prerequisite for loving God and others. We are going to discuss being loved first, accepting the love of God first before we try to love. This is absolutely essential. The most critical mistake that most Catholics make is to refuse the love of God. Let me say that again. The most critical mistake, the most devastating, catastrophic mistake that most Catholics make is to refuse to allow God’s love to transform us entirely, to make us into new men and women.Let’s start out with the order of love. First thing–God leads with love. God makes the first move. He created us, he moves toward us. We who he created, we who have fallen from grace because of original sin. We don’t make the first move. God does. He loved us first, and he continues to love us first, and our whole mission, our whole purpose is to respond to his love in love.I want to read to you a brief passage from Shawn Mitchell. He wrote an article called ‘We Love Because He First Loved Us’, and he is with Those Catholic Men. You can find this online. Shawn Mitchell says, “We love because he first loved us. These words from the first letter of John beautifully and succinctly sum up the origin and end of the Christian life–which in a word, is love. ‘Being Christian,’ said Benedict XVI “is…the encounter with an event, a person which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” That ‘encounter’ is our experience of God ‘first loving us’. The ‘new horizon’ that it opens up, the ‘decisive direction’ that it gives to our lives, is love–our love of God and our neighbor because of His prior love of us. To participate in that endless exchange of love is what it means to be a Christian. It is the center from which all other aspects of the Christian life emanate. I fear that a significant number of Catholic men missed this point in regards something other than love as the central point of being a follower of Christ.”Love is central. This is what Sean Mitchell said so clearly in that article. Love is what Christianity is all about. Love is what Catholicism specifically is all about. It’s not about the building of virtues primarily, it’s not about self-perfection, it’s not about stopping masturbating, it’s not about giving up whatever other vice you might have. It is about entering into a loving relationship as you are in your imperfections right now. Right now. Not at some point in the future after you’ve achieved a certain amount of sanctity because you’re not going to achieve a certain amount of sanctity or perfection without entering into that relationship, without receiving the love of God first.Sean Mitchell goes on to say, “What I did not include from Benedict’s quote above is what he says being Christian is not. It is not, he says, “the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea”. To state that more generally, being Christian isn’t primarily about my will or my intellect or what I do with them–that is making ‘ethical choices’ and assenting to ‘lofty ideas’. Rather, it is first and foremost about my heart, my whole person in all its mystery, and what has been done to it by God. Is it not the case, though, that so many of us fail to understand this? If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we would have to admit that it is, that we ourselves are among those men who place something other than love at (or at least close to) the center of our Christian life…even if we don’t realize it.”The Jesuit Edward Vacek, in his book ‘Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics’ lays out the sequence of love. The sequence of love has seven parts to it. The first one, God affirms us. The second, God receives us.Alright, so the first one is all about God. It’s all about God. God affirms us. The second one, God receives us. We have to allow ourselves to be received. So now we’re coming into that. We allow God to receive us, and in the third step, we accept God’s love, the fourth step, we affirm God, fifth God forms community with us. Sixth, we cooperate with God and loving God in the world, and finally, the seventh one, we grow in limited co-responsibility with God.This was all screwed up by the trauma of original sin. Adam and Eve, garden of Eden, Genesis 3. They eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge and good and evil. And they’re off into the bushes, hiding, bickering amongst themselves, terrified. God–what was his response? God comes looking for them. God seeks out Adam and Eve; he seeks them out as they’re hiding, as they’re fleeing from him in their shame and their confusion and their bitterness. All in that trauma of original sin. God calls out to them, “Where are you?” he says.Think about the gentleness there. God knows exactly where they are. He knows every hair on their head. He knows every molecule in their bodies. He knows their GPS coordinates to 10,000 digits. He doesn’t need for them to tell him where they are. He’s letting them know he’s coming. That’s the gentleness. He calls out to them. And he doesn’t curse Adam and Eve. He curses the serpent, he curses the ground, but he doesn’t curse Adam and Eve. He provides clothing for them to help them with their shame.And a lot of people don’t realize this, but he protects them from eating of the tree of life. Banishing them from the garden was an act of love. Genesis 3:22-24, “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us knowing good and evil. And now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever”–therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword, which turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” God, in banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, was making sure that they would not be separated from him forever.St. Ephrem, the Syrian, in his commentary on Genesis, explains, “God did this lest this life-giving gift that they would receive through the tree of life become misery, and thus bring worse evil upon them than what they had already obtained from the tree of knowledge. From the latter tree they obtained temporal pains, whereas the former tree would have made those pains eternal. From the letter they obtained to death, which would have cast off from them the bonds of their pains. The former tree, however, would have caused them to live as if buried alive, leaving them to be tortured eternally by their pains.” All of what happened in Genesis 3 in God’s interaction with Adam and Eve, was born of love–came from his love for them, even though they didn’t understand it.The basic problem with us entering into this sequence of love is that we don’t tolerate enough contact with God to allow him to affirm us, to allow him to receive us, for us to understand him in a radically different way.And what kind of love is God’s love for us? God himself tells us, Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Isaiah 54:10, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” And how steadfast is God’s love? Deuteronomy 7:9 tells us, “Know therefore, that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” Psalm 86:5, “For thou, O Lord, art good and forgiving–abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee.”Now God requires a response from us. Psalm 86:5, “O Lord, thou art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on thee.” We have to call on him. We have to respond to the love that God gives us. And we can only respond to the love that God gives us, if we take that love in and not just in some shallow, superficial way, not just in some intellectual way, not in some cold, sterile, abstract way. We need to allow it to permeate our entire being.That is what this episode is all about. This is episode 99 of the podcast Interior Integration for Catholics, released on November 7th, 2022, and it’s titled ‘Why We Catholics Reject God’s Love for Us and How to Embrace that Love’.From the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ paragraph 221, “But St. John goes even further when he affirms that ‘God is love’; God’s very being is love. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.” Catechism, paragraph 221. We are called to take him up on that. That is our mission, that is our purpose on earth, to enter into that eternal exchange of love among the three persons of the Trinity.How do we know that we are loved by God? Well, I think there are two ways. 1) We know by faith, and 2) we know by lived experience. What are we talking about when we talk about faith? Let’s define our terms. The ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’, paragraph 153, “When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come from, ‘flesh and blood’, but from ‘my Father, who was in heaven’. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. ‘Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.” Faith. Faith is an infused virtue that helps us to know who God is. Faith.Second thing, the lived experience of the relationship with God. I’m going to use an example from St Paul here, from his 2 Timothy, 1:12, “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” You can feel the love of God in consolations. Part of the beauty and the wonder and the magic of consolations is that we can feel in our lived experience the love of God. That’s what makes a consolation a consolation. We can feel the love of God.But here’s the thing–we don’t want to engineer emotional experiences of closeness with God, we don’t want to try to manipulate our feelings, we don’t want to try to somehow engineer a subjective experience. I have a lot of concern about Catholic youth events. These hyper emotional, noisy places using sophisticated psychological techniques of influence to generate contrived emotional experiences in young people. Hyping them up, getting them out of their window of tolerance. This is not a peaceful place where the voice of the Holy Spirit can really be heard. I think so much of how we evangelize our young people is so misguided, because that doesn’t last, and some of that, a lot of that I don’t think is even real. I don’t think it’s God acting at all. There’s so much of what can be explained at those things has to do with people getting hyped up–techniques of influence. It’s actually not that much different than an Amway convention sometimes.So we don’t want to rely on our subjective experience of the lived relationship with God, because that subjective experience of connection with God can vary way too much. Dietrich von Hildebrand writes, “Our confidence in God must be independent of whether we experience his nearness, whether we sense the enlivening touch of grace, whether we feel ourselves being born on the wings of his love.” That’s so important, and it’s really important coming from a phenomenologist, right?We need to temper what we believe about God, and not have it just be reliant on our personal experience, because that is unreliable as a guide. It just is. Let me give you an extreme example. Mother Teresa in 1957, she confided to her spiritual director, “In the darkness…Lord, my God, who am I that you should forsake me? The child of your love–and now become as the most hated one. The one–you have thrown away as unwanted–unloved. I call, I cling, I want, and there is no one to answer…where I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. Love–the word–it brings nothing. I am told God lives in me–and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”David Scott in Chapter 17 of his book, ‘The Love That Made Mother Teresa’. He wrote, “For more than fifty years, following her initial visions and locations, Mother Teresa was wrapped in a dark, pitiless silence. She only once more heard the voice of God, and she believed the doors of heaven had been closed and bolted against her. The more she longed for some sign of his presence, the more empty and desolate she became.” Extreme example here, people. This is an extreme example. This was an extraordinary person called to incredible heights of sanctity–God chose to not console her in order that her faith grow and that she gain even greater merit than if he had given her the consolations that she desired. She had the faith to persevere, which is what made her so great. Her capacity to hold onto God’s love by faith and to receive it into her, even when she couldn’t feel it. Even when she couldn’t feel it.Now I want to switch gears. Now I want to talk about needs. Now, in the weekly reflection that I wrote on September 26th titled: ‘The Top Ten Needs That Fuel Modern Day Idol Worship’–that’s sitting in your email box, if you’ve registered with Souls and Hearts. I send these weekly reflections out every week on Wednesdays. I do keep an archive of them at soulsandhearts.com/blog. They go up there later when we get around to posting them.But in that particular weekly reflection, ‘The Top Ten Needs That Fuel Modern Day Idol Worship’, I talk about the integrity needs. This is my summary of what I think we need from an integrity standpoint. The need to exist–the need to survive. That’s the first one. The second one, I need to matter–I need to matter in the cosmos. Third, I need to have agency–I need to be able to exercise my will. Fourth, I need to be good–I need to have a sense of goodness within me. And the fifth, I need to have a mission and purpose in life. Five integrity needs.Also five attachment needs. These are the primary tasks of secure attachment, according to Brown and Elliott. This is a felt sense of safety and protection. This is feeling seen, heard, known and understood–that’s the second one. Third one, feeling comforted, soothed, and reassured. Fourth, feeling cherished, treasured, and delighted in. Fifth, feeling that the other has your best interests at heart.There is so much resistance to God’s love, and to explain that I’m going to weave in these integrity needs and these attachment needs. I have eight major reasons why we resist God’s love. Eight major reasons why we resist God’s love. And they’re all interrelated. 1) our limited vision; our lack of imagination, leading to a refusal to be transformed by God, 2) we don’t understand God’s love, 3) the costs of being loved by God, 4) poor God images, 5) poor self images, especially self images dominated by shame, 6) the refusal to be vulnerable, to be exposed, to be revealed to God, 7) a lack of courage, and 8) anger at God with rebellion.Let’s go through these again. Limited vision; lack of imagination–that’s number one. 2) we don’t understand God’s love, 3) the costs of being loved by God, 4) poor God images, 5) poor self images, 6) the refusal to be vulnerable, 7) lack of courage, 8) anger at God that fuels rebellion.Let’s go through these one at a time. Limited vision; lack of imagination. We won’t even understand this on any kind of intellectual level. Von Hildebrand talks about how we can have an unhealthy satisfaction in far more limited spiritual goals than what God calls us. We settle for something really limited. According to von Hildebrand, the vision of most Catholics is way too small–our sights are set way too low. We’re satisfied with way too little in the spiritual life. We are like chickens pecking at the ground when we are called to soar like eagles. What would that look like?Well, if someone is content with merely getting over a sin, merely overcoming a vice, working on developing this virtue or that virtue–that’s way too small. Some Catholics, many serious Catholics, actually pursue the spiritual life basically as a self-improvement project, and they’re satisfied with small incremental gains. I talked about this in the weekly reflection from October 26, 2022, ‘Why we resist change–and especially radical transformation’.This is captured in a book by Ransom Riggs titled ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’, where his character, Jacob Portman, says, “One day my mother sat me down and explained that I couldn’t become an explorer because everything in the world had already been discovered.” Keep it small. Keep your vision on the ground. Eyes down, eyes downcast. Don’t gaze heavenward.And Paul Catalanotto, in an article in the Catholic Weekly called ‘Refusal to Love is Also a Refusal to Live’ said, “Love, in some sense, is nothing other than an invitation to great joy and suffering, so they shy away from it.” We see this. We see this in John 6. Our Lord has just given himself body, blood, soul and divinity–he’s talking about the Eucharist, and what was the reaction? Let’s pick it up in 6:41, “The Jews then murmured at him because he said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say “I have come down from heaven?”‘” And then 6:60-66, “Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said ‘this is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ And after this, many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.” They would not open their imaginations. They had limited vision they would not trust what our Lord was telling them. They were not humble enough to acknowledge that they couldn’t see as God sees. And so they left him, to their peril. That’s the first one–limited vision; lack of imagination.Second one, we don’t understand God’s love. Isaiah 55:8-9. What does God tell Isaiah? “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I want to give you some understanding of this, because when we think about ourselves in terms of parts, these parts can be really, really young. And there was an article on Proverbs31.org by Sharon Janes called ‘When Love Hurts’. She put it out on April 17, 2018. ‘When Love Hurts’. I’m going to do a little dramatization of that article.”Mommy! Mommy! Don’t let them hurt me!”My son, Steven, was about three years old when he contracted a severe case of the flu. His slumped body snuggled listlessly like an old, worn rag doll. When I carried him into the medical clinic, the doctor quickly diagnosed dehydration and immediately sent us to the hospital. My heart ripped apart as the nurses strapped my little boy onto a table and began placing IVs in his tiny arms.”Mommy, Mommy, make them stop! They’re hurting me.””No, honey, they’re going to make you all better.””Mommy, help me!” Stephen cried, I cried, the nurses cried. I could only imagine what was going through Stephen’s little mind. “Why are these people hurting me? Why does it mommy make them stop? She must not love me. She’s not protecting me. If she loved me, she wouldn’t let them do this to me. She must not care about me.”Standing in the corner watching my little boy cry. I wondered if that’s how God feels when I’m going through a painful situation. That’s for my ultimate good. I cried out, “God, why are you letting this happen? Don’t you love me? Don’t you care about what’s happening to me? Why don’t you make it stop?”And thanks to my nine-year-old daughter Lucy, for again helping me out with the voice over so much appreciate her being here. You can see how Steven little, three-year-old Steven, how he’s struggling with these integrity needs and attachment needs in the situation with the IVs. His very need to exist feels threatened. “I might be injured. I might die. They’re poking things into me.” These IVs. He also has no sense of being protected–that’s an attachment need. That’s the first primary attachment need, a felt sense of safety and protection. In fact, Steven feels just the opposite. The little child, he was being protected, but he didn’t understand. He didn’t feel protected even though if he didn’t get those fluids in his system, he actually could die of dehydration. There wasn’t a felt sense of being comforted and soothed. The child was not open to it. The third primary condition of secure attachment. There was no felt sense of support for as highest good, the fifth condition of secure attachment. Parts of us are very young, like this three-year-old. They do not understand.And so many of us have a poor view of anything that frustrates us. We’ve had bad experiences of being disciplined, of not having been disciplined out of love, but rather being disciplined out of anger or inconvenience or frustration by our caregivers, by our fathers, by our mothers. Hebrews 12:11 addresses this very point. It reads, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Freud even recognized this. He talked about how we needed to be both gratified and frustrated in order to grow. That’s the second–the second of the eight reasons why we resist God’s love. First one, limited vision, lack of imagination. Second, we don’t understand God’s love.This third one–the costs of being loved by God. This is huge. This is really huge. Now, real love, whether you call it agape or charity, real love is always given freely. And most of us understand that much, at least intellectually. But real love is never received freely in this fallen world. There are costs to allowing real love into our lives. And there has been very little discussion in Catholic circles about the costs of being loved by God. I find that so strange. So many Catholics don’t think this way. It’s though Catholics are dominated by parts that believed that being loved by God is one of two things. It either should be really easy and delightful and peaceful, like being the lead character in a Hallmark movie or being a lead character in a romance novel where the love is easy, it just comes naturally–this kind of emotional junk food that just nourishes illusions. And if it’s not like that, and it’s not going to be like that, not for very long anyway. When it’s not like that, these folks conclude that God isn’t loving them. They conclude that they’re excluded from his love because they have these idealized, distorted ideas of what God’s love would be like. This is God as Santa Claus rather than as a loving father. The second way that people consider being loved by God is that being loved by God is terrible. This echoes of Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Now, when the author of Hebrews wrote that he was talking about God punishing evildoers, not those who had embraced his love, but I think sometimes people think that being loved by God essentially means being raped by God, being sucked dry by God, being exhausted by God, being used by God, being exploited by God. What happens when we receive the love of God into our being is that that real love burns away anything that is sinful within us. The love of God in our souls–in our bodies, burns away any vice. And not only that, real love also purifies us from anything that is not morally wrong, but that is disordered, or dysfunctional, or imperfect.So real love burns away things that are merely disordered–like feelings. We can have, for example, anger at God, and anger at God is always disordered because anger is the proper emotional response to injustice, and God is never unjust with us. But if we begin to really allow the love of God into us, we’re going to have to give up our anger at God. And maybe there have been parts of us that have organized our lives around being angry at God. We’ve built whole narratives around that.The other thing is that real love is the greatest good. It’s greater than all other goods. Real love is God himself. God is love, St. John tells us. And because love is the greatest good, it can require us to give up lesser goods–both perceived goods and actual goods. This includes the coping strategies, the crutches that have helped us in the past. This includes the different ways that we found and navigate the world in trying to survive. 1 Peter 1:7, “So that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” There are so many times in Scripture where love is described as being refined in fire. Isaiah 48:10, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction”, and not because God is some kind of sadist, but because he knows we need to be purified. Zechariah 13:9, “And I will put this third into the fire and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold as tested. They will call upon my name and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.'” So what specifically goes into that crucible? What specifically is refined in the fire? Well, we know from Proverbs 17:3, the crucible is for silver, the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts. Job. Job was a just man. Job made mistakes. But Job knew more about God than anybody walking the face of the earth in his day. And Job said, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Refined. Refined as gold.But can you see the costs? The costs. The costs are immediate. The costs are up front. The benefit of that refining is in the future and we can have parts that if they are not infused with faith, if they are not connected with the truths that that God gives us, if we’re not open to that virtue of faith, that helps us to believe that we described in paragraph 153 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we’re not going to make it.And when you are in the crucible, when you are in the purifying furnace, which all of us will be if we are trying to grow in love for God. All of us will be there. We’re going to be questioning if we don’t have that faith, we’re going to be questioning, we’re going to be questioning around integrity needs–like is this furnace going to burn me up? Am I going to cease to exist? It’s God going to burden me with more than I can handle? Do I even matter to God? Right. This is another integrity need. Do I matter to God or am I just disposable, expendable? I mean, does God even believe that I’m good? Why would he be treating me this way if I were not bad? That was the way that Job’s friends interpreted it, right? Job’s friends. His three friends trying to get him to fess up, trying to get him to admit to some sin that wasn’t true. Job resisted that.What about attachment needs felt safety and protection? It’s hard to feel safe, it’s hard to feel protected if you are in the crucible, if you are in the furnace. Again, we need faith. We need to believe that there is something bigger than this. We cannot just take a three-year-old’s perspective. We can’t just go with the parts of us that interpret the world like Stephen was doing with his IVs. That’s the third one. The costs of being loved by God–those costs are real.Now, it is the most amazing bargain ever to pay those costs for what you get. There is no better investment that you could ever make. But I think we have to acknowledge that those costs are real.The fourth–poor God images. Alright, I’m just going to lay it out here. We do not understand God very well. We really don’t know who he is, and because we don’t really know who he is, we have this lack of confidence in God. I’m going to talk about God images–what are God images? God images are my emotional and subjective experiences of God, who I feel God to be in the moment, which may or may not correspond to who God really is. God images: what I feel about God in my bones, my experiential sense of how my feelings and how my heart are interpreting God.Now, each part of me that is not in right relationship with my innermost self has a distorted God image. These God images are often unconscious–you’ve got multiple God images, as many God images as you have parts that are not in right relationship with the self. And initially those God images are shaped by the relationship you had with your parents. They’re heavily influenced by psychological and developmental factors. Different God images can be activated at different times depending on your emotional states, what psychological mode you’re in at a given time, what part of you is blended and driving your bus at any given moment. The thing to remember about God images is that they are always formed experientially–they flow from our relational experiences and they also are constructed from how we make sense of those images when we’re very young. My God image can be radically different than my God concept. The God concept is what I profess about God. It’s my intellectual understanding of God. It’s based on what I’ve been taught, but also what I’ve explored through reading. I decide to believe in my God image. And for Catholics, the God image is reflected in the Creed, it’s expanded in the catechism, it’s there in the formal teachings of the Church. We refuse Mother Angelica’s bit of advice. Mother Angelica says, “Allow people to love you as they must love you, not as you want them to love you. Even God does not love us as we wish him to. Learning to love is learning to accept love as it comes.” We have to accept love as it comes.Some people are really concerned about opening themselves to greater love because they’re afraid they’ll lose the relationship with God if they push the envelope. And you know what? You are going to lose the relationship you have with God if you push the envelope–if you push the envelope, if you really deepen, it’s going to be entirely different. It’s going to be so much deeper and richer. I did a seven episode series on God images in this podcast from episodes 23-29. Check those out. Really talk about attachment needs in God images in those episodes. So that is the fourth major reason why we resist being loved.First one–limited vision. Second–we don’t understand God’s love. Third is the cost of being loved by God and the fourth–poor God images.Let’s go on to poor self-images. Self-images are these emotionally driven, intuitive, subjective ways that we feel about ourselves moment to moment. It’s what we know about ourselves in this unarticulated, unspoken, pre-verbal way. It’s who we believe ourselves to be at a very primitive level, formed into us again by our experiences and how we’ve made sense of those experiences. Self-images are not who we describe ourselves to be in our intellectual considered way. It’s not what we give sanction to as our understanding of ourselves when we describe ourselves as being a beloved son of God or beloved daughter of God, it’s who we feel ourselves to be in the moment. Each part of you who is not in right relationship with your innermost self, in addition to having a distorted God image, has a distorted self-image.And when you get down deep, when you are able to within your own system or if you have enough access to somebody else’s system, you usually find some part that’s dominated by shame. And there is no better description that I’ve ever found about how parts that are burdened with shame can feel about themselves then this sermon given by Pastor Jonathan Edwards in the 1740s, which he titled ‘Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God’, and Pastor Jonathan Edwards tells us, “The God that holds you over the pit of Hell, much is what holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and has dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire. You are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours.” And he goes on for pages and pages, thousands of words, all this terrible stuff with not leavened by any beloved child of God. Just it’s like the perfect description of how so many parts that are exiled believe God looks at them. It was a terrible disservice to mankind here that Pastor Jonathan Edwards rendered. That’s what leads us to hide from God. If we really believe that that is who we are, of course we’re going to hide from God.We don’t want to find out that we are unlovable. We don’t want to find out that we are actually unloved by God, because if we are unloved by God, we are unlovable. We can’t bear that. That really hits on integrity needs, right? Especially the need to be good, the need to matter–if we are this disgusting spider, this loathsome insect worthy of just nothing, just being cast into the fire, and if we’re seen as this dreadful person by God, how are we going to ever receive love from somebody like that? So many fears come out of that because of our self-image. You can check out episode 24 of this podcast, which is all about God images and self-images–I talk more about self-images there, but we actually need to have a sense of being loved by God. So many people, going back to the first one, lack the imagination. What they’re trying to do is be tolerated by God. The idea of being delighted in by God, which is the fourth of the primary conditions for secure attachment, having a felt sense of being cherished and treasured and delighted in well, they’re not thinking about that at all. They’ve got their sights set way too low–they’re just trying to be tolerated by God.You know all this business about, like God not letting people into heaven, but our Lady, letting them sneak in through the backdoor–All of that’s crazy. That’s crazy talk. There’s no there’s no conflict between our Lord and our Lady that way. I can understand if people could have a sense that Mother Mary could love them, but God doesn’t, and then I would invite them to deepen the relationship with Mother Mary and let Mother Mary help you understand who God really is. Poor self-images. Such a huge thing. That’s the fifth one.Now the sixth one–the refusal to be vulnerable, to be exposed, to be revealed to God. If love is going to be real, and if I’m going to be open to being loved to the to the degree that I’m called, that means I’m going to allow God to love all of me. All of me, all of my parts, my entire being, not just the acceptable parts of me that I put in the shop window, those parts that I allow others to see. Oh, no, it’s got to be all of me–which requires a fair amount of vulnerability. The fears of being hurt again, fears of betrayal, fears of abandonment can lead us to, again, want to hide, to protect ourselves. This goes to that integrity need to survive. If I am vulnerable one more time, if I open myself up to God, is he going to be like this person who almost killed me emotionally? Is he going to be like the one who abused me? Is he going to be like the one who neglected me? Is he going to be like the one who forgot about me? We generalize in our God images–we generalize, we project onto God what we’ve experienced by others in authority, by others that we’ve actually have lived experiences with. We project all that onto God. That’s the sixth, the refusal to be vulnerable. We want to survive. Can we survive being loved by God? And so many parts conclude, no, we can’t. And that keeps us from entering into relationship with God.Seventh Reason–the lack of courage. I mentioned this in episode 96 ‘Philophobia–The Fear of Love’. All of us have parts that fear real love. There’s a comfort in the familiarity of the dysfunction we know. We like things being predictable–change is scary. Erica Jong wrote, “I have accepted fear as a part of life–specifically the fear of change…I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.” Alright, we’re going to have parts–they’re trying to help us, they have good intentions, they want us to survive. They say “turn back”.Nelson Mandela, he said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” There is a huge difference between fearlessness and courage. I wrote an article about that for ‘Outlook Magazine’, which is an IFS magazine, Internal Family Systems Institute magazine. Fearlessness is not courage. The one who is fearless is just disconnected from his fear. Maureen Brady and her book ‘Beyond Survival: A Writing History for Healing Childhood Sexual Abuse’, said, “For change to occur in us, we must be willing to enter the wilderness of the unknown and to wander an unfamiliar territory, directionless and often in darkness…We do not need to keep every little thing under control. In fact, we find ourselves only by allowing some falling apart to happen.” This is what so many people are doing in the spiritual life. It’s like you’ve got a Rubik’s Cube and they’re able to solve one side of it. So one side of it is all one color, and that’s the side that they face outward toward God and toward other people. But there’s no way to actually solve the Rubik’s Cube without destroying that one side. And in fact, those particular squares only look like they’re in the right place, because when you look at what’s going on in the other faces of those little cubes, it’s not right at all. There actually has to be considerable reorganization of that Rubik’s Cube. So many people will not enter into what we are called to–into that everlasting exchange of love among the three Persons of the Trinity, to the gloriousness of our calling because of fear–because they allow themselves to be dominated by fear. That’s the seventh, the seventh of the main reasons for resisting the love of God.First one–limited vision; lack of imagination. Second one–we don’t understand God’s love. Third one–the costs of being loved by God. Fourth–poor God images. Fifth–poor self-images, including shame. Sixth–the refusal to be vulnerable. Seventh–the lack of courage.The eighth one–anger at God, leading to rebellion. Why? Well, this goes back to the fourth reason, which is the the poor God images–the distorted God images. Anger at God is always disordered, but it’s not sinful. If it’s spontaneous, if it’s a spontaneous first reaction, we don’t endorse it, we don’t sanction it with the will, we don’t elaborate a whole way of living around it–then it’s not sinful. What matters is what we do with that anger at God. So many people basically say to God, “Who do you expect me to believe? The Church, the Scriptures. The Magisterium. The lives of the saints. Who do you expect me to believe? Those or my own eyes? My own lived experience. Because my own lived experience is that you don’t love me. My own lived experience is that you have abandoned me, you have betrayed me. You have left me to twist in the wind.” This is what people say to God. Most people have parts that feel this way, and the reason they have parts that feel this way is because those parts are exiled with those beliefs so that they don’t take over the whole person. Other parts are like, “Hey, we can’t hear that. We can’t have that. God’s not going to tolerate that. Let’s stuff that away.” And so the parts–the parts that feel like God is perpetrated, injustice upon them, betrayal, abandonment, whatever they get, they get buried deep, right, because if we let that stuff up (this is what the protector parts say), if we let that stuff up, God’s going to smite us. That stuff cannot be allowed into our conscious awareness, and there’s this whole huge repression of that stuff. I want to love the Lord my God, with my whole heart. That means all of our parts. That means working through this stuff. If you don’t work through it here on earth. This is speculative Malinoski eschatology. If you don’t work through this on earth, nothing disordered is going to get into heaven. I think so much time in purgatory is spent working through these unresolved disordered emotions–disordered desires, impulses, stuff that isn’t necessarily sinful. It’s what you do with it. One of the worst things to do with it is to suppress it, because then you can’t even think about it, you can’t engage the will, you can’t engage the intellect. It’s suppressed–it’s outside of conscious awareness. It can’t connect, we can’t connect those faculties anymore, and that’s where you get acting out. You get the revenge of the repressed. And so much of what goes on in that revenge of the repressed is rebellion against God. That’s part of why we don’t pray. That’s part of why we don’t get to Mass on Thursdays, because that’s what we’d like to do. We sleep in so all kinds of parts acting out in various ways. That’s the eighth anger at God, rebellion against him.Eight ways that we resist God’s love. Eight ways that we refuse to be loved by God–refuse to take it in. Limited vision–we don’t understand, costs of being loved by God, poor God images, poor self-images, the refusal to be vulnerable, the lack of courage and anger, unresolved anger at God leading to rebellion.Now, I’ve been talking about parts, many of you know what I mean when I’m talking about parts. But I do want to review just a little bit so that before we go on to this next section, people have got it refreshed. If you’re really interested in finding out more about parts, episode 71–really an important episode, a new and better way of understanding myself and others. Check that out. Interior Integration for Catholics, episode 71, ‘A New and Better Way of Understanding Myself and Others’.Parts are separate, independently operating little personalities within us. That’s one way to think about them phenomenologically. Each part has its own unique, prominent needs, its role in our life, its emotions, its body sensations, guiding beliefs and assumptions, its own typical thoughts and intentions, its own desires, its own attitudes and impulses and interpersonal style, its own worldview. Each part is an image of God, each part has an image of self, and when those parts are not integrated, when they are not under the leadership and guidance of my innermost self, there’s all kinds of problems receiving the love of God.So let me just back up a minute and talk about this innermost self. What am I talking about? When I talk about the innermost self, I’m talking about the core of the person–the center of the person. This is who we sense ourselves to be in our best moments. When our core, when our self is free, when we’re unblended with any parts–the self is really who should govern our being. When St. Thomas talks about self-governance, it’s this self that I’m talking about that really should be leading and guiding, not any of the parts. Now in episode 71, I went through and described my ten parts, my ten parts–my good boy part, my evaluator part, formerly the critic, my melancholia parts, my adventurer part, my feisty part, which is formally my angry part, my challenger part who was my rebel, my lover part, my collaborator part which was formerly my competent part, that’s the one that ran my system most of the time, my guardian part, which was also formerly my intimidator part and my creative part.Every one of these parts, if they are disconnected from me, is going to have a distorted God image. My good boy part, if he’s driving my bus–he’s not connected with God. He has this tight code that I need to follow: God is distant, God is demanding, God doesn’t particularly care about my sufferings and my trials. He just wants me to get it done. That’s what happens with my God image. And I’ve got to leap to that standard, and I’ve got to hit that standard, or I will be rejected by God and he won’t love me.My evaluator part–when that part is separated from God, it goes back to that role of being my inner critic, riding me, berating me, driving me. It’s really kind of painful. It’s really actually quite painful. And this has to do with the shame that my melancholia part has when that part’s disconnected from God. That’s the part that carries shame for me. “You’re not good enough”. There are so many efforts to be good enough. Some of my high levels of production in my life have been driven by shame, by an effort to be good enough to be loved by God. If I do enough podcast episodes, if I write enough weekly reflections, if I stretch myself with enough clients, if I lay myself out in trying to love my children, if I burn out, if I become exhausted, if I’m consumed, if I’m curled up on the side of the road, then maybe God will love me.This goes back to my childhood history. This is a very, very clear–where this came from in my own developmental history. The way that I construed how I would be lovable, driven so much by the shame of my melancholia part. And then the response is from my feisty part. This is my angry part. This is the one that is willing to give the finger to everybody, right. And this part got really suppressed by my good boy part because this feisty part would not hesitate to take on God. That part doesn’t feel like it’s got anything to lose. This part, this feisty part, when it’s really disconnected from my core self. It doesn’t want to be in heaven with God. The last place it wants to be is in heaven with God staring into the eyes of this God that so betrayed and abandoned him. Absolutely not. No way in hell. This part would say, when it’s disconnected from God that it would rather be apart from God than in relationship with him. Which would mean choosing hell. Actually, what my feisty part really wants when it’s really worked up is to be in limbo, to be in a place of natural happiness where there is no God because it doesn’t really want to be with Satan, doesn’t really want to be down there, but it can’t abide this idea of being in God when it is isolated, when it’s not in right relationship with my innermost self. And that anger fuels two things, two other parts. One is my guardian part, formally my intimidator part, and the other is my challenger part, that’s my rebel. When my challenger part moves back into that rebel role, that part opens me up to all kinds of sinning. Sin driven by anger, sin driven by the fact that this isn’t a God worth worshipping. Guardian part, my intimidator part–this is the one that’s willing to go hand to hand with God. This is the one, this is the part of me if I allow it to take over, it can dominate attorneys and courtrooms. This is the part of me that chases dogs. This part actually likes it when dogs chase me because it can take over and it can turn the tables on the dog. I’ve even chased pitbulls away when that part takes over with the intensity of the anger from my feisty part, right, which is a defense against the shame, which is a defense against the intensity of the shame held by my melancholia part.My creative part generally has more of a positive relationship with God, identifies with God as creator, likes to do creative things, understands that, yeah, we create together, so that one doesn’t have as many issues with God, but it can also get kind of manic–really rev me up. And when it really revs me up with a lot of excitement or euphoria, then I get close to the touches of the Holy Spirit. I can’t discern what the Holy Spirit would want me to do because it’s just too busy inside, there’s just too much energy. I’m too wired.My lover part that is a part of me that when it’s disconnected from God, is going to look for God in all the wrong places. It’s going to look for surrogates for God. Other relationships. This is the part that led me on a decades long search for a guru that I could sit with under the banyan tree who would impart wisdom to me as a loving parent figure.When these parts are all in right relationship, though, when there’s harmony, when there’s collaboration, they see God as my innermost self sees God. Much more oriented towards who God actually is. When there’s fragmentation inside of me, when there’s fracturing inside of me, whichever part tends to dominate, that’s who I start to really feel and act, as though God exists if I’m not resisting that.So let’s talk about consequences if we don’t do this human formation work–if we don’t address these reasons why we resist the love of God, if we refuse to be loved by God.First point here is that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38-39, St. Paul, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ, Jesus, our Lord.” What does that mean? Nothing. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Not trauma, not even demons. Nothing can separate you from the love of God.With one exception. The one exception–you. Only you can separate you from the love of God. Only you have the power to do that by refusing to let the love of God come into you. That is what sin is. It is separating ourselves from God. Sin is damaging our relationship with God, sin is withdrawing from God, sin is breaking that relationship, and that happens. Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44 that reads, “And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you and hem you in on every side and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another; because you did not know the time of your visitation.'” It’s not that God would not protect Jerusalem. It’s that God could not protect the Israelites, not without violating their freedom, not without forcing himself upon them.And now for the most haunting words in all of scripture, Matthew 7:13-14. Our Lord says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those that find it are few.” This has been so ignored in the 20th and 21st centuries. I’m amazed that so many Catholics, so many people familiar with scripture can somehow imagine and think their way to believing that hell doesn’t exist. I believe hell exists, because I’ve seen it. No, I’m not talking about like one of the Fatima children where I’ve been granted a vision of hell. But I have seen in deep, painful detail what happens in my own life when I’ve separated myself from God, but also in the lives of so many people who have privileged me by inviting me into their worlds. We need to understand what hell is.Pope John Paul, the second in a 1999 audience, said, “God did not create hell. Hell is not a punishment imposed externally by God, but a development of premises already set by people in this life.” There’s an edition of the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’, it was edited by Archbishop Rino Fisichella in 2019, and was put out by our Sunday Visitor, and it’s got great commentary in the back of it–I really enjoy that book. And Louis Ladaria, he says, quote, “To be precise, God did not make hell. His free creatures make it, inasmuch as they separate themselves from him. Nor does God send anyone to hell; it is the damned one who separates himself and does not want to enter into the Father’s house. God, Saint Irenaeus said, does not really look to punish the damned, but as they are deprived of all good things, it is the penalty that pursues them.” “A similar idea in St. Augustine, God abandons the sinner to his evil, he does not, properly speaking, give evil to anyone. Because of this, and despite what is said sometimes, we need to insist on the fact that hell does not say anything against the goodness of God.”Popular authors even get this. Dean Koontz in his ‘Book of Counted Sorrows’, says, “We make hell real, we stoke its fires. And in its flames, our hope expires.” The Catechism, paragraph 1037, “God predestined no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of our faithful, the church implores the mercy of God who does not want ‘any to perish, but all to come to repentance.'” God is not trying to catch us, not sitting there with his hand on the trap door to hell, to send people there.Father Edward McIlmail, in his article, ‘Ask a Priest: If God Loves Us So Much, Why Does Hell Exist’, he gives this analogy–he says, “Imagine you are on a ship that is searching for survivors from a sunken ocean liner. You see a passenger struggling in the waves behind you. You throw a lifeline to him, but he refuses to grab it. You beg him to take hold of the lifeline, but he ignores your plea. Eventually, he sinks below the waves and drowns. Does his drowning indicate that you were indifferent? When you begged him to grab the lifeline, were you displaying hate? Was this drowning your fault? The answer to all these questions is: no. The person in the water, for whatever reason, refused your help. His drowning was the consequence.” Hell is the consequence–it’s not something that God wills for us, but because he respects our freedom and because we have the capacity to turn away from him, to go with these eight reasons why we resist his love, because we have that freedom, hell has to exist.Here’s the really, really important thing. It doesn’t matter why we flee from God in the final analysis. It doesn’t matter why we flee from his love. If we flee from his love and we persist in that flight–if we continue to reject his love, he will not force himself on us. He can’t, because he is love. And love doesn’t invade, love doesn’t intrude, love doesn’t dominate. If we persist in refusing to love, if we close ourselves off to love, we will have the consequences, and we’ll have them in this life.What is hell like? Well, hell is isolation. It’s utter alienation. Tekla Babyak, in his 2018 article called ‘Dante, Liszt and the Alienated Agony of Hell’, writes, “Dante Alighieri’s Inferno portrays hell as an alienated realm in which doomed spirits must spend eternally in isolation and regret.” And John Ciardi in his notes on Canto 32 of ‘The Inferno’, writes about the deepest level of hell, the ninth circle. “The treachery of these souls were denials of love, which is God and of all human warmth. Only the remorseless dead center of the ice will serve to express their natures. As they denied God’s love, so are they furthest removed from the light and warmth of his Son. As they denied all human ties. So they are bound only by the unyielding ice.” The deepest level of hell is ice.Dietrich Bonhoeffer in ‘Life Together’ wrote, “Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, and the more disastrous his isolation.” And what does this sound like? Well there was a character, Melody Brooks, in Sharon Draper’s book ‘Out of My Mind’. The character said, “It’s like I live in a cage with no door and no key. And I have no way to tell someone how to get me out.” Sue Johnson, therapist, writer, in her book ‘Hold Me Tight’, said “Isolation and the potential loss of loving connection is coded by the human brain into a primal panic response.”In my work with my clients, in my private practice, and also in my relationships with the therapists in the Interior Therapist Community and with all the members of the resilient Catholic community that I lead in Souls and Hearts, we talk about the God images that parts have. I have seen so many times the agony–the incredible suffering of alienation from those who have turned away from God. Parts of them still desperately clinging to the Catholic faith. Parts of them, though, dominating them, totally alienated from God. That’s where I’ve seen the most abominable, the most terrible suffering. That’s where I’ve seen the most terrible suffering–the most heart-rending, gut-wrenching suffering is from those who will not accept the love of God.And for those that will–for those that are open to it, and maybe not immediately from God directly–maybe that’s too much, maybe not from our lady directly, maybe through the therapy, maybe through the relationship with someone else that can somehow seem more tangible, seem more real to them. Sometimes people need to experience the love of God–most times, I would say, people need to experience the love of God through another Christian–through another Catholic. And experiencing the love of God through another Catholic can invite parts to believe that maybe, just maybe, love exists for them. It might invite parts to question the certainty that they have in their distorted, terrible God images. It might invite parts to engage the possibility that maybe, maybe, maybe God could love all the parts, all of me, that my whole being could still be a beloved son or daughter of God.So what are we to do? What are we to do? The first thing–I’m going to start with, the spiritual stuff, is to pray: to set aside the time to pray. There are plenty of aides to praying–I really like the book. ‘Personal Prayer: A Guide for Receiving the Father’s Love’ by Father Thomas Acklin, by Father Boniface Hicks–really practical suggestions in there about how to pray. Very wise, very good grasp of psychology that those two Benedictine monks and spiritual directors have. I found ‘Fire Within’ by Father Thomas Dubay–that was what launched my prayer life decades ago.The first letter of St John. That is amazing. Take that to Lectio Divina. And if you’re not doing Lectio Divina, I would really hope that you would. There’s an online article called ‘Lectio Divina: A Guide What It Is & How It Helps Prayer Life’ by Dan Burke, it’s at spiritualdirection.com, you can check that out. Also, Father Jacques Philippe in his book ‘Called To Life’ has a really excellent, succinct appendix on Lectio Divina. So Father Jack Philippe–‘Called to Life’, check out the appendix. There’s also a section on Lectio Divina in Father Jacques Philippe’s book, ‘Thirsting for Prayer’, it’s titled ‘Meditating on Scripture’. He calls it Lectio Divina in the body, but the title of the section is called ‘Meditating on Scripture’. That’s also really, really good. I’m going to just advise the Nike Model to pray. The ‘just do it’, set aside the perfection, the desire to do prayer well–when you start praying, you’re not going to pray well, you’re going to pray badly. The most important things in this life, we either do badly or we don’t do at all. St. Teresa of Avila says “he who neglects mental prayer, needs not a devil to carry him to hell, but he brings himself there with his own hands.” St. John of the Cross, “Without the aid of mental prayer, the soul cannot triumph over the forces of the devil.” Prayer. Engaging in a particular type of prayer, interpersonal prayer, real prayer, coming to God as a little child, a parvulo, a little itty bitty child. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them. For the Kingdom of God is made up of such as these.”Second thing–do your human formation work. Let’s not make excuses about that. Any problem, any difficulties you have in your relationships in the natural realm here on earth, you are going to bring into your spiritual relationships. This is one of the reasons why people do not like relational spirituality–they don’t feel competent at it. They’ve got real issues in their relationships and they bring that into their relationship with God, they bring that into the relationship with our Lady. Somehow they expect that it shouldn’t have an effect there, but it’s part of who they are.Interior integration. I’m going to I talk about this at length in my weekly reflection from October 12 2022. Why is interior integration crucial for union with God? I get into St. Thomas Aquinas. What he says about that, you can check that out, soulsandhearts.com/blog, October 12, 2022, scroll down, you’ll find it.Get to know your parts. So many times our parts do not want us to enter into relationship with God because they do not understand who God is. They’re like Stephen–they want to run away from the nurses with the IVs. They want to run away from life-saving treatment because they do not understand. We need humility, we need to trust. We need to pray for that, pray for the faith to ground our relationship with God, not to serve as some sort of supplement, not to rely on just our own personal experience and how we construe that experience, because that’s so subjective can be so wrong. Pray for faith, do your human formation work, get into therapy or counseling, especially Internal Family Systems therapy with a therapist who is Catholic, or who at least respects your Catholic faith and will not underline it or undermine it.Now, I’m going to give you something else too. On November 21, I’m going to put out an experiential exercise as a bonus podcast. I’m playing with the idea of breaking apart the main sort of like lecture thing that I do in these podcasts and putting the experiential exercises in a second episode. That way you don’t have to pause it if you’re driving or working out to do the experiential exercise, you know that the experiential exercise is going to require a different space.The other thing, because I’m so passionate about this human formation stuff, I want to bring it to the world. I wanted to bring it to as many people as I can–that’s why I founded the Resilient Catholics Community. You do not have to be alone in doing this human formation work, and it doesn’t require therapy or counseling. Therapy and counseling do not have a monopoly on human formation work. We’ve needed to get out of some pretty narrow boxes, and that’s what the members of the Resilient Catholics Community are doing. They are breaking out of their boxes and they are pioneers. They are really trendsetters and finding out how do we foster human formation in new ways. We do it together. We do it on a pilgrimage. We are in relationship with each other. It’s an excellent way to get to know your parts. I’ve brought together the best human formation resources, the best psychological resources outside of therapy, outside of counseling, concentrated them into a whole program, 44 weekly meetings, company meetings, in small groups where we work through these things together. Daily connections with your companion on the journey, in your company, in your cohort, in the broader Resilient Catholics Community. If you resonate with this podcast, if this makes sense to you, if parts make sense to you, if this moves your heart, if you resonate with those experience exercises, if you have a sense that this is one way that you could really benefit from, sign up on the waiting list, go to soulsandhearts.com/RCC, get on the waiting list. November 10, I’m sending out the first orientation email for the group that’s applying, starting on December 1. December 1, we reopen the community to new applications. We do that twice a year in December and June. If you have questions about whether it might be for you, go to our landing page, soulsandhearts.com/RCC, read through the materials, listen to the videos or watch the videos. Got lots of questions and answers–lots of information there. If you still have questions, call me up. Office hours, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30-5:30 p.m. EST, 317-567-9594, private conversation 10 to 15 minutes–I’ll just give that time to you. Or you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org.Pray for me, put the word out, let people know about our offerings at Souls and Hearts. This podcast, the weekly reflections. Sign up for those–you can get those weekly reflections in your email box. Go to soulsandhearts.com main page. Click on the button that says ‘Get the Weekly Reflections From Dr. Peter In Your Email’. You can also see the archive at soulsandhearts.com/blog. You can check those out if that stuff resonates with you. Do some discernment, see if you might be called to join us in the Resilient Catholics Community.And with that, we’ll wrap it. We’ll invoke our patroness and our patron, our Lady, our Mother, Untier of Knots, pray for us. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.