God understands

By Father Chris Thomas

Many years ago Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche – a network of homes for people with learning disabilities – came to speak at one of our Come and See conferences. I think I have met many holy people on my journey and he was certainly one of them. The hall was full of people of every Christian persuasion looking for a word that would bring life.

Vanier is a giant of a man in every way. I can still see him stooping over the lectern on the stage at the Floral Hall as he listed human weaknesses, punctuating each one with the same phrase: "God understands." That was his word to us. That was God's word to us. People began to weep as they experienced God breaking into their lives through this man.

I wonder how many of us believe that word to be true? My experience of listening to people and walking with people on their faith journey is that most of us don't really accept it. Partly it is bad theology, but mostly I think it is because we have never experienced the kind of love that is in the heart of God for us, a love that is irrevocable, unconditional and never-ending.

At a human level we presume that anyone who slips behind the masks we wear and sees us as we are will, at the very least, be disappointed in us and at worst reject us. So how much more true will that be of God? Father Ronald Rolheiser, the Canadian theologian, says: "At the end of the day we expect that God is disappointed with us and will greet us with a frown." Yet God understands. 

I have two friends who know me probably better than I know myself. Despite what I believe about myself, they accept me and love me. If they can do that, how much more can the God that Jesus reveals do it? God understands us, accepts us, even delights in us. Why not take the risk to come to God, trusting and believing in the power of that love that was poured out on Calvary? Let it heal you of your disappointment in yourself. Let it touch your poor self-image. Let it be balm for your woundedness and brokenness. Let it transform you deep within. After all, this God of ours understands.