Normally I scroll past things like this, but something about it caught my eye. One of my friends had reposted a lengthy message on Facebook — basically what amounts to a modern-day email forward. Remember those?
The post shared the story of a little boy who was struggling, an 8-year-old who needed a break, needed a hug and needed just to be reassured of a parent’s love. The mother writing the story shared how, seeing her son in tears, she had pulled him close to her, held him tightly and “asked if he could feel my love filling him up.” Several minutes went by as she and her son stood together, holding one another, as the mother reassured and “refilled” her little boy with her love. It was just what he needed.
Attached to the post, my friend had commented how she had tried this with two of her young boys that week, and that it had been an exercise for the good. But then she said something unexpected. She, too, had tried it. After hugging her sons close to her heart and letting them be refilled with her own maternal love, she opened her own heart to God, asking him to “fill me from my toes to my head with His love.” It was just what she needed.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as we get deeper into Lent. We spend so much time preparing to have the “Best Lent Ever.” We make plans about what we will “do” — what we will sacrifice or add onto our schedules, or how we will be more generous, more giving or loving. All of those things are important. We should do these things. But sometimes we just need to be still. Sometimes, we just need to be filled up with God’s love, from our toes to our heads, remembering that, in the words of St. Paul, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phil 4:13).
Into the third year of a pandemic, we are tired. Watching a shocking and unprovoked war unfold on the European continent, we are on edge. Even going about the business of daily life, we can feel overwhelmed. The Lord beckons to us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
Pope Francis, who has so often written of the importance of taking time to be silent in the presence of God, wrote sagely in Gaudete et Exsultate: “The presence of constantly new gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of consumer goods at times leave no room for God’s voice to be heard. We are overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures and by an increasing din, filled not by joy but rather by the discontent of those whose lives have lost meaning. How can we fail to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry on a heartfelt dialogue with God? Finding that space may prove painful but it is always fruitful. Sooner or later, we have to face our true selves and let the Lord enter.”
We need to allow God to fill us up. We need to allow ourselves time to be reminded that He loves us, that He is here for us, and that we can rely on Him through any difficulties. We can do this at Mass, kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament, at home or even in the car. The important thing is that we make the time to open our hearts to Him. Because sometimes, to be filled from toes to head and back again, is just what we need.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.
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