Saturday, 25 October 2014

Self-esteem and the Eucharist

    We live in a world where lust is given freely and love is withheld for fear of rejection. I’ve spoken to so many girls whose deepest wounds come from a lack of love. But the bigger problem is that they’ve been made to believe they don’t deserve love. A culture where girls slate each other rather than affirming each other, and guys judge appearance rather than character, has led them to feel they can never be worthy of receiving love, and that there is nothing about them worth loving. 

    For years I was one of those girls, and there are days when I feel like I still am! When I fall into the trap of criticising myself, the temptation is to shy away from Jesus for fear of being unworthy. But on those days I know it’s more important than ever to allow myself to receive what He offers me. 

    Every single voice that tells you you’re inadequate, or invisible, or unworthy of love is a lie – and lies come from the enemy, who wants nothing more than to separate you from Christ. When the enemy attacks, choosing to cling to Christ is what will defeat it, and I’ve found time and time again that the best way to do this is through the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is Jesus. Jesus is God. God is Love.   

    Receiving the Eucharist is the first step towards accepting His love. You don’t have to believe that love initially to receive it, you just have to say yes to allowing Him to show you the truth. By opening your heart to receive Jesus, you give Him permission to begin to reveal to you the depth of His love. Jesus, in the Eucharist, can change your heart and change your life – He is so powerful that it’s impossible not to be changed. You may not see the changes as they happen, but over time He will open your eyes to the identity He’s given you. 

    The Eucharist is our greatest weapon in the battle against poor self-esteem, body image and self-worth, because it charges straight to the front lines. The real presence of Jesus within us tackles the lies directly, and replaces them with truth. He will fight for us, we have only to receive. We don’t have to fight the battle in our own strength. We can utilise this weapon simply by receiving the host and praying:

Jesus, I can’t see my own worth, but I trust that you want to show me. I allow you into my heart. Transform me from within, and reveal to me the truth of who I am and what I’m worth to you. 

    The abundance of God’s love is overflowing and unending, and He longs to lavish it upon us. He wants to be allowed into our lives, and allowed to show us His love. Learning to accept love can be painful, but we mustn’t let that stop us. There is no joy without pain, because joy comes from breaking barriers in our hearts and seeing the pain lifted. The reward of knowing the truth of what the Father sees in us is infinitely greater than the pain of getting there…

… and the greatest way to get there is the Eucharist.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Women of Courage

    For a long time, hearing the word ‘courage’ has touched something in me that I can’t quite explain. It stirs a desire to step out, to challenge myself, and to triumph over fear in the name of Jesus. Perhaps it simply stems from my need for independence (which I wrote about in my last post), but I hope – I believe – there’s more to it!

    My admiration for my namesake has grown so much over last few years – Esther is one of (if not the) most courageous women in the Bible! I once read that although our parents chose our names, they ultimately came from God because He designed the people we would become and knew us even before we were conceived (Stasi Eldredge, ‘Becoming Myself’). That really struck me, because it made me consider why I was given my name. For me this brought the realisation that, more than simply admiring Queen Esther and enjoying the story, I’m called to aspire to and embody her courage. 

    More recently I’ve been considering the huge misconception so many of us have of Mary in this respect. Think of the Nativity story in children’s books – where Mary is portrayed as charmingly and passively accepting the will of God. As attractive as that picture is to a little child, the reality is so much more intense. 

    In saying ‘yes’ to God, Mary didn’t get a gold crown or even a gold star. She sacrificed her reputation, disgraced her family, and faced daily rebuke, judgement and a very real threat of being stoned to death. And yet she was willing to suffer. She stepped out in the midst of uncertainty and fear to do the work God set before her, even to the point of risking her life. She was a brave forerunner for Christ’s mission on earth. She was the definition of a courageous woman!

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

    Pope Francis calls us all – men and women alike – to be spirit-filled evangelisers who have ‘the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness’ (Evangelii Gaudium, #259). Our mission as Christians is to bring the joy of knowing Christ to those who haven’t experienced it, and often that will mean standing against things the world values in order to defend the truth of Christ. It’s not an easy job! It demands courage and strength of character. Courageous men restore our faith and lead us towards Christ, but to me courageous women are stunning. 

    I want to be someone who other people see courage in, and who draws that courage out of others.  I see beauty in strength and grace in bravery, and I’m always so inspired when I meet women who show me these things! Our role as women is more than simply accepting and allowing God’s will – it is, like Mary, to actively engage in that will and have the courage to live it out.