Going the Wrong Way
Why you are looking for Jesus in the wrong places
“Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.”
Luke 2:44-45 NABRE
Why do we look for Jesus where he isn’t? Why do we expect he’ll be there? We look everywhere else but where Jesus is. We give our hearts away, only for the world to break them. Then, we grip and grapple and wonder why- why people hurt us, betray us, say all kinds of awful things about us. It’s not a wonder. It’s a difficult lesson that the Lord is trying to teach us.
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)
As I grappled this morning with a situation in my own family, I happened upon a wonderful video by Sister Miriam James Heidland. The video, entitled, “Waiting for God to Answer,” is about trusting God with our hearts and our deepest hurts. Sister opens up the video with this question, “Am I absolutely convinced that God has the best for me in mind?” She calls it the “theology of my heart.” Hearing this, my own heart sat on pause. All of the intricate pieces of our hearts, hurt and sorrows, love, and loss, grief, joy, and pain, are all stored up in the recesses of our hearts.
We are so afraid to expose the hurt, the pain to Jesus, yet we have no problem running to the world to try and help it. We look to our “relatives and acquaintances” to help us, or to avoidance, perfectionism, or maybe even addiction.
As a sexual abuse survivor, I learned so much when I found a Christian group dedicated to the healing of sexual abuse survivors and their trauma. So much from that group has stuck with me over the years, but one lesson that comes to mind when I read today’s gospel is the lesson I learned about perfectionism. It’s what caused me to realize that my perfectionism was a direct result of my abuse, and just as bad as any addiction. Perfectionism is a form of control that we use to avoid healing. We bury ourselves in ministry, events, exercise, really anything to avoid the hard work of healing. And we get too far gone, we look back and realize that we have, like the gospel today, left Jesus behind, searching for Him where He is not, walking away from Him instead of towards Him.
And you don’t have to be a trauma survivor to realize that you too suffer from perfectionism as a means to avoidance, as a means to avoid Jesus. It’s not a chastisement, only an observation I bring to your attention because I’m working through it too. There are not enough boxes I can check, prayers I can pray, ministries I can lead that will help me overcome my broken heart.
Why am I giving my heart to everyone else but Jesus?
And maybe this is you too. Maybe you also have a loved one not talking to you, trauma, grief over loss or death, or a son or daughter who has walked away from the church. There are so many reasons that the world breaks our hearts. All the pain feels the same, unable to be resolved except by our Lord. So why do we look for him everywhere else except where He is? The Eucharist.
When we accept the Eucharist, we accept His body, blood, soul, and divinity broken for us- because He knows that we’re broken, and He knows that to fix that brokenness we must come to Him, not look to others to fix us. He doesn’t want anyone else to fulfill us but Him, and no person or activity ever can.
Only God’s supernatural healing can fix our brokenness. Yes, we can love people, but we cannot give our hearts to them. The love we are so desperately searching for is divine, and cannot be found among our relatives and acquaintances. A complete love, a love that never fails, a satiating love is only found in Jesus.
It gives me solace to know that I’ve been looking in the wrong places, that God wants to deal with my broken heart, that He wants me to hand it over to Him. I think about the way He loves me, that He will never reject me, leave me or forsake me. That nobody or nothing will or can ever love me like Him. And this is where the healing begins. To forgive the ones who’ve hurt me because they are incapable of loving me like that. To thank God for using them to point me right back to Him.