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Ever have a moment when just the right song plays on the radio when you need it most? Whenever this happens, I’m blessed or consoled, depending on my mood. Love songs, especially, seem to have this effect on me.
Certain popular songs perfectly express the restlessness of the human heart. A quick survey of iTunes reveals over 100 songs with the word “restless” in the title. To say nothing of country classic from Waylon Jennings, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Or the mega-hit from U2 with Bono crooning “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
Here’s an amazing thought: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) proclaims that restlessness is meant to bless us. But first we have understand the purpose behind why, in God’s plan, “everybody’s got a hungry heart” (to quote a Bruce Springsteen lyric.)
The fact is that we are designed for relationship. We have a built-in hard-wired desire for God and for others, in that order.
CCC 27 states: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.”
If God made my heart this way, and He never ceases to draw me to Him, how come I sometimes feel like I keep missing the blessing? The problem lies with me. God made the first move; it is up to me to accept His invitation. But I get distracted. Often, I seek “communion” with other human persons—allowing my existence to be validated by whether or not that love is returned by another. I confuse my longing for love, intimacy, friendship, and joy, with something or someone other than with God first. When I mix up the intended order, I am exchanging the cure for my restless heart with a counterfeit. Usually my own selfishness gets in the way of love.
This order of “God first” in our hearts is key. Human relationships are good, and even wonderful, but imperfect. Desire for communion with another can be a holy thing. When properly ordered and aligned with what God intended, our communion with others imitates what we are destined for: union with God Himself.
CCC 27 continues: “Only in God will [man] find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for.”
When my heart hunger is satiated by God’s love, I am transformed. I become God’s own. My dignity as a person rests on the fact that I am called to communion with God, because I was made in his image.
When I trust God’s love, it holds my existence securely, grounding all that I am and do. My restlessness can rest.
What’s more, when I return God’s love, my human relationships become all they can be… better, deeper, and stronger. Even holy. In God’s economy love begets more love.
When I married, my husband’s love brought out the best in me. I have a much fuller life with him rather than without him. Our marriage vows entrust our lives to one another.
In a higher, more transcendent way, we are designed to “fall in love” with God because He first loved us. Ultimately, we are called to entrust our lives to Him. “Man cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love [of God to Man] and entrusts himself to his creator.” [CCC 27.]
The first saint we meet quoted in the Catechism is St. Augustine. A self-confessed restless heart, he, too, looked for love in all the wrong places until he had a divine encounter with God. One day, as he sat under a tree reading the Bible, God’s Word of love changed him. Like the perfect song playing on the radio, it was just the right medicine for his aching heart. Augustine would later write:
“O Lord…You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”
Resting in God, our hearts sing a different tune.
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CCC 27 also states:
The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.
Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, “an upright heart”, as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.
—Pat Gohn is a wife & mother celebrating 27 years of Catholic family life. Her Catholic writing, podcasting, and ministry life are found at PatGohn.com.