I wonder if you are like me in the morning. Do you gulp coffee, eat toast standing up, and hurl dishes into the dishwasher while watching Good Morning America?
On this particular morning, the news came through that one of my favorite actors, Robin Williams, had committed suicide. My coffee cup hit the tiles and liquid cascaded across my kitchen floor.
“How could this happen?” I wailed to my husband, who was going through his own frantic dance of trying to leave for work.
“What happened, Annie?”
“Robin Williams committed suicide.”
He left his backpack on the floor and came skidding into the kitchen. From his face, he was as shocked as I was.
“How could someone who was loved by so many not know that he was loved?”
My husband gave me a wise look, hugged me, and said, “He didn’t know. Many of us don’t. And remember, he suffered terribly from depression, a real illness, probably for years. The sad clown and all of that.”
I know Robin fought his demons for years, and it is likely his Parkinson’s contributed to his depression, but I still think he struggled with one of the central questions people have: Am I lovable?
I think of Demi Moore who, when headed for rehab some years back, confessed her biggest fear: When she died she would discover she was not worthy of love, that there was something basically wrong with her after all.
So many of us share this feeling that there is a stain on our personality, some jagged breakage, which others can’t see but we know is there; and God knows as well. We are flawed at the base of our being, and there is nothing we can do about it. Even St. Thérèse of Lisieux confessed her fear that she would be “weighed and found wanting.”
Except, we can do something. It requires a change in perception — seeing things anew, which I’ve always understood is what Jesus calls us to do — to be awake; to see beyond the surface; to love extravagantly.
About a month ago, I fell into one of those anxiety traps where I doubted that God really did hold me close, even though I’d had so many signs of God’s care. Suddenly I was afraid of dying, fearful that when I crossed over, God would be sitting in a vast captain’s chair, arms folded, looking at me with disgust and dismay. As I knelt by my bed in tears, I prayed, “God, I am afraid I have disappointed you.” But the central prayer was — Can you love me despite my imperfections? The answer was swift and clear, in words felt inside:
Why would I love you any less at the end of your life than I do now, Annie?
I knelt back on my heels, heart eased, seeing myself differently and with greater compassion. It reminded me of an important piece of wisdom I learned from the priest who brought me into the Church: God sees each one of us as his only child. God loves us that much and that intensely.
If you have ever experienced the powerful, overwhelming rush of God’s love flooding your body and soul, you will know what this priest knew. We are singled out for God’s love, marked by it, claimed by it. For that is the only way we get changed enough to go out into the world to do God’s work.
So the next time you doubt yourself and question your worth, remember that God loves you as if you were his only child.