Growing up Catholic, I had heard over and over the phrase, “God loves you.”
I saw it on posters in the church basement, I heard it during homilies, I heard it from my family.
Everyone always says that God loves you like his own child; He loves the way a good father loves a child.
I've always believed this to be true, but it never really clicked for me. I had never felt God's love the way I felt the love from my dad until I started to get real with God.
During a retreat, we were having adoration of the Eucharist, along with praise and worship music. It was a profound experience, sitting in prayer, on an island, with all my friends. But I wasn't really feeling connected to God. I could see He was doing all these great things in the lives of the people around me, but He seemed distant from me.
I had been to adoration many times before, but I had never had the personal experience of God’s love I heard so many people talk about. An experience where I physically or emotionally felt God’s presence and love overwhelm me.
So I tried something new. I tried talking to Jesus the way I talk to my dad. I was honest. I told Him I loved Him, but that I was frustrated.
I was frustrated that I had been trying so hard to get to know him, and working so hard to serve him, but I didn't feel like I was getting any results. Why wasn’t I seeing miracles and conversions, or having more opportunities offered?
I felt fired up inside as if I had been cheated by a close friend. In my mind, I was almost arguing with Him, pleading, asking “God, how long until I get to be with you? How much longer do I have to keep this up?”
I still didn’t feel anything. But somehow I could feel He was there, that He was listening. Even though he was quiet, I still felt a sense of calm.
Once I calmed down, I decided to try something else. During the retreat, we had heard about how God knows us so personally, how he is a good and caring Father. So I asked him if He could call me by the nickname my Dad has called me my whole life, "Punkin." It's kind of a mix of punk and pumpkin, I guess.
As soon as I asked for that, I was totally overcome. Somehow, I heard him call me by my nickname. I felt like I was hit with a wave of love and I was being tossed and pummelled by His ocean. I had never cried in adoration before, but that night I wept.
I cried and cried and cried.
I finally knew what it meant to be loved, truly loved by this amazing Father. I felt warm, safe, and at ease. Everything my dad makes me feel, only a thousand times stronger.
Once adoration had finished, I rushed over to all my friends who were there and started hugging them. With a huge smile on my face, I kept saying “Jesus is my dad, you know?”
They would look at me, a bit confused, their faces saying, “Okay, yeah we know that.”
But it had become more than knowing for me. Now I was truly understanding and appreciating it.
I feel so humbled to have this understanding, to have experienced this intimate moment with Jesus. Though I had been trying for years, this was my first step in forming a personal relationship with Jesus.
I now make sure to go on a retreat like this at least once a year in order to spend some quality time with my heavenly Father, who loves me so dearly. They truly are one of the biggest highlights of my year. Whether it’s with CCO, the Men’s Retreat with Life Restoration, an Alpha weekend, or even helping at a youth retreat for high school students, Jesus always shows up for me in a unique and powerful way. This has allowed me to develop a deep trust with my heavenly Father, knowing that He will always take care of me, and to make daily prayer a priority in my life.
Jesus knows me by my nickname—and He knows yours too.