At the time of our births we were made complete—mind, body, and spirit; the essence of pure innocence; God’s love made real in our flesh and bones. We mirrored the face of the Creator as we lay in our cribs cooing with joy and laughter.
God placed our hearts in the center of our infant bodies. Like an onion that contains a pure white heart at its center, our human heart is the core, the center of our body, our Being. Our hearts contain our soul, a small white light that connects us like an umbilical cord to the Divine.
Just as an onion develops layers of skin over time to protect its core, we too grow coats of protection over our hearts as we experience life’s ups and downs.
Someone hurts us. We grow a layer of anger and bitterness.
The world stings. We grow an addiction to numb the pain.
Someone tells us we’re bad. We layer our minds with false words, and come to believe we’re flawed, guilty, rotten to the core. Then we strive to be perfect, and can’t, and beat ourselves up with layers of resentments.
Slowly, the thin skins of pain become thick scabs on our hearts. And before we know it, we don’t know who we are anymore. We come to believe we’re the onion skins, our false selves, and we fight to protect that false identity.
Somewhere along life’s road, someone tells us we’re bad. It could have been a parent, a teacher, a coach or sibling. Religion sometimes reinforces the false message we aren’t good. It sometimes tells us we’re born evil and have to be purged of our sin. So some say, God sent Jesus into the world because we messed up. God had to create Plan B to fix everything and clean up our mess.
Franciscan Friar and Doctor of the Church Duns Scotus, who taught in the thirteenth century, believed God planned from the beginning of time to reveal his amazing love for us through the humanity, the flesh, and the bones of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t Plan B. Jesus was and is Plan A—God revealing to us his true unconditional loving nature through the physical being of Jesus—a man who walked the earth like you and me:
• Experiencing joy and laughter;
• Embracing friendship and rich relationships;
• Feeling pain and anger when others betrayed him;
• Responding to hardship with understanding and forgiveness;
• Spending daily time in solitude, communicating with our Father, seeking wisdom and guidance.
Jesus’ message is simple: we are good. We are very good at our core. We are the Spirit of God’s love made real in our flesh and bones.
I have to admit that I didn’t always embrace Jesus’ message. I built up onion skin layers. I allowed the words of others and my own false voice to tell me I’m not good. I’m bad. And unknowingly, that message slowly embedded itself deep into the core of my being.
At a communion service several months ago, I faced the fact that I believed the false message that I’m not good. During the homily, as the pastor proclaimed the beauty of how God made and formed each of us as good and whole, I wept. I couldn’t accept what she was saying. The old voices in my head rattled away, blocking the truth of her message. Noticing my sobbing, the woman next to me reached over, gently hugged me, and whispered in my ear, Don’t believe the lies.
It was a breakthrough. Four simple words of wisdom and truth that revealed the onion skin of shame I had grown over my heart.
If we’re willing to take a risk and try a new approach to our lives, we can wake up. We can realize we’ve masked our hearts, covered them up and forgotten the goodness, the original blessing, that’s buried under the layers. It’s then that we’re ready to do the inner work to peel back the layers of protection we’ve grown over the years and rediscover our true selves.
Like the words of the woman sitting next to me at that communion service, Easter invites us to stop believing the lies. It reminds us that we are good. It’s the historical event in which God revealed to us how much he loves and cares for us. He’s willing to do anything—even die for us—because we are precious. We are good. We are made in God’s image and likeness.
This Easter season, with the help of my spiritual mentor, lots of reading and writing, and daily quiet time, I’m working on not believing the lies anymore. Slowly, God’s teaching me the truth: we are good at our core.
—brian j plachta