My regular readers might have noticed me dropping more than a line or two about how trying the past few months have been for me (as I did here, and here). It was a struggle, but in God’s goodness, I believe I’m finally coming out of this season a bit more whole than I was before.
A lot of lessons were learned over the past few months, and one of the most important ones was the realization that my relationship with God entailed the same kind of loyalty and faithfulness called for in marriage. It is a faithfulness that is willing to grow, change and accept everything there is about the other, even if, especially if, we find ourselves discovering new things about ourselves and about each other. For some couples who have parted ways, they have cited this very reason for the break-up: “You’re not the same man/woman I fell in love with years ago.” But think about it, how humanly possible is it to know a person in his/her totality in a lifetime, much less in the years leading up to marriage? And even after knowing so much about a person, can we really say, “okay, stay just as you are; don’t grow, don’t evolve, don’t change, don’t mature.” Shouldn’t our “yes” at the altar cover both the things we know, as well as the things we are yet to discover about each other as the years go by?
A line from the Steve Carell movie “Crazy, Stupid, Love” paints the picture rather vividly. Recalling how he has loved his wife through the years, he says, “I’ve loved her, even when I’ve hated her. You married couples will understand that one.” And so we do. Because fights and disagreements and misunderstandings (however you’d like to call them) will come. And when they do, it doesn’t mean your marriage is over. It means you’re growing–individually, as a person. And when we are unconditional in our acceptance of the other amidst that growth, then we can begin to grow as a married couple.
Whew, that was a pretty winded backgrounder, don’t you think?
But see, this is what the Lord has been teaching me about our relationship. As I grow and journey in faith, God is constantly revealing Himself to me, as my own true self is likewise revealed. And sometimes, as the past few months have been for me, I may not like what I discover. God’s mysterious ways, especially the type that uncovers our own darkness, can hardly be called gentle or loving–at least when you’re right in the middle of your emotions and cannot see too far ahead. I remember struggling in prayer, saying, “I cannot call You Supreme Kindness right now; what You’re doing to me is anything but kind!” Because facing one’s darkness can get ugly, messy, even bloody. I suppose it has to hurt for you to want to fight it. For you to have to fight it.
And this was what I was fighting for–my relationship with God. Everything about loving God was painful to do–praying was hard, serving was hard, even loving others was hard. I couldn’t even look forward in hope for an end to this season of desolation, as Mother Teresa, the game-changer that she was, pretty much ruined that notion for us (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read here to get a clue). But I had to believe with every fiber of my being that God’s love, and what we have, was something worth fighting for.
And by my loving, praying and serving even when I didn’t feel like it, by going against feelings I knew I could not trust (what St. Ignatius called agere contra), I was loving God, even when I hated Him.
Because, to quote Steve Carell yet again, “I will never stop trying. Because when you find the one, you never give up.”
What, no mention of flowers? More in Part 2!