Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Marriage isn't a Honeymoon, it's a Battleground

Which is not to say that there can not be times when it is.  But that is not essentially what it is.

Marriage means living with another person, and living with another person is a constant challenge to better yourself.  Because when you don't live with a person, things you say or do, or don't say or do, and vice versa, don't matter at the end of the day, but when you do live with a person, everything matters.

Marriage is a wake-up call.  The perfect partner does not exist, no matter how "made-in-Heaven" s/he may seem at the start.  Only one Being is perfect, and if you are looking for perfection, I suggest you become a hermit and spend the rest of your days in a cave, communing with God and nature. Not your vocation?  Not surprising, since most people need to be challenged in their path to sainthood.

This isn't to say that I do not believe in the idea of soul mates.  I do believe soul mates exist.  I do not think that every one meets a soul mate in this life, and even less end up married to one.  Some of the well-known saints had soul mates with whom they kept up a lengthy correspondence, while still remaining celibate.  For example, St Teresa of Avila in her later years was very spiritually close to a much younger St John of the Cross, and St Francis and St Clare of Assisi were equally close.

Certainly, it helps to be in a marriage with that person who, when you first met, seemed made in Heaven, just for you.  It helps when you are with a person who has the same interests, a similar background, the same desires.  It helps to be with someone whose mind you love; whose soul inspires you; someone who continues to amaze you, whose ideas are so close to yours that sometimes it seems that you are of one mind.

But even then, marriage will still be a battlefield.  There will still be misunderstandings and shortcomings, and you will still be put through the fire of testing that will gradually forge you into the person you were meant to be.

Neither of you is perfect and you will challenge each other on the road of life to better yourselves.  Only you must accept the challenge.  Marriage is a battlefield, but you are in this together.  You will fight the demons that plague you; pride, prejudice, laziness, procrastination, lust, distrust, domination, selfishness.  Marriage is a constant battle against these things, and requires the proper armour and weapons; faith (in God and each other), compassion, communication, trust, humility, empathy, Truth.

Marriage between two people is that sacrament, that imitation of the relationship God desires to have with each one of us.  With every "I'm sorry", and every "I forgive you" you bend yourselves a little closer to the shape that you were meant to be.  Sometimes the battlefield is bloody.  Love hurts.  Hearts bleed.  But you are still in this together and the only way to come out stronger is to endure the fire and the pain.

This is why even the worst marriages have still produced saints.  Even married to abusive, domineering men, Saint Rita and Saint Monica still answered the challenge to better themselves through trial.  These women went through kiln and fire, battlefield and blood and came out strong and pure and beautiful.  They had every reason to leave.  They may not have had the option of physically leaving or obtaining an annulment as they surely would have in our age, but even if they had no choice in their circumstances, they still had a choice in how they dealt with the circumstances.  They could have become bitter, abused women, but instead of mentally "leaving" their husbands, disconnecting from them, returning hurt for hurt, they chose to love them (even though they may not have "liked" them much.)  They rose to the challenge to better themselves.  They sought the love they needed in a relationship with God instead.  The end result is that their husbands converted (albeit on their deathbeds).

By this, I am not advocating staying in an abusive relationship, far from it.  I'm also not saying that there are never cases when separation and annulment are valid options.  I am just saying that even in the worst situations, whether it be in a difficult marriage, a difficult situation at work, or anywhere else, you can still choose to rise to the challenge and become a better person, even if it seems that the people around you are uninterested in following suit, and are unwilling, themselves, to make the effort to reconcile.  Sometimes we rise to the challenge and we go to battle and we lose the battle.  Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we lose.  When a marriage fails, we can let even that challenge us to become a better person.

So your marriage isn't perfect?  Welcome to the real world.  No one's marriage is perfect. We are all sinners.  The question is, am I going to get out my battle gear and rise to the challenge?  Am I going to pull out my sword and pour myself into this thing despite the blood and sweat and tears? Am I going to let my marriage make me a better person?
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Eden

I have been reading Heaven's Song (Sexual Love as it was Meant to Be) from Christopher West.

In chapter three, he quotes from the Song of Songs:
"A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden closed, a fountain sealed" (4:12). 
Then, a little further on, he says :
"As we seek to enter the truth expressed by this language, it would be wise to "take off our shoes," for this is holy ground. Indeed, if we follow John Paul into the depth of this mystery we will find ourselves "behind the veil," having mystically entered the innermost sanctuary of God's dwelling place - the "holy of holies."
I haven't read the rest yet, and I don't know if the book is going to even take the same line of thought, but the truly amazing thing (to me) is that I wrote a poem a few years ago, essentially using the exact same imagery and metaphor.

It basically asks "If I let you in (to that garden) would you find the flowers rare? Would you think me amazing? Or would you get restless, and want to leave?"

We all have our inner sanctuary, our "holy of holies" and not everyone gets to go in there. That garden is reserved for those whom we trust, and more importantly, for those whom we deem worthy of it, those whom we know that, once inside, will truly appreciate what they see there, and give it the proper reverence.

Now I'm thinking the Garden of Eden isn't so much a physical place that disappeared from the earth after Adam and Eve were banished, as a spiritual place that's been here all along, that we just banished ourselves from, through sin.  In this garden, we truly can walk naked, in fact, to walk naked is a requirement, because here, there is only honesty and beauty and truth and the things that cloud your vision of that are gone.  Here, we are free to see each other as we truly are, and to love, not despite the imperfections, but through cherishing and finding the beauty in those same imperfections that make each person distinct.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Faith like this

Let nothing trouble you 
Let nothing frighten you 
Everything passes 
God never changes 
Patience obtains all 
Whoever has God wants for nothing 
God alone is enough.

St Teresa of Avila

I wish I had faith like that.  Maybe if I spent my whole life in prayer, God would be enough.

I know everything passes, I've been through enough things to know that eventually, they pass.

I'm not sure about patience.  I think that, at some point, you have to stir up trouble to make things happen, but I'm guessing that's not what she means by patience in this case.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Acknowledging sin

I was listening to Father Barron's Catholicism Series last night, and he mentioned something that stuck with me.  He said something about the difference between Christians (and people from certain other religions) and the secular world, is often the difference between knowing we are sinners and not knowing it.

Someone who knows he is a sinner and knows he needs to ask forgiveness no matter how hard it is, will be quite different and react quite differently from someone who would rather ignore the fact that they are a sinner.

As a parent, it is easy for me to get mad at my kids and blame them when things don't go as planned, even if it isn't entirely their fault.  It's not easy to let go of pride and say I'm sorry.  I think it's even harder when you don't even believe in sin or God, or that we are all sinners who need forgiveness.

I have seen two dear friends go through their spouse cheating on them in recent years, and I have a theory:  faced with such guilt over something like this, a person really only has two options.  Either a) you acknowledge your sinfulness, you ask forgiveness and you try your hardest to make things as right as they can possibly be again, or b) you blame the other person for what you did, for this and that reason, whatever, it's the other person's fault that you did what you did, you were pushed to do it.

Case number one : through heartbreak and deception, Friend #1 prayed and prayed and prayed and had friends and family praying daily.  Through prayer and by the grace of God, Spouse #1 decided to eventually go for option a).  Spouse #1 asked forgiveness, went to confession, got rid of the demons clouding his soul and MADE it right again.  Now this couple is even stronger than it was before.  That isn't to say that their struggles are over, but they made it over this huge hurdle, and never mind how bad the sin was, they are BOTH my heroes today.

Case number two : Spouse leaves Friend #2, and moves in with partner instead.  It wasn't so apparent at the start I think, but with time, ex-Spouse #2 has been making Friend #2's life harder and harder.  Friend tries to support ex-Spouse in parenting, Ex-Spouse doesn't return the favour.  Ex-Spouse often puts the blame on Friend for things that aren't really his fault.  Stuff like that.  This person has become so bitter towards my friend that it would seem that it is now rubbing off on their child.  For some inexplicable reason, seemingly not due to any specific event, the child suddenly no longer wishes to see my friend, and wants nothing to do with him anymore.

This kind of situation breaks my heart.  It is so sad to see others suffering simply because people WILL not accept that they are guilty about something and deal with it.

I have a second theory:  it is always easier to blame the other person for something you did, something you didn't do, something you are not doing, or something you did wrong than it is to acknowledge it and make it right.  For someone who does not believe in sin, or inherent sinfulness, let alone their own tendency to sin, blaming others instead easily becomes the default option for guilt or pride.  Whatever it is that went wrong, whatever it is you are wrong about, whatever it is you did wrong, it's either all in the other person's head or it is their own fault.

Getting through to someone like that is like banging your head against a brick wall.  It matters not, how much evidence you may have to the contrary, they will always be right and you will always be wrong, and if you start to make them uncomfortable with too much evidence they will get mad at you and tell you to stop annoying, nagging, or harassing them.  Truth is an inconvenient thing and they would rather shut Truth up than have to listen to it.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Dark Chapel

I entered the dark, empty chapel this evening and instantly I felt HIS presence.  That presence that makes you want to go down on one knee and stay there.

I found my way to a bench and knelt there and prayed.  I could have stayed there for hours, in the calm and silence, with God.

Something has snapped inside of me.  I think a ball has been set into motion.  I see seemingly totally unrelated events suddenly coming together.  I'm not sure what direction the ball is rolling in, but of this I am certain, something is going to change.

For the first time, I have seriously considered the unthinkable, and what I thought unthinkable suddenly seems not only possible but perhaps part of God's plan.  That remains to be seen.  I do know this, in order to keep the ball rolling, there are two tasks I must accomplish first.  One of them is to send my book to publishers.  The other is to find a spiritual director.

Oh God, it was so good to be in Your Presence alone, in the dark.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Prayer - What it is Not

Prayer is not an "I ask, you give" thing.

God is not Santa Claus.  If you pray once a year, and only if you need something, don't expect to get it.  You probably won't.  Unless of course, God sees that you would really get some good from it.  You may eventually get it, you may not. God may have something better in store.  He may also be waiting for you to grow up.

People who pray all the time, who trust God to give what is needed and open other doors if one is closed, and not just when they need something, often receive answers to their prayers.  This does not mean that nothing bad ever happens to them, it means God works around the bad.

Prayer is not a monologue.

It is a dialogue.  Prayer, at first, feels like a monologue.  That's because you have to learn the language of the soul.  The soul communicates without sound or sight.  You won't hear the answers to your prayers with your ears.  You will feel them.  You will know without knowing why, that something is just right.  You will recognize truth when you see it.  Sometimes a random thought will pop into your head, as you pray, and you realize this is it, the answer to your question.  God speaks in many ways, through scripture, through other people and through your own thoughts.

Prayer is not an intense, "warm, fuzzy feelings" thing

It can be.  But more often than not, it isn't.  Great mystics have known the intense feeling of being loved by God, only to suddenly go through a spiritual desert void of feeling, in which they wonder where He is.  Prayer can be intense, but sometimes it can feel monotonous and empty.  God still hears you, even when you wonder if He doesn't.

Prayer does not necessarily change your circumstances

Prayer changes you.  YOU become a better, stronger person, more able to take on life.  YOU become more patient.  YOU become more kind (and what goes around, comes around).  YOU make your life better.

Prayer has made me a better person.  Santa god may not have given you what you wanted for Christmas last year, but you can be grateful that the real God made me a better person and you don't have to deal with the witch I might have been.  And THAT my friends is an even better gift than the thing you asked for last year, or the thing you asked for 20-30 years ago.


Womanhood

"To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of all its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice and goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women." Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

This is where I failed, some odd twenty years ago.

To be fair, that's the woman I wanted to be.  I was too trusting, naive and lacking in self-confidence and assurance to follow through.

Thankfully, it's never too late to turn one's life around, even it is too late for missed opportunities.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hallowe'en

I love Hallowe'en.  I dress up every year and take the hobbits trick-or-treating.  I think Hallowe'en is just as much for adults as it is for kids (minus the candy).

But WHAT is up with Hallowe'en costumes for women?  It doesn't matter what you wish to dress up as on Hallowe'en there is a skimpy woman's costume for that at the store.  For some strange reason, little girls can still be princesses and yes, even vampires, and the costumes are not skimpy.  But get into adult sizes, and suddenly the costume makers have either run out of material or got the measurements wrong for the women's costumes.  Just the women's costumes, for some reason the men's costumes are fine.

Who designs these things anyway?  Most likely men.  But they wouldn't, if women weren't BUYING them.

Well women, we don't have to buy them.  Hallowe'en is supposed to be about having fun, not about who can be the most trashy.

My daughter wanted to be a warrior princess.  It's a good thing I know how to sew because if I had to rely on store-bought costumes, she may have ended up looking like this:




Instead, she ended up looking like this:


Much more awesome, I think.

Yesterday, I went out with the kids and I wasn't the only parent dressed up.  There were a lot of moms and dads dressed up in awesome costumes that looked nothing like the skimpy things I see in stores, so it would seem that there are women out there NOT buying the things.

Girls, you know the guy who thinks you look hot?  The guy who says you look so beautiful, he wants to make love to you, he loves your long legs/curves/neck/insert body part, he just can't get enough of you?

Forget him.

Go for the guy who, when you say something and mean it, thinks "Wow."  Go for the guy who can't get enough of your mind, who loves your sense of humour, who thinks you are one of the most amazing people he has ever met, and can't get enough of talking with you.  Go for the guy who gets excited about the same things you do.

There comes a time, when it won't matter to you anymore how hot your man thinks you are.  You will wonder then, not "when was the last time he looked at me with lust in his eyes." but rather "When was the last time we had a significant conversation?  When was the last time we talked about something other than the mundane?"

Girls, if you want your man to treat you like a princess, you have to look the part.  Men tend to be visual.  Dress like a princess and you will get treated like a princess.  Dress like a slut and you will get treated like a slut - used and then thrown out.

For the record, this is a princess:

Princess Ameerah of Saudi Arabia
And these are, well, you know...

Boston Slut March