I was sitting at Mass this past Sunday with heaviness on my heart; I’ve carried this feeling on and off since December due to some unfortunate events, professionally. Without getting into details, I can share that the repercussions of these events will drag out for another three years, which you can imagine frustrates me because I’d like to move forward with freedom rather than impending tensions. Throughout these past 7 months I had met some beautiful characters: rational, merciful, understanding, and empathetic. Others have lacked these same qualities to a dehumanizing degree in terms of how I’ve been treated. The circumstances can be debated, and I am my no means perfect, but the execution of the fallout was very revealing in terms of the state of our province and social systems; we knew it wasn’t good, but at times I have felt like I am in the twilight zone. In typical fashion I have been hard on myself, thinking too much: what I could have said, should have said, etc. Even more unnerving is how bitter and spiteful I have felt in weak moments, using sarcasm and harshness of tongue and as a self-defense mechanism. I know these traits aren’t from the Holy Spirit, so I’ve been working toward an increase in virtue.
Last week Ante and I were at a youth ministry conference in Arizona and one of the speakers talked about the Seven Sorrows of Mary. At Jesus’ Dedication as an infant, Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her soul. Mary spends the rest of Jesus’ life waiting for the deepest, most unfathomable pain of her life. She does so with faith, hope, and love; she has patience and grace, surely not dwelling. If Mary could live this way, I thought, I can wait with grace over these next few years. After Confession that day I found a deeper sense of peace (most of us don’t need a therapist, just a good Confession!), but it was at Mass on Sunday that God blessed me with even more wisdom and love.
I attended Mass in another city which sparked thoughts of my situation. It was before receiving the Eucharist that God worked in me, and I thought, some of these difficult characters could have been sitting in the pews around me. Heck, they could have ended up next to me. Others could have been Eucharistic Ministers. Would I withhold the sign of peace? No. Would I refuse to walk in their line toward the altar? No. My heart, I knew, would melt. I would extend a sincere hand. I would receive with humility, focusing on the unitive love of Jesus. Suddenly I felt love for these people; deep love. I also realized that I just want to be loved. With one kind, hypothetical word from them, or one gesture of understanding, I would crumble before them. Their inability to treat me with love is the result of human sin and hardness, and rather than blaming them or judging them, I need to pray for them. Yet regardless of what was, what is, or what will be, as Christians we are united in Jesus, and He loves us equally. We gather before the altar with our inadequacies, and he simply loves, calling us to Communion.
I am thankful to God for the heart that He gave me: a heart for Him. I will never stay in pain for too long, because He is with me. When I do hurt, He asks me to hand it to Him. When I am confused, wrapped up in my own humanity, He comes to me revealing His plan, in time. I think of my life before my love of God, and I don’t envy that girl.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to be there, open for God to speak. Be there at Mass. Be there in prayer, each day, with Scripture. Be there in humility and obedience to the Church. Be there, and you’ll discover that He makes everything new.
On that same note, today marks our Two Year Anniversary!
Ante and I do not recognize the people we were in the first 6 months of our marriage. Those people were hurting and did not know it. They were selfish and stuck in their ways, unable to create a life together because they were hanging on to the life they had envisioned. They were prideful, until it came to a point where they wondered if they’d ever be happy together. In those moments of weakness, God gave us strength. Divorce was not an option: we promised God we would stay together. Period. We also knew rationally that through obedience, Jesus wants happiness for us. We knew that as Christians we would always have crosses to carry, but felt that the tensions between us were warfare--most definitely not God’s Will (though He would use it to strengthen us, if we let Him). In those moments, realizing that we could not control the other, we started working on ourselves. Lord, show me my pain, my blind spots, my selfishness, my weakness, et cetera. I saw a counselor for a short time. Ante reflected continually, turning to other strong men of faith for counsel. We read important literature on love languages and communication. We prayed for humility. We also made sure to walk forward without shame, because there were definitely some moments we were ashamed of. Another important point, looking back, was that we did not complain about one another to friends or family. Such habits only cause pain and distorted perceptions. Marriage does not require “girl power” or people who only feed your turmoil, but rather, it demands mutual respect at every turn, humility, patience, prayer, etc. Day by day we began to heal. Painful memories began to fade. Our love began to grow stronger.
Today I cannot believe how much I love my husband. Not only do we choose each day to continue working on ourselves and our marriage, but I genuinely feel so much for that man. He is my best friend, my lover, my protector, and my provider. He is my heart, because he is a man after God’s heart. We have a long way to go in holiness and in learning about one another, but I could not imagine my life with another person; Ante is the only man with the fortitude to love me, because God made him for me, and I needed to trust that even in times of questioning and despair. In those difficult moments God worked because our marriage has been blessed from day one, just as yours has (or will be when you say those sacred vows and seal the deal…).
Happy Anniversary, handsome. I will never leave you. I will always love you. And I will pray every day that you enter into Heaven at the end of this beautiful life together. And please pray (addressing the crowd) that I have the strength to raise many, many children (Wedding Speech, 17/06/17).
I love you, Ante.