Called to Be is a series of blog posts on the vocation of marriage, written by Melanie Jean Juneau. Our guest blogger – who is is the administrator of the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers, Editor in Chief for Catholic Stand, and regularly posts on joy of nine9 – shares with us her story and reflections. Catch up with the first article, Advice for People Who Are Dating and stay tuned for the next ones!
Society does not prepare people for a Christian marriage. Couples have to actively seek out help and advice. I suggest a multitude of tools from reading insightful books, conferences, retreats, confession, prayer, spiritual direction and counselling which help couples mature and grow together as one in Christ.
As a newlywed, I wish someone had explained to me that in marriage, partners irritate each other by pulling out each other’s darkness, bringing their wounds to the surface. Once I understood this spiritual dynamic, I quit blaming Michael and pointing out his faults and instead centered on my own need for repentance and growth. Too bad that I spent years as a pitiful, innocent victim, crying my eyes out over my plight married to an insensitive man when all along my own sins blocked Christ’s love from flowing to both of us in our marriage.
One night, I was washing dishes at 11 pm because I had spent the whole evening rocking a colicky baby, bathing, reading to my other five children and getting them to sleep. Tears streamed down my face because my husband had not done the dishes. I felt a knife like pain in my heart. When I complained to my spiritual director later that week, he asked me to picture the handle of the knife and to see whose name was on the handle. I strained to see the name, Michael, on the handle but I was shocked to see my own name in big, black letters. I was the one who was stabbing myself; I was the person who was setting myself up as a scapegoat and twisting reality so I was the saintly wife suffering for the ‘sins’ of her husband.
Once I focused on my own need for growth rather than on Michael’s issues, the Spirit of God could finally deal with my own sinfulness and need for healing. If I had thrown up my hands and divorced Michael, chances are the second fellow would have turned out exactly the same. My sinfulness triggered my husband’s sinfulness. Period. I had to stop blaming and pointing out Michael’s failings if I wanted a great marriage. Instead of pointing out the grain of sand in his eye, I had to allow God to show me the log of faults in my own eye.
We can choose how we respond to challenging, difficult situations. We can blame others or we can ask God to heal and change us, removing self-pity and bitterness, replacing it with a spirit of forgiveness, mercy, and joy. As the Canadian Jesuit, Henri Nouwen teaches,
Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently than the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.
God designed us so only his love will fill the desperate desires of our hearts. Once I understood this truth, I could choose to live in freedom and joy by allowing real love, respectful love, to grow between Michael and myself without making crushing demands on the poor guy to fulfil the role of God in my life.
Beloved – An essential spiritual companion for married and engaged couples