NOTE: This was originally published 9/13/2011.
Now that I'll be teaching CCD, I'm going to need a test-run for all my lesson plans. Oh, blogosphere, prepare to don fur and become my guinea pigs!
My first lesson is to be on the Trinity. What is the Trinity? Does the Trinity have roots in Scripture? How come Jews only believe in ONE God, but we believe in three that add up to ONE God? I mean, 1+1+1=3, right? So what's that all about, anyway?
Ah... I love it! Delving right into the nitty-gritty!
Anyway, in starting with the Trinity, I realized I'd actually have to back it up and start with the importance of our Jewish roots. Since one of the main arguments against the dogma of the Trinity is that there is only "One" God and there can't be "3 Persons" we need to trace the language back all the way to the Old Testament, which was passed along (and subsequently written) in Hebrew.
So when we dig our ways back to the OT, we realize that there are two words to describe "oneness" in the Hebrew Bible. The first is "echad" which echoes a pluralistic singular. For example, when Moses comes down to explain the Commandments to the Jews, the people pledge loyalty to God's Word "in one (echad) voice." Obviously one person doesn't stand up and say "Yeah, Moses! We'll totally abide by the Commandments!" All the Jews, collectively, gave their consent to the Word of God. Thus, though singular, the word "echad" alludes to a plurality that creates the singular.
This word, "echad," is different from the Hebrew word "yachid." Yachid also references "oneness" but pretty much translates to "only." It refers to a literal, numeric singularity. For example, "yachid" is used in the story of Abraham and Isaac. When God asks that Abraham take his one and only (yachid) son by Sarah, Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice, God was specific. Isaac was the only son Abraham had by Sarah, so there can be no confusion regarding the value of "one."
See the difference? Nowhere in the Bible does the Hebrew betray this plurality of God. Each time God is spoken of, the word "echad" is used. Why? Jews accepted God the Father as well as His Spirit who descended to create the world. Finally, they awaited the Son of God who would come to redeem them as the promised Messiah. So though they didn't believe in a doctrine of a triune God, all the pieces of the puzzle were present. As Catholics, we believe that Jesus, the Son of God, came and put those pieces together for us.
And put those pieces together He did!
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs us with the words "In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." Naming each part of the Trinity under the singular of "name" and imparting the equality of their Divine Natures establishes this dogma for us. Epistles from Sts. Peter and Paul expound and support this.
So the Trinity does exist in the Old (and New!) Testament(s), but in order to understand that, we must first understand our Jewish heritage.
This also explains why our new translations (starting the first Sunday of Advent) refers to God with plural verbs. :)
Regarding tangible expressions of the Trinity, I'll be falling back on St. Patrick's "3 leaf clover" analogy as well as a personal "perfume" analogy gifted to me this summer. I was contemplating melting 3 different colored candles together into one giant candle, then asking the children to attempt separating the wax, but I realized that'd end up taking way too long and would probably get really messy really fast. Ah well...
I'll also be keeping John Godfrey Saxe's poem "The Blind Men and the Elephant" up my sleeve for when we get into the ability of 2 men to see the same God and come away with 2 VERY different visions of Him. I might even have them draw / color in their own elephants...
Recently came across this again as well. Originally posted 9/15/2011. I don't believe he and I ever spoke again. Maybe one day. :)
I had a wonderful conversation with a discerning person today. He had a lot of great questions about not only Catholicism, but theology in general. Steeped in psychology and sociology, theology was something that he didn't quite "get."
More specifically, he didn't get why someone would freely follow something like the Golden Rule.
Out of nowhere, I asked him "If you had a cookie, and your best friend really, really wanted some, you'd share it, right?"
He affirmed and so I said, "Why? Because it makes you happy to provide for your friend which in turn makes your friend happy, doesn't it?"
Now, when I say this cookie analogy came out of nowhere, it seriously came out of nowhere. I don't typically liken things to cookies, but for some reason, the Golden Rule kept summarizing into this tasty treat. So, not sure where it would lead, I left it up to God and said, "Alright, you wanna talk cookies today? Make it happen." Of course, He did. :)
My newly found friend attempted to pick apart my analogy morsel by morsel. "Why not just give my buddy the entire cookie?" "What if I have two cookies?" "Why aren't there infinite cookies to go around?"
This all led back to Divine Providence. In explaining this whole cookie business to him, I learned something myself. This is why I love apologetics. Once you immerse yourself in understanding the faith better so you're able to explain it better to others, you inevitably uncover truths that've been staring you in the face, ever-so-politely, for the last 20 some odd years of your life.
Anyway, back to Divine Providence.
I explained that the Golden Rule was truly the sum of all Catholic ideology. Lots of people have heard the addage "Love thy neighbor as thyself" but honestly, we are called to better than that. We, as Christians, are called to love one another as Christ, Himself, loved. Instead, the world is full of selfish people who care only about themselves, or worse, the power they struggle to obtain or keep hold of. Every single issue the world suffers from is rooted in this warped "love."
So he pressed me with more questions, and I doled out more chocolate chip goodness.
He stated, "Why can't I just get another cookie to give to him?"
I explained that God doesn't give endless cookies like this purposefully. It is yet another blessing of God. We GAIN something through the experience of sharing. It is a fluid act of love. Sharing the cookie makes BOTH parties feel happiness, and more importantly, validation. That happiness and validation is love. Yet it is a fluid love... an actionable love that springs into being through a simple act of sharing. Emotions come to life through that cookie, which was given by God specifically for that purpose. If God had given both him and his friend cookies, he'd've never had the chance to experience the joy of sharing, and he and his friend, though satiated with their own cookies, wouldn't have gotten the added bonus of happiness and validation through that interpersonal exchange of love.
This is how God chooses to bless the world through Divine Providence. When my new friend lamented that there weren't "enough cookies to go around" I corrected him. In fact, that are MORE than enough cookies in the world, but because of selfishness, greed, and a lack of loving each other as Christ loves, folks miss the opportunity to take part in this fluid love that God offers to us.
So he asked, then, why he had to sacrifice half his cookie for his friend if it was, in fact, a blessing.
So I posed this question: "If I were to give you $100 on the fly, you'd be pretty happy, right? Let's say you give $50 to your buddy, because he really needs to buy some groceries for his family. You give him $50, which leaves you with $50. Would you still say that you lost in that situation?"
Of course, he replied, "Well no, because I'd still have $50."
And I said, "Exactly... we aren't given the $100 or the plate of 10 cookies for ourselves. We are given certain things specifically so we can take part in God's love through sharing with our neighbors."
I think a lightbulb went off for him at this moment, so he derails for a bit and asks, "Well, what about those who don't have material goods?"
And I smiled. I explained that material goods aren't the only things we've been blessed with to share. Time, talent, prayers, and even emotional support are all gifts we can give to one another.
At this point in the conversation, I had to take my leave, but I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with him. I left him my contact info and I hope we cross paths again. I certainly learned a thing or two from our conversation, and I truly pray he did as well.
As for us, may we all accept our cookies graciously, and in turn graciously share them with all our neighbors as a proper Thank You to the One who Baked them. :)
Because I've only recently begun posting things to my blog, it's easy to forget that I've actually been mulling over all of this for almost a year. John brought up divorce when I was halfway through pregnancy- that was back in the beginning of March; it's January now. That's given me 10 months to process things.
So while it might appear as though I've bounced back remarkably fast, I've had the same adjustment curve as most other people, I'm sure.
However, there is one thing that's missing from my divorce story that seems to be a part of so many others; my story does not contain fear.
What do I mean by that?
I am part of a group of women who are either going through or have gone through the divorce and annulment process. It's a place to ask questions, vent, and share circumstances with others who know what you're going through. One of the common themes within this group is an almost suffocating sense of fear. These women are worried about how they will provide for their children. They fear being alone for the rest of their lives. They are scared of being social outcasts or learning how to manage life as a single parent or any other number of things.
Me? I don't understand this fear, and I thank God for the gift of Faith that has made me immune to it.
One of these women asked how it was possible for me to remain so certain that things would be okay. Once I explained myself, it seemed to resonate with the group as a whole, so I'm going to share it here in the hopes that it gives someone else comfort, too.
There's an old lullaby I've always sung to my boys called "Hush Little Baby." I'm sure you all know it. I've sorta made up my own lyrics since I couldn't recall the original:
Hush little baby, don't say a word. Mommy's gonna buy you a mockingbird.
What's this got to do with divorce?
Nothing, really. But what does it have to do with mockingbirds, diamond rings or looking glasses? The entire lullaby is one giant "Don't worry, I'll take care of you" mantra. In cartoon form, it looks like this:
God is my Father. I OWN Him as my Father. I make no apologies for that. In return, in the midst of any hardship I face, I imagine Him singing the above song to me, only He takes the place of "Mommy."
I truly believe that John was my mockingbird. I know in a previous entry I said marrying him was a mistake, but that's not quite true. It might FEEL like a mistake, but I believe that God meant for us to marry (much like He means for us all to get back to Heaven). He doesn't set us up to fail, but we're sometimes so good at it that despite all His Grace, we choose to fail anyway. Unfortunately, John chose to turn away from God's plans (not intentionally, I don't think, because he doesn't believe there is a God to plan anything). Since things did not work out the way God had hoped, He'll simply up the ante with something even better. At least that's how I view things.
The same thing happened with my job. My last one was a diamond ring, sure, but it no longer fit along the path my life was taking. Instead of freaking out about it, I simply said, "Alright, God, figure it out." As usual, He did, and this job is even better than the last (and the last one was pretty hard to top).
In truth, the same thing happens with EVERYTHING in my life, so why in the world am I going to fret over the tiny, torn-up teddy bear in my hands when I know God's got something better in store for me? With every fiber of my being, I trust in God's goodness. I know this divorce is not something He wanted for me. I also know I did nothing to cause it. As such, I trust that God will sort things out so that the end result is even better than what I thought I'd lost.
Does that make sense?
I'm only able to see my life here and now, but God? God's got the big picture available to Him.
Right now, my life looks like this:
To God, it looks like this:
Us humans can only see a little at a time, and what's worse, we tend to focus on the negative stuff! God, on the other hand, has a much, MUCH bigger picture in mind that has way more joy than sadness.
So no. I have no fear when it comes to divorce or really any other aspect of my life. Why would I? I don't claim to be steering the ship, 'cause I know who is, and He's a significantly better Captain than I.
So to those who worry about things, just remember that God's no red shirt. He really WILL take care of things, and He'll take care of them in ways that will astound you. Own Him as your Father, and He will own you as His child.
After all, what proper father lets his daughter get the short end of the stick? ;)
Any time I've asked you fine folks for advice, you've always given me new ways to approach a difficult situation, and I appreciate that you're willing to share your wisdom and experience with me. Thus, here I am again, and of all the things I've asked advice on before, I feel that this is the trickiest and most sensitive thing to navigate.
You guys know I love my in-laws. I've written about them plenty of times throughout the years because they play such an integral part of my life. However, courtesy of the divorce, those relationships inevitably have / will have shifted, and I'm not entirely sure how to handle the dissemination of important information.
There are two things I'm up against right now. The first is the apparent secrecy of the divorce, itself.
There are still family members that are unaware of the situation. This is due to a combination of factors - chief among them John's refusal to be bothered having the conversation. However, there are others who are refusing to say anything (and asking John not to say anything) because they're holding out hope that we'll reconcile.
This has created a plethora of awkward situations for me. A PLETHORA.
Since I'm not sure who knows and who doesn't know, I'm constantly walking on eggshells with people. Example: an uncle who actually works with John (WORKS with him!) still has no idea. Given the fact that he sees this uncle on a daily basis, you'd think that somewhere in the span of 10 months he'd've said something. So I messaged this uncle asking for his help with a Christmas project for my FIL (this uncle's brother). Instead of responding to me, he responded to John because he innocently thought John would know about my gift idea. That's when I realized this uncle didn't know about the divorce and I couldn't actually press forward with my gift idea because that'd inevitably reveal it to him.
This situation has arisen not just with the uncle, but with aunts, cousins, and even friends. It's incredibly frustrating because there is absolutely NO WAY for me to know who knows and who doesn't know because John refuses to tell me who he's said anything to.
With the friends, I was hit with multiple situations that were both embarrassing and hurtful, so I took it upon myself to simply e-mail them en-masse. I can't do that with John's family because I fear my in-laws would be angry with me for doing that. They'd likely view it as me being catty or childish or bitter when in reality, I'm just trying to extricate myself from the awkward situation where I say something that's apparently not supposed to be said.
Frankly, John should have had these conversations with them already, but instead of being an adult, he chose to only tell a few cousins hoping that they would take the information back to their parents (his aunts / uncles) so he wouldn't have to have the conversation with - ya know - actual adults. In fact, he couldn't even be bothered to tell his own sisters. After me basically cornering him into telling his parents (who likely still wouldn't know had I not insisted on it), he allowed THEM to have the conversation for him. When I suggested it was time he tell his aunts and uncles (whom we're very close with and who are all awesome people), he responded with, "F*ck them. Who cares? They don't need to know anything."
Yes, because the people we interact with on a routine basis won't be even the least bit curious as to why we're no longer together or why they're not seeing the kids as much as they used to. Let's just leave them in the dark to sort it out for themselves instead of simply being honest.
And yes, those were his ACTUAL words. About his own family. I'd never in a million years say that about his aunts and uncles. They've always been so kind, so generous and so wonderful to us. Hearing him just flick them away as if they were nothing actually made me angry for them. But what can I do about that? Nothing. So I made a call to his mother who agreed to tell them, herself, because at least SHE could treat them with respect. Ugh - I'm still annoyed about that.
Anyway, fast forward a few months. I had invited a cousin to a wine-tasting event. Since several of my personal friends would be there as well, I wanted to make sure that at least THIS cousin was aware of the situation so she wouldn't be shocked if she heard one of my friends mention something in passing. John said he'd handle it.
I still wanted to give HIM the chance to have the conversation, because if I were to be the one to initiate it, I'd inevitably been seen as if I was trying to start trouble. Again, some folks are trying to contain the information because they're (rightly) ashamed of it and don't want the rest of the family catching on in the hopes we change our minds. They want to control how and when this information comes out, but have absolutely no regard for the fact that I'm caught in the middle walking a tightrope I CAN'T SEE. I'm doing my best not to step on toes, but it's impossible given the fact that I don't even know whose toes are near me!
Anyway, I e-mailed this same cousin about a new wine-tasting event since she wasn't able to make the original one. I'd given John more than enough time to speak with her, and I'd reminded him twice more to talk to her since I'd be trying to plan an outing. He promised he'd talk to her.
I figured he hadn't said word one to her, so I very gingerly mentioned that we were in the process so she wasn't surprised to see that John's stuff wasn't at the house. I apologized copiously in case she was finding out through an e-mail instead of in-person or through a phone call, and I left it at that.
When I didn't get a response even a day later, I knew something was amiss. *Sigh*
So my question to all of you (ESPECIALLY if you've been through this process):
HOW DO I HANDLE THIS? If it were up to me, I'd just matter-of-factly say "John and I are in the process of a divorce. I still love you so much and want you to be part of my life and the lives of my boys. I still plan to attend family functions with them so long as I'm allowed. If you have questions, feel free to ask, but beyond that, please don't feel as though you need to act or feel awkwardly around me as my relationship with him has no bearing on my love and respect for you."
When I suggested to John that he (or I) just do this, I was met with such nasty resistance you'd think I was suggesting he take a bullet. He responds with "Who cares? I don't feel the need to tell the world" or "I don't care if you say something."
Problem is, he does and so do his parents. I don't frankly care about upsetting John, but I don't like the idea of disappointing his parents. How do I navigate this? I feel 120% damned if I do, damned if I don't.
Which brings me to problem #2 which is basically just symptomatic of problem #1.
How do I disseminate information regarding my sons to these folks? The answer SHOULD be "John's responsible for telling his family," but as the below example so painfully makes clear, that's not going to happen.
A few weeks ago, Vincent went through two separate psychological evaluations for his school's IEP. John took him to one of these sessions (I was unable to attend). This meeting was on a Monday. Since I was unable to attend, I followed up with the psychologist, myself, through a phone conference so I'd know precisely what the diagnosis was. I spoke with the psychologist on Friday. Between Monday and Friday, John offered absolutely NO information beyond "that doctor was a jerkoff."
When I spoke to the psychologist on Friday, he told me that he was able to definitively diagnose Vincent with Autism. They don't call it Asperger's anymore, but that's basically where he falls. After getting all of my questions answered, I called John because I now understood why he hadn't said much about the evaluation. I wanted to make sure he was okay processing the diagnosis and I wanted to answer any questions HE had because it was obvious he frustrated and scared by the word "Autism."
After answering his questions, I made a mental note to myself to contact his mom to answer questions I was sure she'd have as well. Since I'd be working throughout the weekend, I wanted to catch her BEFORE she flew back down to Florida. So that afternoon, I called her to touch base. She'd been with John all afternoon, so I assumed he'd mentioned it to her. I said, "Ma, since I'll be working all weekend, I wanted to reach out and answer any questions you had about Vince's diagnosis."
I could tell from the confused silence on the other end that she had no idea what I was talking about. I felt like a huge jerk in that moment, because I realized John hadn't said anything to her. At that point, however, there was no turning back, so I said, "Ma, John took Vince to the psychologist on Monday and was given an Autism diagnosis."
That didn't go over too well, and I felt bad because it likely would've gone over better had she KNOWN why I was calling. Ugh. I still feel bad about that.
Anyway, fast forward to the following week. I think it was Tuesday or Wednesday. I found a great article about Autism that I posted to Facebook with something along the lines of "For anyone not aware, Vince got this diagnosis last week and this article does a good job explaining it."
Mind you, my entire family and close friends knew about the diagnosis within just a few hours of me finding out. So posting to Facebook didn't seem like that big of a deal. Plus, John had known about it from Monday, his mom knew on Friday, and he works with his sisters / father. Given Vince's diagnosis has nothing to do with our divorce, I didn't think it was something necessary to hide. And it's not like it's a cancer diagnosis that you'd want to gingerly tell people about.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I got several messages from in-laws who were upset with me for posting the Autism article. I likely looked something like this upon reading those messages:
And I responded in kind.
How, exactly, was I supposed to assume an Asperger's diagnosis of MY OWN CHILD was a secret I needed to keep? Why, exactly, did I need to check with ANYONE ELSE about what I post about MY SON? And how on earth is it MY FAULT that JOHN did not have this conversation with anyone? Am I supposed to go around to each one of his family members henceforth to ask permission to share things regarding my children? Am I supposed to just assume forever that John's never going to have important conversations with anyone and that they're all just OK with that?
And while I want to just throw up my hands and say "Not my monkeys, not my circus," the fact remains that they are my monkeys. I love those monkeys, and I frankly love the circus, so I do feel as though I owe it to them to find some sort of workable solution that both ensures they get important information about the boys in a respectful way, but removes the responsibility from me since it's really not my place to pass it along to them anymore, especially since I'm not even sure who knows about the divorce and who doesn't.
Again, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. How do I extricate myself gracefully and with as few bad feelings as possible? Because again - when you get right down to it, I love these people and do not want to foster bad feelings. I just don't know how to get around it when I'm constantly in danger of saying the wrong thing / doing the wrong thing because I don't know the whole situation, but I do know enough to make things explode.
So seriously - thoughts?
At this juncture, the best I've got is to have a heart-to-heart with his mom because she seems to be the only one willing to talk about this situation with other people. But I don't feel like it's fair for her to constantly be the one to have her son's conversations for him. However, it's not like I can say, "Ma, for the love of God, stop enabling your son to be a coward. He should be having these conversations himself." Besides, she's got a lot on her plate already and I'm sure she, too, has a lot of "damned if I do, damned if I don't" feelings about this entire mess, too.
The whole thing sucks, and it seems like, as usual, my MIL and I are the ones stuck cleaning up after an inept man-child.
So yeah - anyone able to offer solutions?
I had an event on Saturday that had me scrambling up and down the center aisle of a church a dozen times. I was trying to wire a projector / laptop / screen /speaker combination for a presentation that was being made, and there was some serious fine-tuning that needed to happen.
As I was making these preparations, I noted how I was rushing up the aisle to get closer to Jesus in the tabernacle only to run back down the aisle and further from Him to retrieve another piece of equipment. This shuffle back and forth felt like an interactive metaphor for my relationship with Him as of late. I feel like I'm constantly flitting back and forth between being close to Him and casting myself away from Him. Finally, when everything was settled and ready for the presentation, I was able to take a moment and just sit with Him in the empty church. I didn't even bother talking to Him. I simply wanted to focus on the fact that God - the Creator of the universe, the Father, Savior and Animator of my soul - was present within the tabernacle that was just yards from my seat.
I promised I'd make more of an effort to waltz with Him rather than twerk at Him.
Isn't that an incredible thought, though? God is just waiting for us in the tabernacle - a prisoner out of love for His children. One could ponder in awe of that for eternity.
Guys, I'm not perfect. Far from it. A friend of mine recently posted this cartoon, and I swear it's actually my biography in Cliff's Notes form:
Much like everyone else, I'm a work in progress. I'm a horrific mess of jagged edges, chipped gilding and faded paint. I fully anticipated being a giant letdown when I wrote about my impending divorce. In fact, I lamented to a group of friends (CathSo shoutout) that I didn't even deserve to blog anymore because I felt like an utter sham. Katherine from Having Left the Altar (at least I'm pretty sure it was you, Katherine!) responded with something along the lines of "If only perfect people preached, the world would be silent."
A little while later, Fr. Herb from down in New Orleans wrote to me saying "Satan will try to tell you ugly lies to keep you from writing. Do not allow yourself to be persuaded."
Then, a letter from my best friend's SIL showed up in my inbox thanking me for my blog - even if she did originally think I was a "crazy religious lady." To know that this blog, in all it's dirty honesty, has helped someone on their spiritual journey... it emboldened me to push forward even though I knew the backlash would come.
So here we are. I've undressed my heart, it's wounds are visible and some of you have justifiably recoiled. One message, in particular, has been gnawing away at me. It read:
How can you proudly proclaim that you are [getting a] divorce and think that is justifiable as a Catholic? You always acknowledged that a marriage is forever and you've put up with so much already. Giving up now seems like a waste of time."
This person, mind you, is doubly hurt because she's been a follower for several years and has messaged me for further conversation. I guess my failing was a personal betrayal of sorts because she'd viewed me as a beacon of hope that a successful match could be made between a Catholic and an atheist.
Readers, I have always made it painfully clear that my marriage is NOT the stick to measure anything by. That point aside, I'd also like to state that I'm not suddenly a believer in divorce.
It's not like I arrived at this decision on a whim. John has brought up divorce dozens of times. Each time he's brought it up, I've fought against it because I believed that on some level, John loved me. I believed that even though he didn't necessarily mean all his vows, he did mean to love me as best he could for the rest of his life. That was enough for me, and because that was what I believed validated a marriage, I did everything in my power to salvage it.
I've been successful each time.
So what makes this time different? Why did I not fight? Why have I made the decision that seems to have disappointed so many?
Because this time, he said it while I was carrying his child. He said it with absolutely no regard for the drastic effects it had on both my health and Nathan's health.
That is not love. Any person capable of doing such a horrible, dangerous thing is not capable of real love.
Thus, I scheduled the appointment for the divorce attorney not because I believe in divorce, but because I recognized in that moment that my marriage never existed.
As I stated before, had I not done this... had I just kept my head down and waited until after the baby was born, John would've fallen back and given up on divorce altogether - he's done it countless times. However, it was time to break the cycle.
Am I saying that proudly? Heavens no. Of course I'm not proud of that. That's like saying I'm proud of stopping at a red light. I said it because it's the truth; I did it because it was the right thing to do. But am I proud of it? Oh please. Pride is a luxury one cannot afford where divorce and annulment are concerned.
I've just given up attempting to swim the ocean for someone who has never been willing to step over a puddle for me. I befriended all of his friends; he is not friends with even one of mine. I watched his TV shows, read his books, listened to his music; never once did he bother with suggestions I made. I participated in his movies, his poker tournaments, his food competitions, his sports; never once did he participate in any of my hobbies. I went out of my way to bond with his family and get to know them - even extended family; it's doubtful John could even name my 1st cousins, and he certainly never went out of his way to spend time with my side of the family.
No more, folks. I'm not giving up on my marriage; I'm acknowledging that my marriage never was. A civil divorce is simply the first step.
So please don't think I'm suddenly a divorce proponent. I've fought against divorcing John in the past because I believed that there was a valid Sacrament to fight for. If you want to look for pride - THERE IS THE PRIDE. I didn't want to admit I'd made a mistake in marrying him. Alas, I did, and while I have three children I'll be forever grateful for, the fact remains that he was not ready (nor fit) for marriage, and I was too arrogant to accept that.
So yes, I'm admitting the dirty truth of the matter. No, I don't do it with pride. I do it so others who are struggling find solidarity. I do it so folks who thought I was an example of how marriage could work between a Catholic and one abrasive to Catholicism will STOP seeing me as such. I do it so I can remain honest before you and the Lord so that someday, somewhere, for someone, good can be drawn from this.
So if you are disappointed, by all means, be disappointed with me. Just make sure you're disappointed for the right reasons.
I had my biggest parenting fail a few weeks ago. I am still reeling from how guilty and terrible I feel for it.
I legit lost my head with Vince. Big time.
I don't really spank / hit very often. Usually the threat alone is enough to correct behavior. I do, however, tend to yell. I get very loud with Vince, but usually it's simply an attempt to get him to focus on my voice because he has such a difficult time prioritizing sounds.
This time, however, it was because I was angry, tired, frustrated, upset and weak. Not only did I yell at him, I got in his face while doing it. He just sat in his chair, backing away from me, looking incredibly upset as he took the verbal backhand without a word. When I finished my verbal tirade, I sent him upstairs because I was frankly disgusted (likely with myself more than with him).
To be honest, I don't even remember what he'd done that finally made me blow a fuse. Not that it matters - he's six. It's not HIS fault I lost my temper; it's MY fault. So after giving myself a couple minutes to calm down, I went upstairs to apologize. I found him on his bed crying, and I 120% deserve to carry the heartbreak that caused me for the rest of my life. Immediately, I pulled him onto my lap and said, "Vincent, I'm so, so sorry. Mommy never should have yelled at you like that. I love you so much, and I hurt you, and I'm so sorry. I don't ever want to hurt your feelings like this. That was very, very wrong of me. I'm so sorry."
And do you know what he did? He wrapped his arms around me and sobbed harder. His tears and snot were wet against my neck, but I didn't care. I rocked him back and forth to soothe the heart I'd broken. I told him over and over again how sorry I was. I told him that I was wrong to yell like that. I told him that I wanted to help his heart feel better because I'd been so mean to hurt it.
He looked up at me and said, "It's okay, Mommy." But he went right back to sobbing. I asked him, "Why are you crying? Is it because your heart still hurts?" He shook his head no. So I asked him to tell me why. He said, "Mommy, you're gonna go to Hell. I don't want you to go to Hell. You have to go to Heaven with me."
It was as if I was hearing God, Himself, warn me of just how terrible my sin was. And I truly believe yelling at him in that manner was a mortal sin, especially because of how much it hurt Vince.
So I promised Vince that I would do better. I promised him that I'd do my very best never to yell like that ever again. In truth, I think I'll be able to keep that promise - even when he's 14 and slamming doors in my face. I don't ever want to be the cause of his little heart breaking ever again, and I certainly don't want to cause myself to miss out on him in Eternity.
It also made me realize that I have to keep working at forgiving his father, because if Vince would shed tears thinking about a Heaven without me, he'd shed them thinking about Heaven without him, too.
I am not worthy of this little boy. By the grace of God, may I one day be the mother he deserves. Until then, I pray the Blessed Mother will make up for all that I lack.
Because even plungers need forgiveness.
So you folks know I'm struggling - hard - with this whole forgiveness thing. It's been months, and I've only recently acknowledged that the idea of forgiving him is even negotiable. Outside of Our Lady, two things have been instrumental in pushing me towards forgiveness (something I have not yet given, I admit): one is Heaven, and the other is Hell.
Heaven's been reminding me of my own need for forgiveness. Christ not only forgave me, He died on the Cross to hit home the point. And He still - STILL - reaches out with forgiveness in spite of the litany of sins I've committed a litany of times. He offers me mercy so that I am free to offer it to others.
Hell, on the other hand... how does Hell help me forgive? Do I think I might go to hell if I don't forgive?
While I do believe that I'll find myself there if I don't forgive, that's actually not the driving motivation. The driving motivation is the fact that JOHN might find himself there one day. After all, he openly despises the Church. He broke every single one of his wedding vows. He treated me in a way that is beyond abhorrent, and he's done something that will leave an indelible hurt in our boys that will follow them all their lives. Given the importance of family and the sacredness of Matrimony and the duty parents have to properly form the children entrusted to them, these are very grave matters that will demand justice at Judgement.
And that is what motivates me to keep up the fight to forgive.
When I think of John standing before the Throne of God and having to answer for these things, I honestly shudder. John, himself, will see what he's done and may well want to cast himself into the flames (since the soul chooses Hell, not God). Would my forgiveness lend him a word of mercy - a word of hope - when he most needed it? If I was able to forgive him, could God, too?
Of course God can forgive all things, but only if the person has faith in His Mercy. Will my example be what he needs to instill that hope at Judgement? It certainly won't right now, because I haven't been a very good example.
For as much as his very presence makes me want to spit bile, I do not want to see him in Hell. The Holy Spirit has painted quite the picture for me of what that Judgement would look like, and in those moments - when it feels like Life or Death - I know I'd immediately stand between John and God and plead his case. In that instant, I'd be the hero, 100% without question.
But I can't be an instant hero; God wants more. In this situation, I need to be the scrappy workhorse who bites the bit and shoves forward, one tiny inch at a time. Forgiveness, in this circumstance, cannot be instant. It needs to be given, over and over, so that John really learns what it means to know mercy. He doesn't deserve it, but nor do I.
So while I can't go with him to Judgement, my forgiveness can. My mercy can. My example can. And those things, together, could give John the faith he needs to trust that God's mercy is enough to wash away even his sins.
Logically, I'm there; I've just got to find a way to do so in practice, not just in theory. Faith might make forgiveness possible, but it certainly doesn't make it easy.
Oh Catholicism. This is why you're such a hated religion. In theory, You're awesome. In practice, You're like swimming through a wood chipper.
You are the Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things... even unto the Cross.
As I was putting away groceries tonight, John (who no longer lives here) mentioned that he noticed I'd gotten a particular sauce to use when making chicken. He started telling me that he'd gotten the same ones and started to suggest something else because he'd gotten good results.
I put my hand up and said, "Just stop. You couldn't be bothered to have these conversations before; I'm not going to start now."
He was taken aback, but he shut his mouth and left.
This isn't the first time he's tried this nonsense. Just weeks after giving his treatise on why he thought divorce was his only option, he went into ridiculous detail about some sort of bowel problem he was having as if I'd have any care in the world about it. I said to him, "Exactly why are you telling me any of this? And who, precisely, will you start telling since your personal issues have absolutely no bearing on me whatsoever?"
More recently, he tried to start a conversation by mentioning The Hunger Games and asking if I'd seen it yet. I rolled my eyes, but remained civil. He didn't actually care if I'd seen it or not. He knew for a fact I hadn't. He just wanted to make small talk about something as if I cared to discuss anything with him beyond the basic care of my children.
It's as if he doesn't register the fact that he not only ended the marriage by his actions; he ended the friendship. I don't view him as a friend - not even remotely. Friends don't do what he has done. GOOD PEOPLE don't do what he has done. I view him as one might view a plunger. Yeah, it's useful, but you tend to keep it out of sight and when you DO have to have some sort of interaction with it, you gingerly grab it with two fingers because no matter how clean it looks, you know it's full of crap.
So yes. It seems as if I married a plunger. I have no desire to continue a friendship with a plunger.
And while I realize I'm called to look beyond his utter stupidity and see a child of God through the muck, I can't. Not right now. He absolutely nauseates me. I'm civil, but I am not going to play the "Hey, we're still friends" game. We're not friends. I don't necessarily know that we will ever be friends. That bridge has been burned. No longer am I going to make excuses or blind myself to how selfish and juvenile he is.
And that, readers, is why I am the one who actually did the legwork for the divorce / annulment. In truth, things would have remained exactly the same had I not gone to the lawyer. In fact, I saw my lawyer in March, two weeks after he lashed out (while I was carrying the child he lied about wanting). It was only after my constant prodding that he finally realized I wasn't backing down and went, himself, sometime in August (maybe even September).
After all, he's not the only child of God here, and no child of God deserves a plunger for a spouse. Once I recognized that, I haven't looked back. Sure, I mourned for what could have been, but more importantly, I recognized what never was - a sacramental marriage. I entered into the union with every intention of living out my vocation; he didn't. So this time, he got no pass. He wanted to play the divorce card? I'd force him to see it through and I have. I deserve better than a lifetime of his backpedaling into childhood. The length of our marriage has been me attempting to pull him forward into adulthood. I've been understanding of his weaknesses, his failings. I've celebrated his triumphs and his steps forward. I've tried to help him as best I could to become a better person, because that's what marriage is supposed to be. However, it's always been a one-way street. And while it's certainly a hurtful and heartbreaking realization, it's a freeing one, because I know that this marriage is not going to be the proverbial millstone. Since I truly don't believe it was a marriage at all (given John's willful neglect of every.single.vow. he made), I can move forward with someone who can teach my sons what it means to treat a woman with love, respect and honor.
I'm saying this because I know several readers have used my situation as proof that marriage can work between people of varying religious backgrounds. I've urged you NOT to use me as an example because of how difficult it's been. In the end, it's not only proven difficult; it's proven to be an absolute failure.
This failure is not on my part. After all, I've put up with every conceivable indignation in an attempt to live my vows faithfully. It was only upon recognizing that those vows were never made in good faith by him that I cut my losses. As I said, had I not gone to the lawyer, John would have put the divorce card back in the deck as he's done in the past. The problem is, he allows it to be in the deck at all. If marriage is to truly work, that card needs to be burned. Once I realized he'd never do that, I understood that my marriage never had a chance.
So my point is, even if you think you are capable and wiling to go the extra mile and take on the burden of a situation such as mine, your will alone is NOT ENOUGH to prevent a mess such as this. Free Will is a gift given to BOTH of you, and it takes two people to make a marriage succeed. I foolishly believed that my strength would be enough... that my willingness to put up with the intolerable was enough.
In the end, it was not enough, because a marriage needs TWO people to work at it. It can't be one-sided, and that's precisely what mine has always been.
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