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Love as a first step

David became involved in a faith-sharing group with other men in his parish about a year ago. It had been the best thing for him since his divorce. At these meetings he began to open up about his life more than he had ever done before. As he became more comfortable with the group he started talking about how difficult discussions had been with his ex-wife over finances, custody arrangements and schooling for their children.

But at these faith-sharing meetings he was also starting to learn a great deal about forgiveness. That made him think, do I have to forgive my wife? And gradually he began to realize that the break-up of the marriage was not all his wife’s fault—-that, as he looked back, he began to see that he had done plenty of things to hurt her too.

David also started to realize (through prayer and really being honest with himself) that he had been self-centered and had not taken seriously his responsibilities to be a husband and father. He had been ok with the idea of accommodation but never really understood sacrifice.

The next time that David met with his ex-wife he actually told her he was sorry for the sins that he now realized he had committed. This completely shocked her, and he was shocked that she was shocked. She invited him to dinner for a “peaceful” conversation. He was curious and accepted.

At the dinner David noticed that Meg was listening to him, and being patient with him. This was something that hadn’t happened for a very long time. And as he connected the dots, he saw this as the fruits of his repentance. So he shared with her all that he was learning about himself and his relationship with God. He said he saw how much the divorce was devastating their kids, and he regretted it. Meg said that she felt the same way.

After six months of further communications, they actually fell in love again and decided to get re-married. This is a true story. Although I will readily admit that it doesn’t happen too often!

Healing and forgiveness/Anger and resentment—-opposite ends of the spectrum. In our life experiences, when we feed anger and resentment, we can place ourselves on a path that can lead one to becoming a cynical person—-closed to the idea of forgiving or allowing ourselves to be forgiven.

Jesus’ teaching on marriage is a difficult one. And for those who are in a situation where things might be falling apart, this message can seem even more difficult. I think it’s important to remember Jesus’ teaching on love as a first step. We need to step away from the notion of “movie star” love. For Christ, love is rooted in doing what is best for the other person, of being willing to sacrifice rather than just accommodate. 

I will also acknowledge that there are some situations where issues exist with one or both persons in a marriage that make it impossible for the commitment (or the promise) to be lived out.

Nevertheless, here’s something to think about, and it focuses on relationships in general—-how we interact with our spouses, children, close friends, etc:

When we foster resentment toward someone, we can’t stop thinking about that other person. We are filled with negative feelings that absorb a large part of our energy. When someone has made us suffer, our tendency is to keep the memory of the wrong alive in our minds, like a “bill” we will produce to demand payment. Those accumulated bills end up poisoning our lives. The gospel invites us to ask God for the grace to try our best to cancel every debt. In return, we will be forgiven everything, and our hearts will be set free, whereas fueling resentment closes us to the positive things others can contribute to us.

Final thought:

I came across a definition of the word Virtue which I found very insightful. In closing let me share it with you: When God measures a person, He puts the tape around the heart instead of the head.

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