Shalom and Love
The Lantern Vol 47
For the Holidays I wish to leave you with a letter I wrote to my friends who were struggling in their marriages after so many years. It is about married love. Forgive me upfront, for it is my perspective as poor as it is. Christmas is about Love, the love of a God, and the love of a Child, His Child.
Before you read this I want to say to you all this Christmas season, Shalom. Shalom in the language of our Jewish brothers and sisters means peace. Not just a peace of silence and calm but rather the peace that one feels when God takes their hand. When we rest our heads on the lap of the Blessed mother. When the Holy Spirit fills our being with a calm, a peace, and a trust. Jesus I trust in you. Parents love it when they see their children trust them without question. Parents love to see a child take their advice, knowing they do so out of a trust that comes from knowing they are loved. Likewise a parent is really hurt when their children do not follow their direction, do not trust in them. So the same is with Jesus our Lord. Saint John Paul II reiterated again and again. "Do not be afraid". God has a plan, trust in Him. Do not fear anything, any sickness, any loss of work, any loss of life, but know God is with you and trust in His plan and His will. For the most part when you watch television or read the news realize if something is trying to disturb your peace or alarm you, it is not from God. We are His children, be at peace, Shalom! Merry Christmas!
I write this letter as one who loves so poorly. Love reminds me of a sport where you can have a knowledge of something but not the skill to do it well. I write because I see a lack of understanding of the concept of love, even among my close friends.
Please read this and let it arrive at your heart, for I send it with the best intentions.
So what is love? I understand love much differently now than I have in the past and I believe I have come to a better understanding that seems simple, but is still alluding many today. Our culture is full of its images of love that really have nothing to do with the matter.
I write this so my friends might have a better understanding of love. We have been to innumerable weddings where they talk about love from the scriptures. It is like a stag, it does not boast, it is forgiving. We have all of these images of love.
But what is the greatest image of love? The sacrifice of the cross! Yes, I am sure we all know this, but how often do we ponder this association in our lives, especially our married lives. When we do, is it in the proper context?
You see I have come to understand a little better, that love is not about me. Now that I am married, there really is no me, that person no longer exists, there is only us. When God came to earth he took on our human form. He suffered from day one, by being a human being. He was perfect, never at fault. Yet, he was treated so poorly. He was crucified because he loved. This is the example that we have of true love. Giving, giving, and giving until those we love and have loved, crucify us.
Many of us look at ourselves and say we have loved, we boast as the bible tells us not to.
I loved her, but she doesn't love me. I gave him all I could, but he did not love me as I wanted. These are all too common things I hear from married couples today. However, It is never correct to say, he or she hasn't loved me for years, but I have really tried.
You see there is no trying in love. That phrase indicates the intention that we must feel the love we are giving in return. The Christmas season reminds me of this funny reciprocal love. We give gifts, and when we do, we get a good feeling in ourselves. This feeling is deceptive because It is not always a true giving, maybe, it is a self loving act. We see the joy it brings someone. How often do we joke about "who do we have to get gifts for"?
How many times do we just give a gift because someone gave us a gift.? We feel better because of the emotion we see in each other.
Maybe it was my mom that taught me about love. I will say it again and always. I loved my mom. She wasn't perfect and had many faults but she taught me to love. Yes, mom showed me by her daily examples but the most profound example was her silence. When my mom had dementia she stopped recognizing all of us in a way we were not used to. We could no longer tell if she appreciated the love we had given, and it hurt us. We could no longer get a reaction or appreciation of the gift we were giving, or appreciation for the time we had spent with her. When mom had a stroke she could not speak and then this was even more apparent. One could visit and spend time with her but she could not give any response.
This was our time to truly love, because we could sacrifice and love in a way where there was no return, no joy given back. I see this in so many people who struggle with parents with dementia, or coma’s or end of life issues. They tire of giving a love that cannot be measured or returned to them, not even with a smile.
When I became middle aged I experienced this so much more with married couples. Many were struggling with their “mid life” crisis. I came to understand this as a time when we matured enough to know a little more about ourselves. We were successful, learned and reflecting on our choices in life. People start looking inward at themselves. It is really a “me me” time. A time with no true idea of love. Some people would call it self love, but it is not love, it is only selfishness. There is no giving at this stage, only taking. Who am I, how do I feel, what have I accomplished, what do I deserve? Have I been given the love and respect I deserve? These empty questions resound through so many people I know.
Through our marriages this sometimes takes root in what one spouse considers the perfect marriage, but it always centered around the "I". The idea of the perfect marriage can never truly come from the concept or idea of one spouse. This idea is always devoid of love because the expectation of something, demands a return. It is never sacrificial giving. I look at all the wonderful faces of the people I know. People who are good hearted, but they still talk about what they have done or not done in their marriage. There is always the “measuring rule”.
So I have to go back to Christ, the center of our lives, that which most of us have in common.
We must remind ourselves what a marriage is and the words we use to describe it.
Simply put it is a sacrament, and a mystery. The two become one.
I think most trouble with marital relationships begin and center around this concept. The two become one. Not, the two like each other, not, the two give each other what they want. Rather the two become one. What is the one? It is the union that brings us back to the original creation of God. Man before Eve. It is the joining of all of God's gifts in two people to become one.
I remember fondly the day my dad was slapping the crap out of me. I was mad at my mother and the more I kept telling him why, the more he slapped my face until mom stopped him. I kept saying,” she did”, or “she said”, or she... It was that word she. My dad said, you refer to her as mother, not she. How often I hear those words again when people tell me of their marriage problems. He did or didn't do this, she never does this, or this, or this.
They speak as if they were still two different people. The two are still not becoming one. They fail to respect each other in the eyes of their children. Through their expressions or words they give the impression that one parent is silly or doesn't deserve respect because of their opinion or education or whatever reason. They fail to realize the two are one, so you really disrespect yourself when you disrespect your spouse.
Then, I see them drift apart and they no longer share so many of the joys, and yes intimacies of married life. There is a total stoppage of "receiving" love. The concept of love that they have decided they should have, and that they deserve, in order to “be happy”.
We wrongly think there is no longer love because of the other spouse or someone else. We fail to see the love has left because “we” no longer love. It is always our fault when we blame the other spouse. Why?, because there is no “them” There is only one, us.
In sales we often listen to motivational talks because the journey of interacting with people from all walks of life can be a tiresome journey. Especially, when we do not approach it with love. A real care and concern for others. It is hard to be truly loving in the business world because you are always reaping a reward, a return, which diminishes the love you give.
I was listening to some tapes my father had in his car to motivate him. The thought of him listening to these made me tearful. He was in his sixties and he was trying to motivate himself to continue selling and improving himself. Not for him, I understood, but to provide for his family.
These tapes had a concept that I still remember today. The world is a reflection of you.
We go about the day interacting with many people and their “returns” to us definitely affect the way we feel and respond to one another. If you are in a grouchy crowd, you can let that mood mold your attitude. When we project anger and annoyance it is reflected back to us. If you go home with that same mindset it can be transferred to your family.
I think of this often, because I see how true it is. In this concept of love that I understand, it is not a true loving option because it has an immediate return to us. If we reflect kindness it is reflected back. However, with the concept of love through Christ it does help us transform the world. If we truly love others and give of ourselves, it reflects the grace of God upon others.
It is a good example to remember because the reflection of ourselves is what we see in our marriages. If we are selfish, then we reflect selfishness, and we will be unhappy. If we give true love, then we see the reflection of sacrificial love.
How often do we get angry with our spouse when we are not living the realization that the two of us are one.! It is this selfish unloving idea that we have been wronged, that prevents us from loving our spouse, and ultimately ourselves. I teach my children that Jesus as God never sinned. Why?, because a sin is an offense against God. Jesus was and is God and God cannot offend himself. Think of this in our married life. Think of the stupidity of saying I am mad at my spouse or my spouse has offended me or they don't love me as they should. How can you offend you? How can the one person offend itself? This can only happen when we are selfish, here we truly abuse ourselves. Again, there are many situations in society where we see people abuse themselves. The obvious examples of drug and alcohol addiction are evident everywhere. But what about the selfish abuse of not loving your spouse who is you!
When I am selfish and mad at myself (my wife) I always return to the Holy Eucharist.
I think most of us Catholics have a great respect and true love for the Holy Eucharist. The Presence of Christ on earth. It is a sacrament, an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.
Think about this for a minute please. When you receive the Eucharist, do you hate Jesus?
Do you treat the Eucharist poorly? Do you disrespect it?
For me it is dwelling on this sacrament that reminds me my marriage IS a sacrament.
It is in a very special way the Eucharist. The joining of two tabernacles or repositories of Christ the Lord and King. So if I get angry, I think about how I am treating the Eucharist. I ask you today, how are you treating the Eucharist, the body of Christ, Your spouse, your self?
Many of you are tired and have had some long sufferings. We look back at life and say, “I am not happy”. Yes, that selfish unloving thought. We are not feeling loved. It may be because we are suffering physically or spiritually. We feel a lack of God in our lives. Is he really there, why hasn't he heard our prayers. Why am I not happy?
Maybe in this season of Christmas where God came as a child we look back into our hearts and ask if we love. When a child comes into our lives, I always see inside the people who behold that child, an expression of a warm love. A warm love for someone they do not know. Why then, can we not love someone who is so special to us and in many cases our very selves.
This Christmas, I ask all of us to look into the people we see out there especially our spouses and ask the question, am I loving that person? Is it truly a sacrificial love of the sacrament and life that God has given me? Say to yourself, “I want to love myself” and know that, by that definition, it means your spouse.