“…stay in the boat in which our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if He sleeps, His heart vigilantly watches over you?” – St. Pio of Pietrelcina
A Loyalty Tested
Loyalty is deeply tested in marriage like Peter’s loyalty to Jesus in the Passion. Not only our loyalty to God but our loyalty to our spouse. During the marriage vows, we promise to be true to our spouse in good times and bad, in sickness and health. What happens when that promised loyalty is tested? Peter stood before Christ and said he would never deny him; but Jesus knew that Peter would deny him because the spirit is willing but the flesh is week. Like Peter, during the vows we stand before Christ and vow to never deny our spouse, to be true to them, no matter what comes later in life. How easy is it to say those words yet how hard at times to live them out, to deny the temptations of the flesh and uphold the calling of the spirit.
How often do we try to fight for our flesh’s desires, our “happiness,” or what we feel we deserve? How often does our flesh pull us away from our spouse, from our vow to be loyal and true? It can happen through small glances at others, jealousy, affairs, disengagement, avoidance, or so much more. It can happen in small ways but each time that loyalty is tested in marriage and the weakness of the flesh falls into the traps and temptations Satan sets, the divide and distance between spouses grows larger.
Like Peter, we mean with all our hearts that we will be loyal to our spouse through good and bad times, but when the trials come, when we are forced to choose in difficult situations, the flesh puts up a good fight in the battle.
It is easy to look at Peter in the story of the Passion and think “how could he deny Jesus, his best friend and his teacher?” We all hope that if we were put to that same test we would have the strength, courage, and faith to proudly remain loyal and faithful to Jesus. I think in our marriages we have that test given to us daily. We are to love our spouse as Christ modeled love. When we deny our spouse, even in the smallest of ways, when our loyalty is tested and we fall to the flesh, we not only deny our spouse, we deny Christ in them. For Christ said whatever you do to the least of these you do to me. Does that not also apply to how we treat our spouse? When we deny or spouse or fail to remain loyal, are we not in that moment denying Christ just as Peter did? Are we not succumbing to the weakness of the flesh despite the fact that like Peter we said before God that we would not deny him?
As we go into this Holy Week, we have an opportunity to examine our lives and where we can relate to Peter in the story of the Passion. I think as married people, we can so easily relate to him in how we choose to either deny or remain loyal and faithful to our spouse, our vows to them, and Christ in them in each moment of every day.
Walking on Water
Have you ever been called to walk on water? Have you ever heard God call your name and ask you to do the seemingly impossible? Have you ever tried to hide from the path He was calling you down because you thought you knew where it would lead and were scared to follow it? Yes, I said thought you knew because God so often surprises us, even when he takes us down the hard paths in life, by giving us grace, peace, and joy beyond imagine when we willingly follow Him.
The question really is – do we trust Him? Do we trust that He knows what is best for us? Do we understand that what is best for us isn’t always what is easiest?
I have heard God calling me over the past year to walk down a path rarely trodden. I have heard him calling me to love in ways I never knew were possible. I spent some time resisting because it was too hard, too impossible, to do what He was asking.
But when, like Peter, I took that step of faith and walked on the water, I found myself surprised. Not only did God provide me with everything I needed to follow His calling for me as long as I kept my eyes and faith in Him, but he turned what seemed like a long, painful, lonely journey into a joyful one with greater companions than I could have ever imagined. He replaced pain with joy and provided a way for me to meet others who He was calling down the same path.
There are times, like Peter, when I am walking on the water of this path and I stop trusting Him. I allow myself to think about the practicality of what He is calling me to do. I listen to what the world says – that it is impossible. In those moments, I start to fall in the water. But Christ says to me “look at me. Keep your eyes steadfast on me. Don’t lose faith. I will give you all you need and more.”
In what ways is God calling you to trust in Him and walk on the water?
Am I not enough?
Sitting under the stars in the middle of the night after a rough day wishing for a connection, understanding, and love when a gentle but strong voice says through the wind, “Don’t you know how much I love you? You are so precious to me. I am here with you – am I not enough?”
A love so powerful that nothing can contain it. A peace so calm that it cannot be disturbed. A gentleness so sweet its like a soft kiss on the lips.
Is He really first in my life? Do I really believe God is all I need? Have I really surrendered to the point that He is all I need – that His love is enough? Have I forgotten how He laid His life down for me – gave everything for me – out of love, His great love for me – is that not enough?
There are times when we feel like the world has forgotten us. There are times when we wonder if there is anyone who is really there for us – who truly cares about us. Sometimes we feel like everyone has a hidden agenda, like everyone is expecting things from us. Some days it feels like no one cares about us. Sometimes it feels like no one understands us.
Do we turn to Christ in those moments? Do we say “Lord, I know you are with me and I know you are all I need. Help my unbelief”? Do we open ourselves up to allow him to fill us with everything we need?
But most of all, do we trust that what He has given us is what we truly need? Do we trust Him to know our needs better than we do? Do we trust in His will and His providence? Or do we mistake our wants and desires for His will? God didn’t promise us that he would give us everything we want or everything we think we need but he promised he would give us all we need. Do we trust Him? Do we trust that who he is and what he has given us is enough?
He gives us small gifts while here on earth. These are the gifts we so often pray for – material things, relationships and loved ones, work, all things of this world. But the gift he really gave us is our salvation – eternal peace and happiness and unity with the Father. Is that not enough to weather us through any storm or obstacle in our way today? Is the price paid for our salvation not enough to not only satisfy us but bring us to our knees?
If that is not enough, then what is? If that is not enough, what are we saying is more important over our salvation?
In our deepest moments of pain, sadness, regret, and loneliness, can we truly look our God, our maker, our redeemer in the eye and say “you are not enough”?
He is enough. The alpha and the omega – beginning and the end. He is everything and he is always enough because whether we realize it or not, He is what our souls long for. We may mistake cars, houses, friends, family, money, power, children, our spouse, etc for what we want, but ultimately all of those things will let us down and won’t satisfy our deepest needs, because the only thing that can satisfy our souls, the only thing that is forever in this life and the next, and the only thing that never fails is God.
It takes great courage to let go of what we think we need and believe that God is all we need.
Where in your life are you looking for satisfaction and fulfillment from anything other than God?
Where in your life is he saying to you “am I not enough?”
Two small words that too often are too hard to say and so inadequately describe how you feel and what you really want to express. They can be such an oversimplification of such a complicated and complex situation.
They work well for small offenses like accidentally bumping into someone on the street. But when you offend or hurt someone so deeply these two simple words – I’m sorry – don’t even come close to what you really want to say. Because the truth is no words can ever fully undo the damage caused or the hurt felt.
We use two small words to try and express apology, regret, remorse, determination to change, and so much more. How can two words summarize and encompass all those things?
I don’t think they truly can. Because sometimes you want to look at the person you hurt and say “I should have never said the things I did.” Or you wish to tell the person “I am disappointed in myself and cannot believe the person I turned into”. Sometimes you want to say “I made a mistake and I know it deeply hurt you and all I want to do is take away that pain that I caused you but I can’t figure out how”. Other times you want to say “I am changing and working to be a better person and I would really like the opportunity to show you who I am now.” All these sentiments and more are often summed up by saying “I’m sorry.”
The truth is words sometimes have a way of failing us. We use them to express what we are feeling and thinking, but too often the words we say don’t measure up to what is really going on inside. We do the best we can to express those feelings which is why we apologize and say I’m sorry to each other.
How do you respond when those words are said and you still feel hurt? There isn’t a good way to measure how sorry a person is. So is it an eye for an eye? Do you turn the other cheek? Do you hold on to your anger, bitterness, and resentment? Do you forgive?
It is so important to acknowledge the ways you have wronged your spouse, apologize, and work to do better. It is equally important to forgive your spouse and extend mercy even when it feels like it is not deserved, because God has extended unfailing mercy and forgiveness to each one of us even though we are so unworthy to receive it.
Most people know that simply saying the words I’m sorry doesn’t make up for their offense. A genuine apology also requires action and a determination to show remorse by making a conscious change and doing better in the future.
That change that takes place can then be accepted or rejected by the person who was wronged. Sometimes they might not even see the change if they are still holding onto bitter and angry feelings and can’t see past the hurt they feel. Hopefully that change after apologizing brings reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.
So why even say I’m sorry if it inadequately describes and cannot really express the deep sorrow and regret you feel? Because although it simplifies the complexities and doesn’t measure up to the hurt you caused, sometimes there isn’t much else you can do to try to heal the pain you caused, show you are holding yourself accountable for your actions, and try to do what you can to make it right moving forward. It is impossible to take back something that was said and done because it is in the past. All you can do is try to tell the person you wronged you are sorry, that you wish things had been different and that you are making a decision to do better in the future. “I’m sorry” doesn’t heal all wounds by itself, but it is a gesture and a step toward reconciliation and hopefully making things better in the future. It’s saying you want a fresh start and hoping for a second chance.
Love your enemies
“Love your enemies,” he said. “Pray for those who persecute you.” This was considered radical at the time Jesus said it. But isn’t it really still radical today?
How often do we really love our enemies? How often do we pray for those who persecute us? Aren’t we much more likely to harbor feelings of hurt and resentment?
But if you really think about it, this statement is even more radical than it may appear on the surface. For God sent his son Jesus to be our example of how to love. He showed us that loving means choosing the other person and putting them first in a selfless love. He showed us that loving means forgiving as he did on the cross – forgiving even when we don’t feel like it and even when forgiveness isn’t asked for or even deserved. He showed us that loving means sacrificing for the other. After all he made the ultimate sacrifice for us by giving his life. If we are to love in this world, we are to use that as our basis and example.
Do we love our enemies in this way? Or even close to it?
How much would our world change if we truly lived out just this one statement Jesus made? Wouldn’t it be radical?
What would happen if we chose to love instead of returning injury? What would happen if we chose to love instead of just ignoring the person? What would happen if we prayed, truly prayed for those who have hurt us?
Isn’t this ultimately what Jesus did on the cross for each and every one of us? We are all sinners and our sin is why he died on the cross. But although that is true, he chose to love each one of us with all he had.
He isn’t just telling us not to seek revenge on our enemies. He isn’t just telling us to be kind to our enemies. He is telling us to love them with all we have, just the way he loves us. And if we are to love our enemies in this way, how much should we also love those who aren’t our enemies?
One small statement, if lived out, could have an impact on the world greater than we could ever imagine.
Which people in your life have wronged you that should be loved in this way?
Can you love those who seem unloveable in your eyes right now? More on that later….