“…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
I love this time of year. For a brief few weeks we allow ourselves to be children again – to have a sense of awe, wonder, and hope. For most of the year big hopes are so easily shot down as “false hope,” as if there could ever be such a thing. We get so busy that we don’t give ourselves the time to hope. We get bogged down by the difficult situations we experience and begin to buy in to lie that too much hope can be bad. We listen to voices of others who tell us our hopes are too big or too unrealistic. Those voices that tell us that we shouldn’t hope for the things that we do because they will never come true. However, this is the time of year we indulge ourselves. We let our dreams and hopes run wild. We allow ourselves to see beauty and good in the world, dream big, and hope for the future.
Why when we become adults do we censor our own hopes and dreams? Children have such a beautiful outlook on life because it is not censored. They speak their minds and dream as if there is no limit. They dream as we all should. They hope. Sometime along life’s journey we begin to feel like our hopes and dreams don’t come true – as if they are false. We have hope but when it doesn’t come true in our perceived acceptable timing, we lose our faith, belief, and wonder. We forget that the circumstances in life don’t happen because of our desired timing. We allow other people in our lives determine what kind of hopes we should have. When others question our hopes, we begin to question them ourselves.
How could a hope ever be false? Hope is just a personal desire for something that has not yet come to be. It is a dream for the future. It can never be false and it can never fail. It is a want that comes from deep within the soul. Even when the desired outcome from a hope does not come true, the hope itself is not false. The end result may not come to be as it was hoped for or expected, but that hope that was clung to was real and true; it kept the soul alive.
It drives me crazy when I hear people talk of “false hope” or worse yet when I hear that someone was told that we don’t want to give a such “false hope.” How dare we tell others not to have or give “false hope.” How dare we try to squash the beauty of hope that is so innate in every human soul?
We need hope. Without it no change would ever come in our lives or in our world. It is hope that allows us to see a different future, a better future. It is hope that gives us the motivation we need to work and try to make that dream come true. It is hope that drives passion and goodwill. It is hope that keeps the soul alive and well. It is hope that gives peace.
Part of the Christmas miracle and the beauty of the new year is that during this time we hope. We start with with Christmas which reminds us to have wonder in our lives and move quickly into the new year and set resolutions, goals, hopes for the future. The childlike hope that we experience this time of year replenishes our souls.
My hope for all of us this new year is that we do not allow anyone or anything to take away our hope or diminish it in any way. My hope is that we would all find the courage and childlike spirit to hope again so that regardless of what the world may say, our hope will shine bright and inspire others.
I read and hear a lot of people talk about what “you deserve” in a relationship. When these things are said, it is implied that if your spouse is not doing these things for you currently, it must not be real or the relationship should be questioned and possibly ended. I disagree.
You deserve to be treated with all the respect, dignity, love, and care in the world. Absolutely. Each person on this earth has immense dignity and worth because that comes from God. We were all created in His image.
You deserve flowers for no reason, thoughtful gestures, kisses just because, and things to make you smile. Some days. Some days you could probably do more to love your spouse.
You deserve for your spouse to always make you happy? Well that’s just an impossible request.
You deserve a lot and are worth more than you can imagine.
But when did marriage become about what you deserve? When did marriage become so selfish? When did we start believing that if you aren’t treated the way you feel you deserve to be treated that the marriage has failed?
On the days you feel like you aren’t treated how you should be, how often do you look in the mirror and honestly ask yourself if you are treating your spouse in the way they deserve to be treated?
What a humbling question. If answered honestly I have always found there was more I could do. My husband is also a child of God who was worth God giving his only son to die for him. My husband is so loved by God that God forgives him every time he fails. My husband is worth Jesus leaving 99 sheep to go out and find him. My husband is worth so much and means everything to God.
Do I really treat him in that way? Do I really let my husbands great worth sink into my soul? And do my thoughts, actions, and words reflect and remind him of his worth?
I find that in the moments when I am upset because I felt like I wasn’t treated the way I deserved, I could equally find ways I failed to treat my spouse as he deserves. So many of those times if I am honest with myself, I can see how selfish of a response that is. Although I deserve the world, although my God died for my salvation, although I am worth everything to Christ, I must look to God for my worth and be patient with my spouse. I must be willing to humbly accept that we will never be able to love each other with the same perfection that God loves us but we can and always should strive to love each other as selflessly as possible, to breathe life into each other, and to keep each other’s worth and dignity in God’s eyes at the forefront of our minds. And that is what the marriage is – a journey together to explore God’s love by learning how to see and love your spouse as God does.
Marriage is not the journey toward being treated how you feel you deserve – it is the journey toward learning how to love your spouse in the way God says they deserve to be loved, which is unconditionally.
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.
“Come with me” he says. “Come follow me.” “Come deeper with me.” “Trust me.” He tells me this constantly. He comes to me in my moments of despair, in my moments of weakness, and in my moments of great joy and tells me to come with him. To go with him to that place on Calvary where he died, because he has more to show me.
Then he takes me there. I am walking through the desert with him by my side. We walk up the hill of Calvary. At the top of the hill he points to the cross. There he is. He is on the cross. He is suffering. He is in so much pain and so much hurt. He is weak and wounded. The air is filled with a deep somber sense as if the entire world has been paused.
We walk up to the foot of the cross. I am standing right at the foot of the cross. His blood is pouring down on me. I can hear him, hear him struggling for breath, crying out. I see him looking up to heaven, to his father, wishing for relief, wishing all the pain he was experiencing would be taken away and healed. But although he hopes so dearly for the pain to go away, he courageously accepts the knowledge that God’s will and God’s plan is greater than his own human desire to never experience pain. He has perfect trust in God his Father and the plan that God has for him. He embraces his cross with a strength so unknown to this world.
Then He looks at me. He looks right at me. When I dare to look back up, directly into his eyes I feel as though I can see straight into his soul and he into mine. His eyes are full of pain. I can see every part of his body is in intense pain. I have never seen so much pain in my life. But although he is in great pain, there is something else in his eyes that overtakes the pain. There is love. There is love, great love in his eyes. It is a piercing love like I have never experienced before. A love so deep and so pure. It is a love for me. A love for my husband. A love for our children. A love for each and every person who has ever existed and who ever will exist in this world. This love in His eyes is the calm in the storm.
He doesn’t say anything to me while our eyes are locked but it is as if his gaze speaks directly to my soul. I can hear his soul speaking to mine and he says “I love you. You are a daughter of God and you are so deeply loved. You have so much immense worth. I have so much planned for you and it is greater than you could ever imagine. I forgive you for all that you have done and all that you will do. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you. I love you. I love you exactly where you are, who you are, and no matter what you do. I will love you at every moment of every day for eternity. I want you to accept my love, to let me love you. But I want you to choose my love. I freely give my love to you at all times and through all things. I will love you if you accept my love, if you reject it, deny it, run from it, ignore it, or embrace it, because my love for you isn’t based on what you do, it is my conscious choice to love you no matter what. I love you with all that I have. I suffer for you. I rejoice for you and in you. I delight in you.”
When I feel his immense love for me I am paralyzed. I can’t move. I fall down. Fall straight on my knees with my face on the ground and my hands raised to heaven. I am overcome. Overcome with this love that I cannot understand. This love that is greater than any sin or anything in this world. This unconditional love like I have never experienced. This love that he pours down on me overtakes me. It overtakes every part of my being and fills my soul. It fills my soul with everything I could ever want and everything I could ever need. For the first time in my life I feel complete – I feel full – I feel alive – I feel like I am who I am meant to be, who I was made to be. I am so full of His love that all I want to do is give this love to others.
Then Jesus takes me up on the cross with him. He unites my suffering to his on the cross. And while I am up there I see everyone who has ever hurt me. I see them standing at the foot of the cross and I am looking down at them. Sometimes it is many people, sometimes just one person, and sometimes it is myself. Then he says to me “see them as I do. Look at them through my eyes.” He shows me how although I may be hurting, they are hurting too. He shows me how I have played a part in their suffering, pain, joy, and triumphs. It’s so humbling. He opens my eyes to see those in my life in the most incredible ways, to see how he sees them as His children who are so incredible, special, and important to the world in their own individual ways. For each one of us is a part of His body and as a part of His body has an integral role to play in the salvation of this world. But as He lets me see each person through His eyes, He also shows me how broken and hurt each one of them is. He always has me focus on my spouse in a particular way since He especially calls me to love my spouse as He loves.
He reminds me that He loves me for where I am in each moment. He shows me that although I have failed Him and hurt Him, He has never left my side. He gently reminds me that for all the times I have betrayed and hurt Him, He has forgiven me. He loves me in my imperfection and He wants me to love others in that same way. He wants me to meet those in my life where they are, for who they are, and embrace and encourage them to grow into who they were created to be because that is what He does for me. He sees who I should be, who I was created to be, and yet loves me when I fall short.
To help me love those who have hurt me, He fills me with the same love that He has them. He says to me that I am to forgive for any wrong or hurt that I have felt. And while I am up on the cross with him, all I want to do is forgive. All I want to do is pour out my love to them. All I want to do is offer up my suffering, my pain, and my love to God for their healing, their forgiveness, and their peace. All I want is to continue to pour out my love for them with all that I have forever and ever. All I want is to show them, to tell them how much I love them and to pick them up, embrace, and comfort them in their woundedness. All I want is show them how amazing they are, to show them how inspiring they are, to show them how loved they are. All I want is to take away all of their hurt, all of their pain, all of their suffering, all of their loneliness, all of their frustration, all of their confusion, all that is hurting them and all that is holding them back and replace it with love. All I want is for them to know their immense worth in the eyes of God. All I want to do is tell them how sorry I am for all the ways I have wronged them. It’s amazing how much we all fall short and wrong those in our lives. While I am up on the cross looking down at them through His eyes, all I have is compassion, forgiveness, and love for them.
And while I am on the cross looking down with the same love for them in my heart that Christ has for me and my suffering united to his for the greater glory of God, He urges me to say these words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
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?
The trust fall ….. The dreaded trust fall. See I was never very good at the trust fall. I never trusted anyone to actually catch me. So I would start to fall backward but would quickly take a step back to prevent myself from falling – I didn’t like feeling that vulnerable.
I had to learn how to do the trust fall in relationships and love.
Falling in love taught me that it is ok to be vulnerable. It taught me that taking that step, that leap of faith, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable can bring you happiness you never imagined.
I have only met one person in my life who made me feel that way and who made me feel completely safe in my vulnerability. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world to be vulnerable yet safe. When that feeling is broken, when you have been dropped, it can be incredibly hard to recover from but repairing that trust can bring about the most rewarding results.
In a relationship it isn’t quite the same as the traditional trust fall because if one person doesn’t catch the other, they both fall. That’s the hard part – being vulnerable together and knowing if you hurt the other you both suffer.
Someone recently asked me how I forgive when that trust has been broken. That’s such a loaded and complicated question and one I could never find a simple answer for. One thing I have learned about forgiveness is that it requires you to be vulnerable again. When we don’t forgive, we close the doors and stay locked up like a vault because we don’t want to be hurt again. While that is such a normal and reasonable reaction, it also prevents us from experiencing the joy and peace of love.
When you try to not be vulnerable you take that small step backward to prevent yourself from falling, you try to ground yourself and depend on only yourself. What you miss by doing this is the support of the person there to catch you, the support you can only get by letting go and falling into their arms, trusting they will be there to catch you.
Love requires us to be vulnerable and trust the other person. It is that vulnerability that makes love so special and unique. I have made decisions to forgive and trust people in my life who have hurt me and I have found that doing so and being vulnerable again is amazing and freeing.
I am so thankful to this day that I had someone in my life who taught me how to feel secure and vulnerable at the same time, because although I was vulnerable, I was on top of the world because we were vulnerable together and in it together.
Although the trust has been broken before and we have each missed catching the other, rebuilding that trust brought a greater strength to the relationship than before. It required a decision to forgive and trust and be vulnerable and a promise to do better, to be better, and to learn how to catch each other better in the future.
It sure is terrifying to feel like you are losing that control as you fall back, but it is also worth it.
There is nothing in the world like being vulnerable as you are falling but falling right into the arms of the one you love and being safe and home again.