Sunday, February 5, 2017

Experiencing marriage as a sacrament the hard way

I've been away from home for a little more than two weeks and I have about a week to go before I return. Leaving home for extended periods of time has always been difficult. As I grow older, being away for weeks becomes more difficult for a variety of reasons. What has always made it difficult to be away is how much I miss people, even as I am meeting new people. I miss my children, I miss my friends, I miss those I serve as a deacon, I miss those with whom I serve, I miss my colleagues at work, etc. Above all, first and foremost, I miss my lovely wife. To borrow the famous line from the movie Jerry Maguire, she completes me. Oh, I do alright being away from her for about a week, then it becomes difficult. At times my difficulty being away from her nearly overwhelms me. It's true, I am never alone. But I find that being away from her for an extended period of time, especially when busy-ness and space make me feel disconnected from her, negatively impacts my ability to pray. Yes, this is a weakness of mine- I have many.

From last Sunday until yesterday afternoon, despite often desperate attempts on my part, I felt disconnected and far away from my wife. This led to a lot of self-pity and, I am sad to say, some recrimination. Let me just say, absence (and what goes along with it) does make the heart grow fonder, but in my case often in a demanding and impatient manner. Being the person she is, she bore all of this patiently. But then, by the miracle of modern technology, late yesterday afternoon, we were able to spend some one-on-one time together. Our time allowed me to make a 180 degree turn around emotionally and spiritually.

As I was leaving Mass this morning and pondering the week past, thanking God for His great mercy towards me, I was struck by the fact that it is impossible for me to feel connected to God and not to my wife. I believe this was grace enabling me to experience and then better apprehend the reality that my marriage is, by the grace of God, a sacrament, which means it is not just an expression of my profound need for grace to live out this sacrament at the service of communion, but a source of grace for me, (hopefully) for my wife and children, as well as (hopefully) for the Church and the world. It is important for us to stay closely connected when we're apart using the means we have at our disposal. But even so, it is a challenge, especially for me. Our spending time together allowed me to receive the affirmation from her I needed. It also reminded me, again (I am slow and forgetful, too eager to have my perceived needs met), I need to give her the affirmation she needs just as selflessly as she affirms me.

This time next week my wife and I will be reunited. I return next Saturday, which is her birthday as well as the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. While I understand that all I long for is to be found in God, I realize more all the time that how God sets about satisfying my deepest longing is often in a reified way. This is especially true when it comes to how He works in my marriage through my amazing wife. I am not sure what I did to deserve the love of this wonderful woman. When I think about it, I did nothing to deserve her. She is God's grace personified for me. Being joined to her by, in, and through God- Who is a communion of divine persons- is not merely a sign or token along my way to realizing fully that for which I deeply long, but a participation in it. I think it is analogous to the way I already participate in the not yet by participating in the Eucharist.

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