Monday, September 23, 2013

The Love Comes First

The day that my husband fell in love with me, the day he knew I was the one he was going to marry, I was not Catholic.  I wasn't Christian at all.  And even though he was very much both of those and knew in his heart that I would be happier if I were too, he loved me anyway.  And when he told his parents about me, over the phone across an ocean and a continent, they were just happy.  Maybe inwardly they were nervous or wondered what I was like or worried about whether or not I was the good Catholic girl they probably always prayed to God for.  Maybe.  But outwardly they were nothing except excited.  Is it because my mother in law is a convert too that they truly appreciate the power of the Holy Spirit to do work that regular folk see as unlikely or even impossible?  It could be.  But it doesn't matter.  What matters is that the love came first.

Now make no mistake, friends.  My husband and his parents- they are not...what is a phrase people use?  "Lukewarm Catholics" is one of them I think.  Or "wishy washy."  Or maybe "Catholics in name only."  They are, and were, none of those things.  So if I was to come up with a bit of trite silliness about the Church, that I believed by default and not from research, Tommy was not afraid to set me straight.   But unless I brought it up, and eventually I did of course, the love came first.

Do you think it's possible to repent if one doesn't love God and love oneself?  I mean, what harm does sin really do if we don't matter and neither does God?  I've been thinking about this a lot over the last few days and I'm beginning to understand more that if you've never been in a place of self-loathing or, worse, self-indifference, it might be difficult to grasp the idea that sins, those building blocks of the walls between us and God, between us and true peace, are so appealing because they make you feel so bad.

You see, feeling guilty for doing something wrong is not the same as feeling bad.  Feeling bad is feeling like you are intrinsically bad.  You are worthless and useless and can't possibly have value. Guilt for legitimate sin simply means you know you were created for good and you've chosen to turn your back on that.  So properly placed guilt...it makes you feel good!  Like you're a good person who did something stupid and you can say "that was really stupid.  I should quit doing stupid things.  I'm worth more than that."

Not even God can drag anyone to God.  Oh that pesky free will with all its freeness and peskiness!  So if we are ever tempted to say about a friend or family member or stranger on the internet "but if I don't tell them the RULES, how will they ever start being GOOD???" I'd like to suggest that they are already good and just don't know it.  Help them find their God-given goodness.  Help them feel like they are worthy of even striving to be good.  Make sure they know that no matter what they do, they cannot ever make God stop loving them.  Because I promise you this: that is what they are trying to do.

Once their heart swells with the love of God, the love for God, they will run and wrap themselves in the cozy blanket of these glorious traditions and rules and regulations that exist only to bring a fallen people as close as possible to true happiness, to God.  The traditions and rules and regulations are there and we love them and should hold them in esteem, but I never want to forget that the love comes first.

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42 comments :

  1. Perfectly personifies what the Holy Father is saying! LOVE!

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  2. Wow. This is beautiful. Thanks for being brave and sharing!

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  3. "Help them find their God-given goodness. Help them feel like they are worthy of even striving to be good." This reminded me of something I remember learning in a college course on Adolescent Development. One of the ways to help aggressive teens is to get them to volunteer doing something they like, and they will I guess learn their own worth. (I can't remember the whole study; I'm bit dusty on this one.) Anyway, thanks for taking this idea to the faith level.

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  4. The bard said "Love is not love that alters when it alteration finds," (this was in my wedding program which is how I remember it so well). Like you said, that darn free will! But loving someone and personifying God's love for that person can be the difference in their turning toward God or trying to run further away. Thank you for this. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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  5. I was just talking to my husband yesterday about how wonderful his parents were when we married. Life-long Catholics, they showed up for the decidedly non-Catholic wedding between two people who had each been married once before, and showed nothing but joy. They welcomed me and my sons with open arms, and I never had any idea how much they prayed for us to come home.
    I'm now two years into the conversion process (still waiting on an annulment), and it finally occurred to me that they could have easily been stumbling blocks for me, if they'd ever hinted that I was unacceptable for their son as a divorced Anglican. But they didn't. They just prayed. I love them so much, and not just in comparison to my first in-laws anymore!
    I just love what you had to say here. Thank you.

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  6. We only love because He first loved us.

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  7. And in answer to your question, it is only possible to repent if He has chosen you, called you to Himself. Without Him, we can do nothing.

    To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been *chosen* according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be *obedient* to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood. ~1 Peter 1:1-2

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    1. Robin, the predestination you're supporting with this comment is not Biblically sustainable. I won't spout a bunch of cherry-picked Scripture at you, since I know you're able to run a Google search yourself, but I will ask you this:

      For predestination to be true, it would mean that God deliberately created some human beings to exist for all eternity in hell. Good luck following Christ's Great Commission to spread the Gospel when you're telling people that some of them have been created to never be heirs to that Kingdom.

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    2. I'm not going to cherry pick scripture either, because obviously anyone can find verses to try and prove their side, but either you believe in Election or not. This is part of God that nobody can understand, how election and free will work together. You are correct, God did not choose everyone, and not everyone will follow him by exercising their free will. This is a hard fact to swallow, but it is Truth. God chose "his bride" to give to His Son. This "bride" is not the entire universe.

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    3. I agree with you that not everyone will follow God by exercising their own free will, and that *is* a hard fact to swallow. However, free will and election as Calvinists teach it can *not* exist together.
      The concept of election as you put forth was denied by the Church since the earliest days, though some theological powerhouses like Aquinas have helped us understand a sort of predestination in terms of God existing outside of space and time and being able to see the full trajectory of a human life from the moment of its creation. However, note carefully, that God *observes* the trajectory, He does not *determine* it.
      And I agree with you also in that "the Bride" is not the entire universe. "The Bride" is humanity- as a whole, and specifically- that Christ came to die for.

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    4. Nowhere in my understanding does God just observe. He is creator, He is the Almighty, and everything is in His control. To take that away from Him, makes Him smaller than He is.

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    5. Then you don't believe in free will.

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    6. "To take that away from Him makes Him smaller than He is."' I disagree. To dismiss free will is to make us marionettes in God's hands. That we definitely are not.

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  8. Thank you so much for this witness. Thank you, and God bless you guys.

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  9. Robin - you are absolutely right. And just imagine: the capacity of our love is not even a minute fraction of the way that He loves, and especially, how much He loves us. And that is not to say that our love of others is meaningless or unimportant, or that the deepest love we have ever felt doesn't count, but that the ability of loving that we have pales in comparison to His - in the best way possible. Brava, Dwija - thank you for your eloquent thoughts and powerful experience.

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  10. You are the most beautiful person and writer. I love you when your writing makes me wet my pants from laughing (darn those 5 vaginal deliveries!) and I love you when you "place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent." (Thomas Jefferson) Thank you for this!

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  11. Following the Holy Father, I see!! We always laugh that our family is converting the world, one marriage at a time. My sister's husband was not Catholic and converted after he married my sister. My brother-in-law's wife was not Catholic and converted after their marriage. My step-sister converted after she met and was engaged to a Catholic man. My step-father converted after he married my Mom. And all because we all loved them and welcomed them into our family first. My step-sister initially looked into becoming Catholic mostly because she said she wanted to be fully part of what we all had as a family, and in planning her wedding, wanted the Catholic marriage, and the celebration of sacraments for her future children. I loved that.

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  12. I cannot say enough how much I love this and needed to hear this today. Thank you.

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  13. Beautiful and so, so true.
    Thank you!

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  14. Such a beautiful reflection...I loved what you said about focusing more on the rules of it all, definitely the way I used to focus...but you are right; the love comes first, not all the rules! Very similar to what Pope Francis is saying lately too...

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  15. I apologize for debating theology on your post. It was a lovely post and certainly talking about being chosen on any site can stir up debate. Thank you for sharing your heart!

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  16. I hope I can be the parent your inlaws were!

    My parents watched 3 of their 6 children may non catholics and my mom went into St. Monica mode and 2 have since converted. It is amazing what the power of love and prayer can do.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this! This is a beautiful time of evangelization in the Church. They'll know us by our love . . .

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  18. It's such a blessing to read this musing/reflection.

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  19. Haha! Very timely, as I just sort of tricked my Dad into attending RCIA last week, and am contemplating how to get him to go back tomorrow!

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  20. Hi there:) I've been meaning to post a comment on how much joy I find in reading your blog, and now I simply have to:)
    First of all, you are just an amazing and beautiful human being. What a gift of love God has placed in your heart, and how blessed we all are that His love pours out of you. Your are a light in darkness.
    What a moving and honest post (as always). This very subject is one that is so close to my heart as my own very awesome husband is struggling so much with his faith (He's a convert and has always struggled a bit) The priests keep telling me to be loving and not critical and not push him. I was slow to catch on to this approach, me being the flawed and pouty person that I am! But I heard the truth in the call to love, and couldn't help but think that me being upset/resentfull that he wasn't the perfectly 1000%-enthusiastic-Catholic spouse I had always dreamed of, wasn't really a great way to show him what it really meant to be Catholic. So, now that I am giving into what God has called me to do, and loving my spouse (WOW Took me long enough to honor my wedding vows!) things are much better. For us as a couple and our four young children. I have seen that in the past year, being loving and understanding instead of pushing and critical has brought many amazing fruits. Love, and more love. I want to show him so much love that he has to wonder where it all comes from... and come back to the source of Love Himself. Your amazing post just really spoke so purely to the truth of Christ's message, and His calling for us: To love each other as He loved us. Thank you so much.
    Melita in Oregon~

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  21. The Holy Spirit must have inspired you to write this. I am struggling in a very big area of my life and without going into the details, it is as if you wrote the answer for me. Thank you so very much. I can't express how grateful I am.

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  22. I read this yesterday, and it has been on my mind and heart ever since. Thank you for sharing all of this!

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  23. This is why I love you so much, Dwija! Thank you for being you... and for sharing yourself with us! God bless you!!!

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  24. Thank you for this. What a conviction it is for those like me who tend to judge others by the quality of their orthodoxy, as if that determined whether they were worthy of my time or not. I didn't even realize I suffered from such a ghetto mentality until I read this beautiful post. Lord, have mercy. I hope someday I can be as full of love as your in-laws were, and see people as people worthy of love first.
    I love your blog for so many reasons, Dweej -- I initially came for the hilarity of it, but love when you have such thoughtful posts like these. God bless you.

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  25. This post helps me understand my teenager, and their relationship with God. I appreciate it!

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