All That I Have Written Is Straw. . .

Meanderings of a Catholic Devout

What’s So Devastating Anyway?

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I was reading a few sermons by Bishop Fulton Sheen on the subject of the heart, i.e., love.  And his words so eloquently evoke tears from my eyes, as if he knows what I need to say aloud.  It causes me this reflection on my former marriage:

When I got married, I never really considered divorce.  I knew that people did it, but it wasn’t something I felt was an option for myself.  As a Catholic, marriage is a sacrament.  It is a union.  God gives him to me and me to him, body and soul.  “What love unites, let no one divide,” Christ tells us (Matt. 19:6).  I always saw holy matrimony as a fusion of the souls.  How could it be separated?

My cross to carry thus far is that I am attracted to men who lack faith.  There is a kindred spirit between us, with my having converted from atheism.  I take pity, inside, on those who are still seeking.  Not pity on the people, but pity on the quest.   It’s much like always feeling at home when you visit your childhood stomping grounds.  You know where things are, how they should be, how far they’ve come.  And you know when it’s time to leave.  It’s like that with me towards atheism.  I remember the feeling.  I remember vividly what it was like to let loose, to feel no guilt, to seek only what pleased me—how to get ahead for myself.  And then I recall the emptiness within.  I remember the feeling of my own personal conversion and the “unquenchable joy” that I felt.   So I moved out of that neighborhood.  Yet I remain close to my old neighbors.

So was it surprising that I married an agnostic?  I’m such the romantic at heart and so full of hope that I always maintained a belief that my grace would somehow help save his soul.  After all, my soul and his soul were one, were they not?  In fact, I felt like it was my duty, as his wife, to help save our marriage (spiritually and literally).  I can make a good argument, at times, for belief in God, when my wit is sharp.  But faith is ultimately a personal decision.  No one can make it for you.  So I tried to lead by example, even when I succumbed to bad habits, like not going to Mass for a long while.  Could it be that my faith alone would be enough to save us both?  (Cf. James 2:14-26, “Faith without works is dead [20]. . . You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. [24]”)

When A— and I agreed to separate, he was very decided from the get-go that divorce was the only option.  “I only see a very narrow window where this can lead,” he said.  That is what devastated me.  I could concede that my efforts of faith were not working but the point is that I never gave up hope on him.  And then, when it came to our marriage, without much warning, he was proposing a blatant execution.  I begged him that I was willing to try 150% towards salvaging the marriage, but his reply was simple: “I’m not.”   That is when my soul tore in two.  That is when all hope was lost.  He was giving up on me.  And this meant that I had to reluctantly give up hope on him, too.  Half of my soul was withering away.

I don’t know yet whether we violated some law of love by separating.  I may never.  I can only trust in God’s love, for both of us, that our souls were never meant to be fully united.  Marriage takes three:  you, him, and something greater—God.  If all three are not together, all suffer independently.

My faith in God is so deep, I don’t believe I could put up a battle like I did with my ex-husband’s difference of belief.  The man who thinks this battle is pointless, because he shares not the same beliefs, cannot possibly understand the love I have to give.  If the foundation isn’t on the same level, the walls will never remain standing.

Perhaps I am polarized in my opinion of this.  I think the same argument works vice-versa.  Had I been an atheist and my ex-husband been a Christian (or whatever religion), I can only speculate the results would have been the same.  Perhaps I will change my mind.  I gravitate towards atheists and agnostics in my unconscious mind (see above).  I don’t think I am superior to them nor inferior.  But I know now that I am not personally strong enough, no matter how much I believe love will be enough, to wage the battle without losing my soul.  Or at least half of it.

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Written by Written Straw

June 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

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