Rooted in Love
How my family and I deal with my transition is not a subject for public discourse. But my post from several weeks ago (All is Calm, All is Bright) has had a lot of page views and comments that go far beyond Cathy’s character and our relationship.
The responses invite me to consider a question. What can we expect from marriage? When we marry, virtually all of us hope our marriage will be fulfilling, but most of us are unaware how much baggage we bring from childhood, including deeply held desires for our partner to heal the wounds of childhood. But that is a tall order to fill and far beyond the capacity of even the most loving spouse. The only one who can heal a childhood wound is the adult child herself. And as many of us know, that process is arduous. All a spouse can do is stand by and offer support.
When I wrote that Cathy would come to me still, I was not referring to a childhood need to be rescued form that dark church hallway. Dealing with that memory is my job. With the post I was talking about the nature of the person I married. Cathy is deeply loving and fully devoted to her family. Though Cathy and I don’t exactly know what to call our relationship any longer, our love for one another remains. Many people never know deep love. They only experience relationships that are profoundly conditional, leaving them with little stability.
Cathy and I both struggle to understand how Christianity, a religion rooted in love, has become so completely a religion rooted in judgment and conditional acceptance. When it comes to our family’s life together, we have chosen to be rooted in the unconditional love Jesus modeled for us.
That kind of love does not have expectations the lover will take on our own struggles. The healthiest marriages are those in which each person attends to his or her own unresolved issues, but the couple works together on the one thing they can control, their relationship.
Cathy and I always encourage couples to see their relationships as an additional entity residing in their home. There is mom and dad and the kids, but there is also the relationship. Give it a name if you like, Hope or Joy or Grace. But give it the attention you give your children. It is the one thing remaining when the children leave home.
From our marriage Cathy and I expected to provide a stable home for our children, a base camp from which we could each climb our own mountains, and a secure environment in which we could grow through the decades. Of course we also expected to do it as husband and wife. When it comes to our current circumstance, there are no rules and little guidance. But wherever our relationship takes us, there is one thing we know. Our love remains.
In his book, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God, Frank Schaeffer writes, “My hope is that a trillionth of a second before the Big Bang, the energy animating the mystery of matter being created out of nothing was love.” I hold the same hope, that from the beginning and all the way to the very end, it is love that makes the world go round.
And so it goes.