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.
10 thoughts on “Rooted in Love”
October, 2008 Judge Hegyi handed me the ashes of my 27 year marriage. My transition was more than my spouse could take, so she filed for divorce. I’ve studied those remains extensively and concluded the writers of the traditional marriage vows, “for better or for worse” understood that we all come in with baggage and neither party gets what they expected. Without acceptance and unconditional love, every marriage is doomed.
Both posts are beautiful, Paula, and full of wisdom. I think in every kind of true friendship, we may (knowingly or not) offer healing salves to one another, but it is only we ourselves who can take it and apply it to our own wounds.
(And I only just realized that as I read the story you told in All is Calm, All is Bright, I was picturing a little girl waiting in that side hallway. I still am.)
Well now, that last parenthetical paragraph made me cry…
I love every journey. I feel like it is Super Sole Sunday. Regards Jeri
Good morning Paula. You write “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.”
I’m reading Netty Russell’s ‘Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church’ and thought of what she writes as I read that sentence in your post. Russell says, ‘These churches have also participated in a deformation of the doctrine of sin along with that of salvation, so that even the naming of sin is done in a way that conceals the injustice of our social and ecclesiological systems. The connection between personal and social sin has been “split at the root” so that the church can preach love of neighbor and yet confirm the social status quo that perpetuates oppression.’ (123)
I know that discordance, inherent in much of the current ecclesiology, is something that many grapple with (or even turn away from the church). It sounds as if you and Cathy are pondering that yourselves?
I truly believe yours is a voice to help us out of the state of being ‘split at the root’ and shine light on the complicity that perpetuates oppression, a sin Jesus spoke out against quite boldly.
I know the post was about marriage, but wanted to share these thoughts as I believe your work is so important. I’m so very glad for you to have Cathy by your side in all of this. She sounds amazing. And every bit as brave as you are. God bless and keep you both.
Jennifer, it sounds like Russell has pretty well described the American church. I have finding many fellow travelers in the OPEN movement that is an initiative of the Convergence movement. There are a lot of progressive Evangelicals who share similar concerns to yours and mine.
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Great post! Love remains ❤️
So pleased that you and Cathy still have a profound love for each other and a most unique marriage at this point. This confirms my belief that there is tremendous amounts of grace available to all of us all the time. It is wonderful that you are accepting the grace and thriving in it. Keep up the good work and let the love keep growing.
Loved this post, thank you! Especially the last paragraph. Thanks for sharing.
This quote from your blog is incredibly profound. ‘Though Cathy and I don’t exactly know what to call our relationship any longer, our love for one another remains.’ No relationship can ever be what it started out to be. Only love can make things work in spite of profound changes, and your changes are certainly more profound than most!!