I got behind in pretty much everything the week before last – blogging and Bible study. I’m still behind, but one of the things I love in the Bible study is: yes, there is a great community to discuss with, but at the same time it was a download so I can pick it up at any time and dig in again. All this to say that I’m technically on Week 2, Day 3 instead of Week 4, Day 1. So in case you thought you were too late to jump in…you aren’t. You can still go for it. Wink, wink.
I actually managed to wake up before my baby the other morning – I curled up on the couch with my books and found the verse for the day: Isaiah 43:1-3. Since that’s an Old Testament verse (obviously) I used the Internets, because I usually use my Ignatius Press study Bible and it’s only New Testament. So, the USCCB website showed me this:
Once I started reading I decided to include verse 4, as well. The study is focused on our marriage vows, and the focus of that week was “For Better, For Worse.” The parts about passing through rivers and walking through fires seemed like it about covered the “For Worse” aspect, and after all that verse 4 seemed especially reassuring.
At first, I wasn’t sure what this verse had to do with marriage vows. I had to stare at it for quite a while. (Lectio Divina for the win…) Then it smacked me in the face and I wondered how I ever could have thought these verses were about anything besides marriage vows. (Holy Spirit for the win…)
See, confession time: I love my husband. I love our marriage. I love our little family and home. But I get scared.
While we were dating, and then engaged, I heard of two different young women. They were my own age, newly married and pregnant, when each faced the sudden loss of her young, healthy husband. We had mutual friends. Now, in fact, I’m in Facebook groups with both of them. Their tragedies were a shock to me, and I felt deeply shaken. The “what ifs” started to become overwhelming, and while we were engaged I carried around a buried terror that something, some horrible thing, was going to steal my beloved and I would never actually get to be married to him. I finally was able to unburden myself to a sweet friend. Her understanding was soothing, and then she gently reminded me that these fears were not from God. They were of the devil, trying to steal my joy.
As she always is, this sweet friend was completely right. The fears subsided. Then, we were newlyweds, and they came rushing back. “It’s too good, I’m too happy, it’s too much. Something will happen to him. I’ll lose him. Or, people are always saying how hard marriage is, maybe we’ll stop being happy.” I was terrified to let him leave the house without me. “If he dies,” I thought, “At least I’ll be there with him.”
This might all sound too overwrought, but in my mind, actually, it was just subtle enough that I took a while to catch myself. The fears grew stronger and I didn’t even see them creeping up to overshadow our happiness.
One day I finally talked to my sweet husband about these fears. We made a plan: anytime one of us had these fears, we would pause and pray a St. Michael prayer together. This would remind us that no matter what, God had a beautiful plan for us. No matter what, He had joy for us.
That worked amazingly well. It was easier to choose to believe in God’s care, easier to choose joy.
Then we had a new baby.
There are few experiences more terrifying than that of being a new mother. The world is so full of dangerous things, and they are all careening directly towards your tiny, precious child. Later on, the dangerous things still careen, but you get used to it in a way, used to your heart stopping suddenly and your breath catching. But at first, it is overwhelming and terrifying in a way for which no one can prepare you.
I said a lot of St. Michael prayers. I learned again to choose joy. My tiny precious child got older, and I didn’t let her get squashed or maimed or lost or seriously injured or anything. We were happy.
Then we lost our little second baby, our Evangeline.
Still, after a while, we were able to find joy. But I started wondering, “What is the breaking point? What loss, what challenge, what hurt becomes too much? When do I stop being able to spot the fears? When do they turn real? What makes us stop being happy together? What makes it too hard to choose joy?”
Though I started out wondering what Isaiah 43 had to do with marriage, what eventually smacked me in the face was that this was the answer to all those questions.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.”
Don’t fear the loss of your husband, your children, your happiness…hard things may come. Painful things may come. But if those things are not happening right now then those things are not God’s plan for me right now and if I worry about them, I am missing my chance to celebrate what He is doing right now.
“You are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you.”
I figure: St. Therese says there are victims souls who offer Christ consolation in His suffering, but there also need to be “victims of Love.” There are people who show God’s faithfulness in times of pain, but surely there also need to be people who show God’s faithfulness through joy.
“I have called you by name, you are Mine.”