This August, my bride and I will have been married 25 years. At this point, you’d think we would understand each other, or at least give one another the benefit of the doubt. But we don’t. Most of the conflict in our marriage turns on the same little things that derailed us a quarter century ago. Our insecurities, assumptions and coping mechanisms are the same—and so our frustrations are also the same.
After 25 years, I wonder why she doesn’t get me, but I rarely apply that standard to myself. I inflict, then apologize for, the same little wounds, to the point now that most of the time, Jodi doesn’t realize what I’m apologizing for. She seems to take nothing personally (thank you, Jesus!), but that doesn’t make it right.
Like so many people, I go to Confession with the same list of sins. I did so a week ago, and the priest reminded me that most of us struggle with the same virtues and sins our entire lives. He also said the further we progress spiritually, the less we can depend on our own abilities and actions, and the more we must depend on God.
It makes sense, when you think about it: Early in my “sin life,” I was engaged in conscious choices and behaviors that needed to be rooted out. I needed to change my life. Of course, it was God’s initiative that inspired the desire to change, and I could not have changed a thing without His grace and mercy. But I had some heavy lifting to do, and through the first decade our so of our marriage, I did it.
Now—praise God!—I am living largely in conformity with the Commandments. But although Jesus did not change the Law, He did deepen it. The Lord calls us beyond the right behaviors to the right motives, from head to heart, from fear to freedom. He wants us to love one another sacrificially, not selfishly, out of reverence, not obligation. Freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.
We are not equipped to do that on our own. As Catholic speaker Christopher West says, “Go ahead, try real hard. … ‘Love your enemies?’ … I have a hard enough time loving my friends!”
So when we reach the point of resignation—when we realize that we are the same as yesterday, that we are weak and cannot fix ourselves—it is essential that we turn to Jesus, His Church and the sacraments. This is our unfailing strength—because for God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).