On our Domestic Church family retreat this summer, I had an important realization during a morning couple prayer time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. One of the exercises for the couple prayer time was to pray individually for a few minutes about something we needed to forgive our spouses for, and then to turn to them and do it. The week had been unusually stressful for us up to that point, and I had a dozen hurts and irritations with my husband that had been stewing. But as I asked the Holy Spirit to bring to mind something I needed to forgive Michael for, I realized that everything I was upset about were things that came from him simply not having the perfect word, or response, or thought process I had felt I needed in those particular moments. None of my grievances that week had been him being blatantly selfish or ugly or thoughtless towards me.
This is what came out of my mouth, to my surprise: “I think I need to forgive you for…not being Jesus.”
We both giggled. Because it was a weird and unexpected but oh-so-profound thing to say. Then boy did it lead to some deep discussion and honest prayer together.
We married persons have to remember that we didn’t marry Jesus. We didn’t marry people who had already become who God created them to be in every way.
In fact, as a husband or wife we always have essential purpose in our spouse’s life: to be part of God’s plan to continue forming that person into their best selves. Our spouses need our patience. Our persistent, choosing-to-be mature love. They need our mercy. And in some mysterious way, God knew our spouses even needed our own rough edges and weaknesses to challenge them in all the right ways for how they need to grow.
We should challenge our spouses in loving ways to grow in maturity and Godliness. We should communicate our needs and desires. But we can’t fault them over and over and over again when they don’t exhibit the perfection of every virtue and intuition that will only ever be our Lord’s alone.
Who wants to live with a spouse who’s always disappointed in you?
Another powerful part of the couple prayer exercise we did that morning was to ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind something we needed to apologize to our spouse for.
I knew I had to say it. I didn’t want to say it. I wanted to pick part every situation of the week (of the month, of our entire marriage!) until I found the times when Michael had truly been in the wrong. But I said what needed to be said just then, maybe more for me than for him:
“Please forgive me for being so critical of you.”
Our spouses need us to not be so sensitive that they can never do right unless they perform in perfect sync with whatever complicated mixture of stress and personal faults and expectations and emotions we happen to bring to the table at that time.
Mercy. Communication. Understanding. Persistence. Prayer. Trusting that God grows and heals and is at work in our spouses and in us. That’s the daily call of marriage.
Despite the hard days, there are beautiful times when my marriage brings a deep joy to me. The best is when we have a moment when we feel that deep joy together. When things are going well for a bit and we get a big break after a long time of waiting or struggle. When our kids are completely hilarious. When our kids are sleeping.:) When we are together in one of those treasured moments of quiet, and all in our world seems right and hopeful and unified and wrapped up in the peace of God’s will. Those moments.:)
Aaaaand in case you’re wondering, Michael did tell me he was OK with me publicly posting that he’s not Jesus.:) He’s a keeper.