Friday, April 22, 2011

Punishment? What about Love?

I haven't blogged in quite a while. It isn't that the blog has been abandoned or because I gave it up for Lent, it's just that my Lent ended up being a tad more hectic that I had originally planned. Funny how that works. I had all sorts of plans for my own sacrifices and mortifications for Lent, but starting Ash Wednesday, God clearly laughed at my plans and set His own in motion.

My number one project/ministry has been helping a very good friend of mine who is in a highly abusive marriage. I won't give details, because some readers know her and she isn't quite ready to face the world with her problems yet. She is a wonderful, loving person and an incredible mother. However, she has spent so many years being told the opposite, that she has come to believe it. Like nearly all abusive relationships, she has been on this roller coaster of emotions - when things are great they are great, but when things are bad they are really bad. She has developed her method of coping, which has been to convince herself when things are good, that the bad wasn't really that bad. On Ash Wednesday she called me, in near hysterics, after they had a fight. The things that he said to her, the emotional abuse involved, finally convinced my friend that she needed to seek help. I had been encouraging her for months and months to see a good, Catholic counselor that I knew, and she finally called me for the information to set up her appointment.

From there, it has been an extremely painful, emotional process for both of us. The more details I learn (and I knew quite a bit before) the more horrified I am that someone could actually treat their wife and children so disgustingly. And still, she stays. Still, she questions if things are really that bad. Still, she claims to love him. There are some breaks in the armor, some scales falling from her eyes, but it is a slow and (for me) frustrating process. Here is a woman, so beautiful inside and out, so loving and caring, so willing to give everything that she has for her family and friends, and so horribly abused by the one person who should be willing to give her everything in return.

One of the statements she made to me recently, which just broke a piece of my heart, was that she felt that all these years, all this abuse, was God's punishment to her for some of her decisions and actions from before she was married. Her husband, of course, knows of these actions and continually throws them in her face during arguments, and sometimes just makes snide comments even when they are not arguing.

How can I get her to understand that God is not punishing her, that He loves her? It's such an ingrained, basic part of my faith, that GOD IS LOVE, that I have a hard time understanding anyone not understanding that. Especially today, on this Good Friday, when God gave us everything through his Son. All the love and forgiveness in the entire universe was given to us on this day. The greatest gift, the greatest sacrifice, all for us undeserving people. None of our mistakes matter, none of our past actions matter, because our Lord died on that cross for us. He loves us enough that he was tortured and killed for OUR mistakes. He loves each and every one of us so much so as to have given us everything he had, not only here on earth, but He continues to give us everything from his place in Heaven. All we have to do is trust in Him and He will provide for us. The provisions may not be what we thought we wanted, and they may come in unexpected packages, but through our Lord we are promised to be loved and provided for.

"You are full of weaknesses. Every day you see them more clearly. But don't let them frighten you. He well knows you can't yield more fruit.
Your involuntary falls - those of a child - show your Father God that he must take more care, and your Mother Mary that she must never let you go from her loving hand. Each day, as our Lord picks you up from the ground, take advantage of it, embrace him with all your strength and lay your wearied head on his open breast so that you'll be carried away by the beating of his most loving heart."
- St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way #884