Happy Easter! This Friday of Easter Week I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.
During these last 50+ days of blogging my reflections on Scott Hahn’s book, I would occasional read an entry that would stop me in my tracks, making me wonder what I had committed to. These were the entries that would really challenge me, forcing me to look deep inside myself, focus on my flaws, and risk an admission I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Today is one of those.
I thought I dodged the bullet yesterday. In fact, I sorta jumped the gun with yesterday’s reflection. When I read yesterday’s entry in Scott’s book, I began to sweat, thinking it was one of those days that would require a frank reflection. But then—epiphany!—I escaped relatively unscathed with the evasive Shrek defense.
”Onions have layers. Ogres have layers! Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.”
I escaped! Or so I thought. Until today, when I read the reading.
You see, I’m not the best husband. I know it. My beautiful wife knows it. I’m sure my kids even know it. And while I know it, I don’t want to be confronted with that fact. Which makes today’s reflection all that much more difficult.
Twenty-three years, three months and six days ago, my bride and I exchanged our vows, entered into the Sacrament of Marriage and uttered those fateful words, “I do.” On that day, I ceased being me and—joining with my bride—became us.
Unfortunately, my behavior, choices and actions have not always reflected this unity of person. I did not immediately cease acting as an individual. At times (too often) I have been selfish. And my selfishness has hurt my wife.
Scott Hahn reflects that Christ’s love for the Church is the model we should look to in marriage:
“Just as God’s Fatherhood is the perfect reality that human fatherhood portrayed, through imperfectly, so the marriage of Christ and the Church is the perfect reality portrayed by human marriage.”
It’s not an original thought. Paul said as much in his letter to the Ephesians:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. Eph. 5:25-28.
Wow! Tough standard to live up to! How can I give myself so completely to my wife to the degree and in the quality that Christ gives of Himself?!
When I stand at the foot of this Mt. Everest, ill-equipped for the climb, I even ask myself: “Why even try?”
And then I remember two things:
Because she is worth it.
Progress, not perfection.
She is definitely worth the effort of drawing closer, of growing and maturing in our relationship. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, she makes me want to be a better man.
And I have to remember that, while the peak of Mt. Everest is still so far above me, and still appears unreachable, if I am to be honest with myself I also have to look back and realize that I have advanced up the slope. I may not be perfect yet, but I’ve made progress. To steal from Philip Morris, I’ve come a long way, baby!
Not that I deserve a pat on the back. I’m not sure I deserve a kick in the butt, either. But I have to keep my eye on the model that Christ gives me in His love for the Church.
Sometimes bronze seems so shiny until it is placed next to well-polished gold. Sometimes a flashlight seems to be bright until it is brought into the sunlight. And sometimes, my relationships seem to be perfect until contrasted with the perfection of God’s love. When confronted with this contrast, I need to see it as a reminder of what can be, not as a criticism of what is not yet, and use it as motivation to keep striving.