3.26.2015

Mercy and Grace



The story of the last few months is what I want to tell you all. Wait, let me start again.

The story of the last few months is one I don't want to tell anyone. No, that's not it either.

The story of the last few months is one I will tell, to bring glory to God and to hopefully remind one other person that she (or he) is not alone.

It is a story of sin. A story of brokenness. A story of failure. A story of pain. A story of pride.

It is also a story of mercy. A story of love. A story of the beginnings of healing. A story of strength. A story of humility. A story of grace.

Before I begin, I want to say a few things and to ask, if I may, a few things of you, who is reading this:

1 - For some of you, many of you, to read here will be painful over the next few posts, possibly forever. I understand. You owe me nothing. If you have ever read a word here, you are a gift to me and my prayers are with you forever. If you continue to read, to walk with me, you are giving me a gift that I know, beyond telling, that I do not deserve.

2 - Some of you will be hurt that you are reading such a story here, on the internet instead of in a personal email or a phone call. For that, I am sorry. If an explanation helps, the weight of what I will be writing is heavy. Each writing or speaking of it, I feel the weight and this is, in some sense, an easier way out. That said, I'm more than happy to email, text, or talk to anyone who would like to know more, please feel welcome to reach out.

3 - While most of the story will be put here, there are parts that won't be. This is not an attempt to lie or mislead, rather is an attempt to be respectful of the privacy of those involved. To not cause more damage than has already been caused.

4 - I will turn anonymous comments back on, so long as comments remain, as they have always been in this space, respectful. You don't have to agree with me. You don't have to like what you read. You are welcome to comment honestly. All I ask is that you remember that these words on this screen are the real experiences of real people, with real feelings, real faces, and all else that makes us human. (Just FYI: The anonymous comments were only off because of spam.)

5 - Some of this will seem very 'matter-of-fact' and cold. I do not intend it that way. The 'what' needs to be said so that the 'hows' and 'whys' and all the other processing can make sense.

6 - Fr. D., who has walked with me over the past 2 1/2 years, continues to walk with me. It is largely because of him that I have come to understand mercy and grace in such a new way. He has never once condoned sin and has without fail shown me unconditional love. He has shown me unconditional love and has stood in persona Christi before me in a way I know I do not deserve. He has never counseled me to act contrary to the Church's teachings, has admonished me appropriately when I have, and has loved me through it all.

And so, with shaking hands and tears on my cheeks, I will begin. I have no idea how many parts this catching up will be or if it will be one really long dump of information. I guess we'll see what happens.

mercy - compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm

grace - the free and unmerited favor of God

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. ~Ephesians 2:4-8 
Chronicled in this space has been my entire reversion experience to the Catholic faith, the faith in which I was raised and the faith on which I depend entirely. Also, here, is the story of the infertility of myself and The Man, C. Part of that story has included the struggles and trials that infertility placed on our marriage. There has also been much else that has gone on behind the scenes. Our marriage has struggled in ways not written here, and the details are not necessarily important, at least not to put publicly on a blog.

What is important is where things are now: In November, after a couple of intense months, C and I separated and earlier this month civilly divorced. I will be seeking a decree of nullity.

To even be writing those words, publicly admitting failure at marriage, when I have worked in marriage ministry for the better part of the last 4 years. A part of me wants to just delete all that I've written and let you all think I just skipped off into life without a blog. Oh pride. How prideful a human being I have been.

Prideful that because I decided I wouldn't get divorced, that meant I wouldn't need to work hard daily to prevent it. That because I preached marriage daily, I was immune to divorce. Pride that I ignored warning signs and those who tried to tell us differently and didn't question things over the years when my gut said to question them, allowing for hurt to both of us. Pride that I could walk a tightrope and not fall. So. much. pride.

I have never viewed the internet as the proper place in which to air the dirty laundry of a marriage. As above, we are real people with real feelings. I will not use this place to bash C, to air the dirty laundry of our marriage. I will say that it takes two people to make or break a marriage and that I claim my responsibility in this. I am not innocent. I am not a victim. There is no joy over the ending of our marriage, nor over the pain that I have caused.

Part of the pain I caused, in these recent months, has been being unfaithful to my marriage vows. At first emotionally and then physically. A man, R, entered my life about two years ago and we became fast friends. We have remained good friends and have supported one another in our ministries and in our vocations. A little more than a year ago, I realized I was starting to care for him much more than as a friend, but just tried to ignore it. Set on being a good friend to him and that was it. Unknown to me at the time was that he was having the same struggle. Add in the struggles in my own marriage (far beyond infertility, but it is included), and it was leading up to perfect storm that I didn't see coming. Looking back, oh hindsight, so beautiful, I see it coming clearly.

In late September of this year, R and I both realized that the feelings we were having for one another were reciprocated. To say that it surprised us both would be an understatement. So much that we both went straight to confession and I told C exactly what was going on. And in doing so, I pulled the string that ultimately unraveled our marriage. The problems of our marriage all came onto the table - not in a dragging up old stuff way, but in a we'd never really dealt with this all way. C and I both were reeling and fighting to hold on and we couldn't hear one another. We each thought we were telling the other exactly what was needed, and perhaps we were, but for one reason or another I was not able to give C what he needed and vice versa. That led to C asking me to move out of our home in late November after I would not give in to a request of his.

As I left that night, aware that I might never go back, my emotions were all over the place. I was relieved to finally have space I needed, scared of what would be coming, sorrowful over the hurt that had led to it and that was to come, and so aware that in no solution to this problem was there any way to spare myself, C, or R, whom I had come to love deeply, pain. We were all headed for immense pain, immense sorrow, and much struggle. No matter what.

That immense pain has come - in the form of broken vows, broken vocations, and physical pain. It has come in realizing that I must abstain from receiving Eucharist, In realizing that I have failed to live up to that which I believe in; that which I continue to believe in. And yet, somehow, in ways I will never fully know, the grace of God has continued. It has remained. The necklace I wear daily reminds me: by grace alone.

Romans 5:20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,

And so, despite the sin. Despite all the bad. I find myself experiencing joy in a way that I had just started to accept was never going to happen, in motherhood. Yes, you read that correctly. I am pregnant. Somehow, there is life growing within me. An eternal soul has been placed in my care.

And my dear friends, I realize what reading those words is doing to some of you - the devastation, the anger, the rage, the hurt, the sorrow. I know what they would have been doing to me had I read them just 6 months ago. My thoughts would have been, and honestly in the last 4 years have things like this:

Really God? She has an affair and you let her get pregnant? I'm married, following your laws and I don't get a baby? Really?

How could anyone do such a thing? Don't you respect your own vows? Your husband?

God, do you not see me? Am I invisible here? Hello?!?!

She is such a hypocrite. Preaching marriage, pretending to believe it all, pretending to support those who are carrying the cross of infertility.

Wow, I trusted her! I thought we were friends. I don't know her at all. I can't believe this.

And more. So much more. Most of which would have been full of expletives and anger. So much anger. I don't blame you for a single one of those thoughts, have them, please. Email them to me if you want, put them in the comments. They are real. They are not things I've not said in my own head and have thought the same or worse about others.

It is in this I am realizing what mercy really looks like. What it really means to forgive and offer compassion, to suffer with. I would have been unmerciful to someone in my situation, and I know there are people in my life who have withheld telling me things like this because of how they knew I would react.

I cannot tell you the sorrow that brings to my heart. The sorrow I have over my pridefulness. The words of Mary's Magnificat, how they sting with truth:
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
And, at the same time, I find myself clinging to these words:
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
I am being cast down from my throne daily; shown daily how prideful I am and I am resting all of my hope in his mercy. I have realized how undeserving of His grace and His mercy I am, and I have come to realize that His suffering on the cross was directly a result of the sins I have committed. My sorrow goes beyond words. My understanding of my need for a Savior and of the cost has grown in ways I could never have imagined. I am humbled. I am broken. And I am ever aware that only He can fill me.

Somehow amid all of this darkness, there is life. If I was ever going to learn that life is a gift bestowed upon us by God, it is perhaps in this way. For years I tried to earn it, tried to make myself spiritual enough for it, tried desperately to find Him in my suffering so that He would make me a mother in reward. I coveted the attention that comes with motherhood, the right to brag and share just how cute a way I announced it, and to proudly proclaim, I followed God's will, the rules of His Church and I was rewarded (I wouldn't have used those words, but certainly that would have been the tone, the underlying message).

I am finally learning that life is a gift. Period. End of story.

We can not earn it. We do not deserve it.

Just as we do not deserve mercy. As I do not deserve mercy. Or compassion. Or grace.

And somehow, someway it is what I have been given, what lies before me.

I am scared to open myself to it.

I find myself having to remind myself I am pregnant, that there is life within me. That before the end of summer, there will hopefully be a child to hold.

I find myself having to remind myself that He loves me, unconditionally and that has never changed, not once in my entire life.

I remind myself daily that Judas' greatest sin wasn't the betrayal of Jesus, but rather His inability to ask for and accept forgiveness; that it was his pride and self-reliance that led him to take his own life, to death. And so, as I sit surrounded by my sinfulness. Surrounded by my failures. Most days in complete disbelief of the gifts He has given me, I am continually reminding myself that His grace is here. His mercy is here. All I can do is open myself up to it and allow the process of healing to happen.

I think that is where I will leave things for now. At the corner of mercy and grace, aware of my dependence upon God. I do not anticipate a long time between posts now, as there is much more to tell, as I continue on this road home.

As I continue to walk this road, I want to be clear that in sharing any of this I do not condone nor hold up as an example any of the sinful choices that I have made. This is my journey as a daughter of God who has sinned and is seeking His mercy and grace. It is my 'road home'.

For those of you who will click away and never return, I understand. I love you and my prayers remain with you.

For those of you who will continue to walk this road with me, I am grateful. I am aware I do not deserve your mercy and I love you. My prayers remain with you.

Edited to add: Comments are off and hidden on this post. Please feel free to email me if you'd like.