Why I Started with Mercy and Grace

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my last post. I started to reply to them all individually via email or in the comments, but realized I couldn't keep up. I also felt myself starting to want to react rather than reflect and respond on the comments and as I saw a pattern appearing, I also thought it might be better to just respond in a new post.

One post was never going to say all that could or needed to be said about all of this. I had to start somewhere and then move forward from there. I chose to start with mercy and grace because that is what is getting me through. Not because anything is resolved, but rather because they are what I cling to as I walk this road. Your comments helped me to know where I needed to go next, or rather what I needed to expand upon first before continuing. I also want to especially thank those of you who commented with your name and/or blog name. It helps me to read your comment in light of the relationship that we have built and I am grateful for that.

I also want to make one thing clear that I did not state in the last post - I am no longer working in marriage and family ministry. I resigned my position, as it is clear that I have not adhered to the teachings of the Catholic Church as they relate to marriage and family.

As I move forward I want to restate as clearly as possible that I do not uphold my actions as right or as an example to be followed. They have resulted in much pain for many people. If anything, I hope they serve as a catalyst for you to reach out if your marriage is struggling or if there are issues you aren't addressing. Please, learn from my mistakes. If just one person has an honest conversation with their spouse tonight about a long standing issue and the doors of communication are reopened, then sharing this has been worth it.

That said, I also realize that no answer or explanation I give will be enough for some of you. That is OK. I am also willing to answer specific questions - if it is a question I do not want to answer publicly, for the most part I am willing to do so in other ways. There are parts of this story that will not go on this blog, just as there are parts of each blogger's life that are not published.

Which leads me to the first 'theme', if you will, that I want to write more about is compassion or consideration for C in writing. I do not make any excuse for my wrong actions of infidelity, nor do I blame C for it. I take responsibility and admit it. I have voluntarily placed the red "A" on my chest. I do not say that in seeking compassion or as a talisman, rather to underscore that it is my sins that I have shared here and that I have called them what they are - sins. I will say that my infidelity did not happen in a vacuum of a happy marriage. Both C and I made a lot of wrong decisions over the course of our relationship (6 years dating, 10 married). Looking back (hindsight is a bittersweet gift), I can see clearly times and places where different roads should have been chosen, counseling should have been sought, and clear, distinct changes should have been made - on both of our parts. Those things didn't happen and led to a failure of our marriage. It wasn't just one thing. It wasn't just one thing recently. It was a lot of things, over a lot of years, dating back to our days of dating. Sharing my sins, admitting my failures is one thing - to share C's is another and is not something I will do in this space.

Which then leads me to the question of divorce and annulment. Part of my prayer and discernment these past few months was if there were grounds for an annulment. The answer I arrived at was 'yes' there are grounds. The process of filing for a decree of nullity is that one must first have a civil divorce decree. That part has been completed, and so now I will move on to the next part. I realize that there are no guarantees, nor do I presume to assume as such. I do think there are grounds, and quite honestly, coming to that conclusion was one that helped me to perhaps understand just why it was my marriage was failing. If the bond of matrimony was never there, then perhaps it gave some insight as to why. What these reasons are again, I will not share in this space. I will say that it has been a point of many conversations between myself and my spiritual director and is not something that was for a single moment considered lightly.

Next, I want to address the concerns that I spoke of grace and mercy while still in an ongoing, sinful situation. If grace and mercy were only available to us when we were perfectly free of sin, we would all be in a lot of trouble. I do not speak of these things piously or as if it is all roses and sunshine. It was never my intention to do so, and I apologize if it came across as such. This mercy and grace that I speak of, and that I have experienced these past months, has been gut-wrenching to experience and will be the topic of many more posts, unpacking what this experience has been and what it means to offer and receive grace and mercy.

Connecting to this is the topic of living in sin and not receiving Eucharist. For a lot of reasons, R and I have chosen to live together and are considering marrying civilly before the baby is born. Again, I do not hold this up as the morally right choice. It is because I know it is morally wrong, that I abstain from receiving Eucharist. Lots of reasons have gone into this decision, to some of you, I'm sure they would only sound like justification for sin. I do not justify it. I do not fully approve of it. That it separates me from the Eucharist brings much sorrow to my heart and soul. My prior actions and decisions have led me to a place where there is not a good decision to be made, and so I chose the one that is best for this child. To be raised by both of his/her parents. I am a child of divorce, I know what it's like to have 'mom's house' and 'dad's house' and, no matter how 'good' the situation, it is still not as good for the child as being raised by his or her parents in a loving home. And so, I choose to put my child's well being ahead of my own. I do not do this as an act of martyrdom or to gain accolades, I do it because it is what is best for this child - to be raised by both of his or her parents from day one.

Though, to say that I am cut off from all grace and all mercy because of this is, quite frankly, wrong. Yes, the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith; yes, it is where heaven meets earth and gives us strength for this earthly life. I hold and believe all of that to be true. It is because of this belief and the sinful state surrounding me that I abstain from receiving. I still attend Confession, though absolution is not possible, I still confess and am sorrowful for my sins. The day that I am not sorrowful for the sin in my life is a day that scares me to death, because it is this sorrow that helps me to know that I have not turned away from God completely. It is when it is time for Communion at Daily Mass and I stay in my pew that I know without a doubt I am making the 100% right decision and that it is my opportunity daily to say to God "I love you. I know I have screwed up. I know there is sin in my life. I am sorry for that. I still love you. I am here. I have hope. Have mercy on me." That is my prayer. It is my only hope. I feel most close to the woman in Matthew 15:27-28:
She said "please Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."
As I sit in my pew, I am begging Jesus, at his throne of grace, for the scraps of those who are worthy to receive. I cling to and place all of my hope in His mercy. That somehow, someway should I die while still in this state, I would have enough grace to turn towards Him; to choose the good. It is why I never for a single second want to become fully comfortable with this sin. I want to always be able to call it what it is and to feel the sorrow I feel over it. Yes, some may say I am obstinate or persistent in my sin. I am also persistent in my sorrow and long for the day that I am able to correct it. My prayer is that my faith in His mercy is great enough. To those of you who commented on this theme out of genuine concern for my soul. I thank you for that concern and am more grateful than I can say for any prayers said on behalf of my soul as I cling to the hope in His mercy. While sacramental grace is not available to me now, it does not mean that ordinary grace is withheld.

There were also quite a few comments surrounding the baby. Some of congratulations, some of acknowledging the good of a new life while withholding congratulations, some suggesting I was so desperate for a baby I did anything possible to have one, and some stating, essentially, that the sins of the parents would be passed on to this child. Regarding congratulations or not - I actually find myself in a place of tension regarding this. I want to acknowledge the life that is entrusted to me, the gift that it is and give thanks for it, but at the same time I do not want to in any way pretend that the circumstances surrounding his/her conception were not sinful. So, whether you are comfortable saying congratulations or not, I understand and I agree. I do not reject the congratulations, I thank you for them, as they are a reminder to me that in the midst of all of this is a new life to be loved and raise to know and love God. To those who do not offer congratulations, I also thank you, because they remind me to be sorrowful over the circumstances surrounding the conception of this child.

Regarding whether or not I was so desperate for a baby I went out and found another man. You may choose to believe or not, but I can tell you this was not a part of my thought process. Not at all. I can also tell you that no matter how it appears that I got what I wanted, I can assure you this is one of my biggest struggles - to not scream and yell when someone tries to say to me "it was God's will" or anything along these lines in order to explain why this baby was conceived when she or he was. Obviously it was permitted by God, but to say it was His active will for my life would mean that He willed mortal sin for my life. We know that not to be the case. While yes, I desired and prayed for motherhood, it was certainly not ever, not for a single second, in this manner. Some day I will have to look this child in the eyes and answer questions and explain why and that is a day I do not look forward to. I do not expect sympathy for this, only prayers that I find the right words when the time comes.

And finally, to suggest that the sins of R and myself are being passed on to this baby. Again, that is flat out wrong. In both the old and new testaments (Ezekiel 18:20 and John 9:3) we are assured that the sins of the parents are NOT passed on to the child. And, let's just say for a single second that it were even kind of true (which it is NOT), we also believe that baptism wipes away all sin and it is our full intention to have this child baptized before she or he is a month old. To those who will hold the child's manner of conception against him or her, well, the sin lies with that person, not this child. My sins are my own and my child is not punished in the eyes of God for it, therefore I submit she or he should not be punished in the eyes of man for it either.

Finally, the topics of justice, penance, pain, confusion and whether or not I was writing too soon (or should be writing at all) came up. If I were holding up my sin as a model, then yes I would agree, I should not be writing. And, if anything I say brings temptation to someone to follow in these choices, I strongly encourage you to seek out a good spiritual director and confessor. I am writing because this is my road, my journey. I have always written for this reason. I am grateful for those who choose to walk along with me - even those who do not always agree, as I said above, I'm grateful for the reminder to be uncomfortable in my own sin. I also chose to write this because I thought this could never happen to me. I thought because I said I wouldn't get divorced, I wouldn't and I wouldn't have to work at marriage. I thought that issues and difficulties could just be swept under the rug, because 'hey, I'm married, it's ok, that's enough.' And so, if one person reading this has a conversation they've been avoiding with their spouse and that couple is able to heal a wound before it becomes too big, then somehow God has turned my mess into something good and only He is able to do that.

Also, it would have been very easy to just walk away from the Church all together. To get comfortable in my sin and to just disappear from all circles of faith. From some of the comments on my last post, I understand why some people do that. Yet, it is my faith - both of my head and heart - that helps me to know better. To know that to walk away is not the answer. No matter how easy it would have been, to do so would have been to choose eternal death. I choose life and so I accept the consequences for my actions and I fling myself at His mercy.

Many of you expressed that I was confused. Yes, there were days I was very confused, it's why I kept seeking spiritual direction. I am not confused. I am in a place of great tension, and it is my Catholic faith that gives me some peace in this tension. There is sin and sorrow, yes. There is also joy and new life. It would be very easy to only talk of the sin and to beat myself up for the rest of my life. It would also be very easy to only talk of the joy and to ignore the sin. I will not succomb to either extreme, I will rest in the tension. This tension may seem like confusion, but I am clear on what my sins are and the consequences for them. I am also confident of my sorrow and have hope in mercy.

The topics of justice, penance, and pain are all topics that I will be writing about. I started with mercy and grace, not because I think I'm done or because it has all been resolved, but because that is what is carrying me through. I place all of my hope on His mercy.
"Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." ~Hebrews 4:16
Edited to add: Comments are off and hidden on this post. Please feel free to email me if you'd like.


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.