Sunday, May 27, 2012

My wife and the Holy Spirit or Life in the 'Fast' Lane

A few weeks ago, my group at work had an outing. Before we went, I knew it was going to be on a Wednesday, my fast day for the E5 Men. At first, I thought about not going, or giving myself a pass this one time. But I knew that this ‘pass’ would lead to another, then another...etc. etc. And before you know it, this small, tangible sacrifice that I make for my wife and daughters, is down the tubes! Then my wife suggested that I go AND keep my fast.

“It could be a good witness.”, she argued.

So that’s what I did.

Part way through the evening, one of my female co-workers asked me why I was only drinking water. So after having her promise not to laugh, I explained to her that I fast every Wednesday because of the E5 Men. I explained it was based on Ephesians 5:25, where St. Paul tells men to love their wives 'as Christ loved the church, handing himself over for her.' and that even though the E5 fast is only for the first Wednesday of the month, I fast every Wednesday of the month. One for my wife, one for each of my daughters and one for all the women exploited in pornography or working in strip clubs because I had contributed to those things a lot when I was younger.

She replied, “But it’s their choice.”

I pointed out that many of the women are addicted to drugs or have been abused, therefore, it's not much of a choice. She said that she had some friends who did it and that they didn’t mind it. The money is good and they enjoy it.

“Well then”, I said, “I guess I just do it for the damage I did.”

Later she asked, “So are you Christian?”

“Yes, I’m Catholic.” I answered.

“Like, REALLY Catholic?” she said.

“Well, yes, I follow the teachings of the Church.” I replied.

Her next question was interesting. Although I didn’t know how truly interesting until I told my wife about the conversation later.

She asked, “How does your wife feel about that?”

Later, my wife would wonder (aloud) what part of my following Catholic teaching she should find most offensive. Was it the part where I don’t expect her to pump chemicals into herself and alter her reproductive system so that she can be available to satisfy me sexually whenever I want? Or the part where I don’t have a collection of pornography or spend our family budget on exotic dancers and strip clubs? Or maybe that pesky thing about thinking it is my vocation to give myself to her totally and freely like Christ did for his bride, the church?

When my co-worker asked, I had simply responded that it was my wife who actually brought me back to the faith.

I’m not sure what my co-worker was getting at with the question. She’s a really nice person, so my guess would be that she wasn’t really ‘getting at’ anything. As we came into May, however, when we celebrate the mothers in our lives, the conversation pulled my focus toward the way that meeting my wife truly saved me.

Before I met Kimberly, I had been on a faith journey that meandered through ‘graduating’ from Catholicism after my Confirmation, moving on to Atheism, Agnosticism, studying Buddhist meditation and then just figuring it was enough to be a ‘good person’.

Eventually, I felt God calling me back, but I just hadn’t recognized it yet. I often tell the story of when I was engaged (before I met Kimberly) and my fiancee and I were trying out churches because if I was going to raise children, I wanted to raise them with some kind of faith tradition. She was not interested in a strict Christian structure, so we set out to compromise. Our search ended when we walked into a Unitarian Universalist church and I heard a wonderful rendition of one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns, sung by a man, in a dress. This was not the place for me. I mean, I could compromise, but...

Eventually, I broke off the engagement because I just knew she wasn’t the one. I soon resigned myself to the idea that I may always be the 'cool bachelor uncle' having no idea the incredible blessings that God had in store for me.

When I met Kimberly, she was going to Mass with her parents and I was not going to church at all. One weekend, her parents were out of town and I said I would go with her. “One time”, I said, “past that, I’m not promising anything.”

But as soon as I walked through those doors, I was home. I felt like the prodigal son with my Heavenly Father running out to greet me. I looked at the inside of the church and (even though I know He’s everywhere) I thought, “God lives here.”

From then on I went to Mass every week with Kimberly and her family. The next spring, Kimberly and I went through the ‘Coming Home to Catholicism’ program at our parish and reconnected with our faith only as an adult with full understanding could. I asked her to marry me on Palm Sunday (because I couldn’t wait until Easter), and we were married by the end of that year. We had started on a faith journey that God had planned for both of us before we even knew each other. And that journey continued. Through the years (only eight years, mind you) that we have been together we have worked with other Catholics returning to the faith. We learned about Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and began teaching it to teens in our confirmation program. We learned about Natural Family Planning and the church’s teaching on artificial contraception to find that it is actually an incredible and beautiful truth that they are trying to preserve and not a secret ploy to have more Catholics. Most importantly, I have grown immeasurably in my relationship with God. Our life has not been perfect, but I cannot imagine going through tough times without my wife and my faith to pull me through.

I felt a slight calling years before I even met Kimberly and when I met her and let God begin to fulfill His plan for me, I was led to (and I quote myself from an early blog post) “Bounty! Beyond! Belief!”

I’m sure it is no accident that I am writing this on the celebration of Pentecost, when Jesus imbued the apostles with the Holy Spirit. Without a doubt, Kimberly, our meeting, and our faith journey has been proof of the Holy Spirit working in my life. I could never have imagined having the life I have right now. Not because our life is perfect, but because I have an incredible wife who loves me and I have two of the most beautiful little girls who recognize Mary instead of Lady Gaga, sing hymns instead of Beyonce songs, and have conversations like this:

Big sister: Did you know that Jesus is everywhere?
Little sister: Yeah
Big sister: Isn’t he the best?
Little sister: Yeah

Jesus said to bring the children to him, and my wife does that for our family, bringing the girls to daily Mass a few times a week and teaching them about our faith at home. We were at a homeschooling conference recently (my oldest daughter is going to be four so we’re getting a feel for how homeschooling works) and my wife reminded me that when we first met and I mentioned homeschooling, she thought I was kind of crazy. Now she’s getting ready to do it and actually hoping we get the chance.

So in this month when we celebrate mothers and the power of the Holy Spirit, I apologize if it sounds like I am gushing. But truly, if the Holy Spirit is the force of God’s love in the world, bringing everyone toward Jesus and salvation, then I am totally comfortable saying that my wife is the Holy Spirit at work in our family.

A long time ago I was in the break room at work and I heard a young guy say that he would never be with a girl who wanted him to change. He left the room and me and the other guy there looked at each other.

“My wife saved my life.”, he said. “If I hadn’t changed for her, I’d probably be dead now.”

“I know”, I replied. “Why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t inspire you to be a better man?”

And we both shook our heads.

Thank you, Kimberly, for saving me every day, and for inspiring me to live up to my true vocation.

God bless,