(Dominic and Siena (see the heart?), Photo Credit: God)
Did you miss Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3?
Finally, contemplating the cross, I realized how little my pain was in contrast. As much as I had fooled myself into believing I deserved happiness, when I gazed upon Christ crucified, I couldn’t believe I deserved anything less than what I was going through. I also realized my supposed happiness was fleeting. I had happy moments, sure. But I lacked that lasting joy I had previously experienced in life, which sustained me through even the worst suffering. Could Ben really provide that for me? No, only one Person can give that, and it would be unfair to expect it from anyone or anything other than God.
“The light that filled me was overwhelming, blinding, and disorienting.”
It finally occurred to me to confess adultery, just in case I thought—to cover all my bases. So, when I made my confession, Father knew some serious change had taken place (My advice: find one confessor, get to know each other. Anonymity is not always best; Reconciliation is much more fruitful when your confessor has intimate knowledge of your struggles). He asked, “What are you going to do about this situation that has you in adultery.” Crap! I didn’t think this one out I guess. Do I just cut off all contact with Ben? Do we see each other but put some very strict rules on our interaction? Not knowing the answer, I retreated: “Well, Father, I know that God knows that I’m not really married.” To this he replied, “Sarah, are you Catholic or Protestant? And do you realize that you are not only endangering yourself, but you are endangering this man’s soul as well? You are trying to help him see the Truth in Catholicism when you yourself aren’t abiding in that Truth.” This may be putting words in his mouth because I don’t remember exactly what he said, but this is the message I received nonetheless. I obtained absolution, and everything had changed when I walked out of that confessional. The light that filled me was overwhelming, blinding, and disorienting.
Do You Love Me?
“I broke down crying as I wailed Yes! (not safe while driving, but pretty much the only time I’m ever alone)”
My mind raced quicker than my feet racing to my car. All this time, I had been trying to help Ben see the fullness of the Truth, but in reality I’d been hurting his soul and mine, which I had spent so much time praying for. I spent so many hours digging into Catholicism to offer him a Truth that I wasn’t even willing to live out myself. I told Ben plenty about what the Church teaches, but did I actually show him? Every time I started to see the way forward, it petrified me. No, that can’t be the only way. How could I possibly give up such a good man—the loving person who is the reason I’m even here asking myself this to begin with? Then it came, a gentle voice from the very depths of my heart: “Sarah, do you love me?” I replied yes as if that was a ridiculous question for Him to even ask me. Then again, “Sarah, do you love me?” Of course I love you, Lord! “Sarah, do you love me?” I broke down crying as I wailed yes! (not safe while driving, but pretty much the only time I’m ever alone). At first they were tears of grief, realizing what I would be giving up. Then, they were tears of gratitude, realizing the abundance of grace He must have been showering on me in that moment. Then came tears of joy when I saw what, no Who, I was giving it up for. And, at last peace washed over me, seeing that Jesus leads me to an immeasurable happiness, a place you may only arrive at by walking the way of the cross. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The cross is not an option for the Christian life, anymore than it was an option for Jesus to redeem us. It is a requirement. The crosses are coming, there’s no doubt about it, whether we have Christ or not. But with Him, we can do all things. His yoke is easy, and His burden light (Mt 11:28-30). How swiftly I had forgotten how heavy the burden of sin is, and how heavy life weighs on your shoulders without His help. Christ bore the bulk of His cross so we need only be Simons of Cyrene.
“Love ceases to be such when it is elevated beyond our love for God, even if it is for a spouse or a child.”
Then came the difficult part. Knowing that the darkest is before the dawn, I set my eyes on the horizon as I tearfully drafted a letter to best explain myself to Ben. I read this letter to him in his car because I wanted to get everything out there before he could interject, so he wouldn’t misunderstand. I spoke of my need to adhere to Church teaching—not because I felt compelled by an authoritarian dictator, but that it was an act of love I owed to Christ. I explained my trust in His Church as His voice on earth. I looked up to see the pain in his eyes, and through tears I choked telling him that I loved him now more than I ever had before because I was seeking the welfare of his soul and mine. Love ceases to be such when it is elevated beyond our love for God, even if it is for a spouse or a child. As I had feared, he didn’t understand, perhaps because his heart was too wrenched with grief to really think much.
We kept our distance from one another for about a month until one day, I received a phone call. It was Ben, and he told me that he didn’t want to hear any “I told you so’s” from me but he was actually seriously considering Catholicism. He knew how much I loved him and that I wouldn’t give up all that we had for nothing. Without all the complications that our previous relationship had entangled us in, we were able to engage in much more fruitful conversations, sifting out the Truth of Catholicism. We spoke often on the phone and via texting; he was doing all the research and I was just there to answer his questions or clear up any perceived incongruities. It didn’t take long before Ben returned to the Sacraments. Once he did, I knew God would care for him, infusing him with the grace he needed to persevere. It wasn’t long before he enrolled in a Catholic Catechetical Certificate program to learn more about the Faith, which he was (and still is) enthused to share with the rest of the world. The experience of seeing someone I love come to the Truth invigorated me with a fervor to teach the Faith as a career, a dream I had dispelled long ago. I couldn’t find any online undergrad schools that were affordable, and I was just about to give up hope when Ben called me telling me about a program he discovered in his researching Masters programs. He introduced me to the Holy Apostles College online undergrad Theology program, where I am now completing my Bachelors double majoring in Humanities and Theology. Ben is now in the process of discerning the priesthood. He is preparing to join a local team of Catholic missionaries, and we remain good friends encouraging each other on our journeys in furthering the Kingdom of God. God reaches out to us, even when we are deep in the mire of sin, and He offers us an escape route to get back on the right track and start afresh. He is at the door knocking, waiting to dine with you in the Banquet Feast of the Eucharist (Just read John 6 for heaven’s sake!). No matter what you may be undergoing right now, God is there just waiting for you to turn to Him, and He doesn’t even care about anything you’ve done once you have repented. He forgives AND forgets. Best spouse ever!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:53–56).