Friday, December 28, 2012
Letting Your Past Catch Up to You (Pre-Cana Post)
People pay more attention to what you do than what you say. How can you tell others to do the right thing, if you haven't always done the right thing yourself? I know I haven't always done what's right. In college, I did ... what college people often do. As a young lawyer in Manhatan, I became a willing inhabitant in Sin City. Now that I am a suburban housewife and loving mother of six, it can be easy to forget that I used to be a totally different person. Except for Facebook.
Social media specializes in reconnecting all the parts of your life and the people who shared them with you. Throughout my life, my social circle has encompassed more types of people than I've lately been willing to admit. People who have given up a homosexual lifestyle for the sake of Christ, and people who continue living a homosexual lifestyle without seeing anything wrong with it. Women who have become lesbians because men have hurt them one time too many, and men whose hearts broke when their wives became lesbian and tried to take away their children. Friends whose marriages have lasted twenty-one years and friends whose marriages didn't make it past the first year. People who have remarried in the Catholic Church, and people who have remarried outside the Catholic Church. Atheists, evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. I have loved many of these people and still love them for different reasons and in different ways.
And then there's me. In my ignorance and my arrogance, I have encouraged people who should have been discouraged, and I have discouraged people who should have been encouraged. To one woman struggling in her marriage, I asked (unhelpfully), "Why don't you just divorce him?" She responded, "Marriage is a sacrament!" I had no idea what she meant, then. Now I do. Now I teach that the sacrament of marriage is a sign of God's eternal love for his people and his church, a sign that love can last forever. What right do I have to teach this? The same right as anyone who has turned their life around, I suppose. The Bible is filled with stories of people who haven't lived perfect lives, such as the adulteress whom Jesus saved from stoning, and St. Paul, who changed from persecuting Christians to spreading Christianity far and wide. My life has changed for the better, and that is worth sharing.
In order to share what I have learned, however, it is important for me to remember who I have been and to integrate who I am with who I used to be. These memories I have been avoiding teach me humility, shame, but most of all compassion and understanding. No matter how you think or what you've done, chances are that I, or someone in my life, have thought or done the same. Recognizing and accepting this will remind me that my job is simply to teach, and never to judge.
Art: Detail from artwork by Marco Escobedo