If ever I’ve had a week where God was giving me the answer to my question in every possible way it was this week. It ended with a completely new understanding of the verse, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
Every marriage has their ups and downs and if I were to give an accurate assessment of mine currently it would be at the lowest point in our almost 25 years together. It didn’t just arrive there. It has been slowly headed off the path for a while with some poor habits, manipulative behaviors but mostly some faulty beliefs.
In our search for redemption, I’ve found a few pieces of advice I’ve held close to my heart. The first advice came from the beautiful movie, “The War Room.” It was a strong reminder of the power of prayer. When you may not be able to communicate well with your spouse, God is always there and will work in as many ways as possible to keep your love alive. Miracles happen when you pray fervently, with all your heart asking God to help hold this marriage together.
The second advice came from a friend who shared a story she had heard on Catholic Radio….A woman called in frustrated with her relationship with her husband and after speaking of all the wrong things her husband did she asked, “What is it that I should do?” And the response was profound and simple and took all the wind out of her sail when the host of the radio show replied, “Love him more.”
The third bit of knowledge that has held true in every single situation in my life and it is my first go to when things get rough is that God loves me so much that he gave me free will. I have the power to create my own reality through the choices of my perceptions of the gifts at hand. I can view our marital struggles as signs of a defective marriage or I can view them as steps that make me a better wife or necessary conflict that will make the love that binds us even stronger.
What I think about comes about. Whatever I put my energy into gets stronger. And more importantly, the kind of energy I use in my thoughts determines the direction I am facing in my path toward God. The more I am seeing goodness in what is, the easier it is to move closer to God and see his light, but the more I focus on the wrongs and the uglies I turn my back to receiving the glorious gifts waiting for me and I walk toward darkness.
And so I am armed with these valuable and worthy nuggets of gold but instead of asking God for what I want, I end up ranting about my perspective of how bad things are and I can quickly lose faith that things are salvageable. And instead of loving my husband more, the fire in my heart is full of anger. And it gets easier and easier to forget the gold you had in your marriage in the first place and the more and more I think about how bad things are, the worse they get.
Last week I was on my knees asking, “What do I do?” So utterly hopeless I was walking around in tears and here is what God taught me:
On Saturday night, my son in high school asked if I’d watch a movie with him. My high schooler wants to spend time with me? I’m there! The movie was called “Lucy” and through all the gore and shoot em up scenes the theories presented were profound. The more of our brain we use (in the movie the key ingredient was a substance made within a mother when she is newly hosting the creation of her child), the more God like we become – where our understanding of the way the world works takes away all of our fear, our worries and anxiety and yet we can revel in the smells and tastes and touches that bring us joy. In addition the movie depicts our ability to more intentionally control and create the environment around us becomes limitless.
Perhaps one of the reasons why this intrigued me is years ago my anxiety levels were almost crippling. I discovered some audio tapes that were designed to put your brain in a meditative state and re-wiring the connections between the right and the left side to literally create more neural pathways – potentially allowing you to use more of your brain. Within a year of using the tapes for an hour almost daily, my anxieties went from a 9 to a 1 on a scale of 1-10 and of course my spirituality soared as well. I could see the potential of the theories of the movie having truth.
The message God wanted me to hear – Meditate.
On Sunday night I decided to attend a new church. I’m a morning mass kinda girl but this church only offers one mass a week at 5pm Sunday evenings. I’ve had them on my calendar for almost a year to remind me to go and but this evening there was a strong urge to check it out. It was an Ecumenical Catholic Community that believes Jesus would never turn anyone away from his table for eucharist. The prayers that make me cringe in a normal mass, were reworded to express Christ’s love (“Lord I am worthy to receive you because through you I have been healed”). The priest’s homily was after my own heart using my favorite passage noting that when we truly know the love of God, we have no fear. And as if Mother Mary’s mother was guiding my way, I met a woman named Anna who showed me which way to get to the chapel.
The message God wanted me to hear – Do not fear, God is with me and I belong.
On Wednesday afternoon I visited a therapist who told me there was nothing she could do or say to help me. The only power I have is to change my own perception. Dr Alexander Loyd, author of “The Love Code” says the only time we experience pain is when we are believing something that is untrue. And Abraham Hicks says our pain comes from when our belief is different from God’s perspective of the situation or the person. The pain is our signal to turn the other way and find God again.
The message God wanted me to hear – I am believing untruths.
A long time spiritual mentor has hosted a lecture series of theologians and on Thursday night the topic was conversion. I sat in a room of a hundred people listening to Dr. Joseph Mudd from Gonzaga whose talk was titled, “Conversion and Consciousness: Perspectives from Christian Mysticism and Contemporary Neuroscience.” His main points were our levels of consciousness can only be heightened by attending to it – it is an increasing awareness of the wonder of the world around you. The more conscious we are, the more unity we feel with God.
The message God wanted me to hear – Focus on the wonder of the world more including the goodness of my husband.
And Dr Mudd went on to say for someone to have a conversion, they have a radical shift that moves them in the opposite direction. “A conversion is a shift from one end of the horizon to the other and at it’s deepest level is a shift from being loveless to being in love.” Really the act of loving is the desire to be in union with something and to want to know it and become one with it. He mentioned how so often people try to covert others to their way of thinking by offering books, giving sermons, through scare tactics and even force but the most powerful conversion comes through being in love. It’s what Jesus taught us to do. Be in love with one another.
Mudd remarked that if someone came through the desert without experiencing a conversion but had someone walking with them in love the whole way, their consciousness, their awareness of God, their sense of unity would have to be heightened and it would bring more hope to the world.
The message God wanted me to hear – I need a conversion in my marriage and I have the power, as Dr Mudd teased, to “love the hell out of him.”
Dr Mudd continued by describing how the mystics come to know God by being absolutely in love with God first. “Being in love is a distinct kind of being where you are no longer in isolation but your every movement is concerned with your beloved.” Mystics love God more than they know him and through their love, they develop deeper knowledge of him. The mystics visionary experiences that heighten their love, their knowing and ultimately their consciousness, almost always happens while they are in a meditative state and practicing contemplative prayer.
The message God wanted me to hear again – Imagine a marriage where your love is more important than what you know. Love him first with all your heart and pray.
And to bring things full circle, Dr Mudd’s final remarks were the neuroscience shows remarkable evidence that when we are in a meditative state or in contemplative prayer that we utilize more of the frontal lobe of our brains and experience waves of enlightenment, unity with God and unity with others.
Mudd mentioned Thomas Keating a few times in his speech and when I got home I was drawn to pull out a book by Keating called “Awakenings.” The very first chapter was on the verse, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) That verse has always had a doomsday kind of feel to me – one of scorn of my sins and full of worry of threats that I might miss heaven. Its kind of how I have been feeling about my marriage. I’ve made so many mistakes and I am about to miss or lose the greatest opportunity of living on earth as it is in heaven by being in love in a marriage.
Keating reframes the word “repent” for me to mean have a change of heart or a change in perspective. And he goes further to say sometimes all it takes is a conversion in our thinking to experience the kingdom of heaven. God is ever present everywhere whether we seek him or not. The kingdom of heaven can be found where we find God. The kingdom of heaven is everywhere.
The message God wanted me to hear: Heaven is waiting within my marriage and the sooner I repent and have a change of heart, the sooner I can experience it.
When I look at Mother Mary, I know she too had moments where her husband had doubts in her (God sent an angel to dispel his doubts). Where she may have questioned her husband’s love for her. And maybe even when she felt distant from her husband. But from all I know of what Mother Mary would do – it is the same as all the lessons I was reminded of this week. Do not fear. Rejoice always in the wonders of the world and you will be in love with all it has to offer. Pray without ceasing out of pur
e love. And in everything give thanks for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand – it is within us.
Thank you Lord for the blessings of my marriage. Thank you for joining me in marriage with a truly wonderful man. May our differences not divide us but strengthen us. May our love for one another grow deeper through time and our faith in that love be rooted in solid ground. And thank you Lord for the constant reminders, the constant direction, your constant presence leading us back to love. Amen.