Day 40: Mature Freedom of the Gift
Editor’s Note: TOB is the abbreviation for Pope St. John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body” Pauline Press
‘One of the good things that comes of a true marriage is: there is one face on which changes come without your seeing them; or rather, there is one face you can still see the same through all the shadows which years have gathered on it.’
Annette’s sinus infection kept us up most of the night. Three strong-willed grandkids awaited us the next morn, so I prayed as she coughed. Around 2AM, her distress eased; she turned toward me and slept.
A sliver of light caught her face and I saw at once a little girl framed on my desk, the bride subdued yet beaming, a Jesus’ worshipper raising her voice and spirit heavenward, the (grand)mother weary in well-doing, finally at rest.
Freedom matures (TOB 86:8) as we submit our gift to one another out of reverence for God and mutual respect. Love has made her ‘I’ mine, ‘me’, hers. Sharp-edged distinctions provoke us still but reinforce the fusion beneath the noisy surface.
The face I loved ‘to the point of no longer being able to draw my heart away from her’ (Tobit 6:19) is still the one I want. Unlike the sexy idols I had worshipped, Annette’s whole person drew me into communion. I am grateful for desire emanating from respect, in contrast to attraction that burns to ash (TOB 32:1). Agape trained our emotional and sensual needs to serve a person, not an image (TOB 113:5). The Author of selfless love has guided us well over our 42 years together.
We can see in each other’s lined visages hope and loss culled from decades of Kingdom service. God made marriage to supra-abound, to overflow its embankment like water—a nourishing drink aimed at a host of children, parched and wandering. Add the truth that this bickering couple reveals something of Jesus’ love for the Church—we point beyond ourselves to THE wedding feast. Annette and I blaze a trail for others’ pilgrimage to divine union. We contribute to His saving love for the world. Wow. Who knew when we promised ‘I do’?
Freedom of the gift: Jesus’ gift of love that we somehow embody in our ‘yes’ to each other. My freedom hinges on offering her my best, over and over, in ardor and in grateful obedience.
TOB sparks mature freedom: the freedom to own residual lust while remaining free from lust’s domination (TOB 107:3-5). To naysayers who claim one cannot live free from the grip of same-sex attraction or any profound disordered desire, Pope St. John Paul II invokes Jesus who calls us all back ‘to the beginning,’ and blazes our way there!
For me, that means freedom to embrace Annette’s whole person--to love attentively the way she images feminine genius. That means showing love in an array of ‘affective manifestations’; self-mastery liberates a man to initiate physical love and to savor exquisite facets of her womanhood without sex (TOB 129-131).
Freedom of the marital gift means we recognize its temporal nature. We outlive our usefulness as marrieds and proceed onto consummation with Jesus. We are not married in heaven (Matt. 22:30); I will still relish Annette as we feast on Jesus together.
Marriage trains us well. It provides the furnace (ongoing refinement) and the flood (grace of redemption) that matures ‘the freedom of the gift’ as we prep for eternity (TOB 101:10, 11).
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’