a prayer for frostbite

What do we do when the Church feels cold?

When it starts to feel like no, after no, after no?

No sex outside marriage. No birth control. No same-sex relationships. No IVF. No surrogacy. 

Even in the smaller things- no meat on Fridays, no food before mass. No getting high, drinking too much, eating too much, shopping too much.

In some circles, the more ridiculous things- no bikinis, no shorts, no working mothers.

It can all start to feel a little heartless.

I won’t pretend to understand the struggle of those in the world sorting through heavier things, but recently I’ve been faced with my own small ‘no’ and I’m a bit at odds.

See, according to my Church, I’m supposed to avoid new romantic relationships until my annulment has been finalized. 

For those unaware, an annulment is basically the Church’s way of confirming that a marriage was, at the time of the vows, not sacramental- not a free, total, faithful, fruitful, holy union at it’s inception.

In ‘guilty until proven otherwise’ fashion, we are meant to assume the marriage was sacramental until Step One: The divorce is legally finalized and Step Two: An official Church tribunal reviews the case (comprised of documents, testimonies, questionnaires, and supporting accounts from outside observers).

In the in-between state of a marriage dissolved by law and not by faith, involved parties are advised to “remain faithful to the wedding vows” until an annulment is, or is not, granted. 

This process, tacked on top of my already never-ending divorce, promises to be another lengthy, involved, and emotional one. 

In reality, holding off on dating is probably for the best, as I’m not really interested in exploring vulnerability with men. And to be completely honest, I’m enjoying this space for myself.

Even still, it feels rather harsh to encourage me to “stay faithful to my vows” when the male half of this situation was not faithful to any vows on any level. Not in dating, not in marriage, and absolutely not now. 

So what am I staying faithful to? Lies? Deception? Cover ups? A sham of a marriage and a liar of a husband? And why am I the punished party? If anyone needs a little churching here, I think it might be him. 

So I’m annoyed. 

And I’m tired. 

I’d like to feel free to move and make decisions of my own volition, not as a slave to an abusive husband, the inefficiency of the Californian legal system or the intricacy of an annulment process. I’m tired of being manipulated and under control and out of control, financially and emotionally and spiritually and physically.

On top of that, I feel like I’m grieving again. I’m just starting to realize that- surprise!- I’m really, really, single. A mental spiral triggered by the settlement submitted last week for final legal processing.

I’m relieved, but a little more broken than I thought I’d be. 

I feel abandoned. 

I keep thinking, over and over,

but what if he’d loved me?


There’s a voice that follows, whispering is this it

Is it?

Am I going to be alone? Forever?

I suppose I was alone before. Loneliness in a marriage was certainly painful in its own special way, leaving me by myself at church, with family, in prayer, in thought.

One of those last summer nights found me alone in my home, again, calling him over and over at three am, wondering where he was, again. I tossed and turned, coming to terms with a truth I’d been avoiding: I’d rather be alone forever than live like this. 

So what if this really is forever?

I don’t want to hear that God has a plan or it’s all going to be okay. 

This might be the plan. 

Is it ok?


I try to look beyond the rules.

I put it all away, and I try to look to Jesus.

I try to sit in mass, sit in adoration, sit in prayer.

I try to get beyond the sterility of rule-following to the heart of it.

I sit, and sit, and sit, and stare into the face of God until as much as I wrestle, I can’t help but rest.

There’s something undeniable; it’s tangible, concrete peace. It’s grace.

There is a real encounter with a real God, and real love, so maybe- maybe- singleness is not synonymous with loneliness. 

Maybe these rules aren’t the iron-cold bars of a cage, but the warm walls of a home within which I encounter love in the most healthy, human way possible. 

Maybe here, in this home, there is a life of abundance waiting around the corner.

Or maybe that life is right here, waiting for me to live it.

bumbling along

Last week, in a moment of bravery/insanity I downloaded bumble.

These are the things I’ve learned so far: 

I don’t like guys with girls in their pictures. 

I don’t swipe right for gym selfies. 

No thank you, atheists. 

And, really? Shot-gunning a beer in your profile? That’s the best you can do?

Also, why is no one messaging me back?

Am I not thin enough? Not short enough? Not hook-up-y enough?

And why am I waiting for notifications to pop up on my phone? I haven’t done that since my ex!

I thought the days of anxiously waiting for crumbs of pseudo-attention were behind me! I hate watching the phone, reading too much into careless words, squeezing meaning out of nothing, hoping to feel seen for a breath of a moment. 

The moment always ends.

Which brings me here, to my latest, most interesting, least shocking, conclusion:

Men terrify me. 

Actually, physically, I’m having a reaction.

A skin is itching, stomach is sick, can’t sleep through the night kind of reaction. 

Allergic to boys, possibly?

Ha. 

Whatever it is, I’m over here with my itchy-anxious self wondering how the hell I’m supposed to trust them again.

How am I supposed to find a place I feel supported while wading through these very unsafe, bizarre, murky waters?

It’s been a long time since I’ve muddled through this swamp, and I’m not enjoying the swim.


I was fourteen when I started dating my first boyfriend. Not a bad age until you start thinking… Hey, this girl was in middle school six months ago. Why is that boy older, and why is he telling her she should do him favors to “make her man happy?” Why is he trying to hook up with her in the art room after-hours and telling her what to do with her bikini line? Why is he hearing her say no, thanks, and pushing the envelope anyway? Feels a little creepy, from this point of view. 

Creepy or not, we bop along until, out of no where, he breaks it off. I’m crying on my bedroom floor, crying in the car, crying at school, crying in church, wondering who else will ever tell me I’m beautiful. I’m starving myself and burning myself and finding myself in therapy. Full teenage melt-down.

I dive into religion, finding rest in God, finding a place I felt forgiven for the shame I’d been carrying.

Spring comes around and I make new friends, meet new boys.

The next one was friendly for a while, leading me on like the best of them, and I absolutely pined (*eyeroll* the drama) for him for months. Of course, he’d been spending those same months debating whether or not to keep up with his sexy-cool bff or commit to me: quiet, bookish, good-girl-next-door. Should’ve listened to my gut and moved along, because the week he finally decided for me (dates and kissing and all!) he promptly hooked up with her at a party. 

V awkward.

So. Not hook-up-y enough for him, not cool or badass or fun enough. Not enough boobs. 

The next guy made sense, in comparison. He was just as sweet and quiet as me. He knew he wanted me, he reached out to me, and actually asked me on a date.

So when he turned cold, when he cheated, when he lied, when he pushed, I prayed. And prayed. For almost a decade, almost endlessly. I thought if I tried hard enough it’d get better. If I was consistent and faithful, if I modeled Christian love and generosity and the freaking feminine genius things would turn around. 

God was good, right? He’d fix it. 

Some things that stuck instead: You’re dirty. You’re not enough. You’re forgettable. It’s unfixable.


At this point, it feels like the way I’ve been handled by men is the only way they operate. That pisses me off. 

Also making me angry? God. 

I think He shouldn’t have let me feel so much shame for the first boy. I wish I could’ve avoided the mess with the next boy. I feel like He could have stepped in harder with the last.

So what now?

Here’s what I’ve come to, a glass of wine and a few expired matches later:

A) I’m pissed at God, but I would like to untangle my understanding of Him from my understanding of men.

B) I’m pissed at men, but I would like to untangle my current understanding of men from the possible reality of men.

C) I would like to tackle points A and B without diving into hell-hath-no-fury mode. Because honestly, I do like men, when they’re good. And I do love God; He is good.

Conclusion:

Nothing is unfixable.

Let’s begin.

recovering safety & sight

Last year, the day I moved home, my mom came to me with a handful of miniature nativities. All small enough to fit in her palm, one was meant for me as a gift from her recent trip to Italy. She was surprised by my choice, the little wooden family, carved as one piece and painted with muted colors. The most rustic, least detailed, least dazzling of the group. 

Where my mother was surprised, I felt it was obvious, almost logical, to choose this little walnut-sized family. Look at baby Jesus! He was sleeping, tucked into the arms of His mother, enveloped by Joseph, their mantles melted into one. How could I not tuck myself into that little nativity? That smallest Jesus was the safest Jesus.

Months later, I began therapy. My journey towards healing began by addressing those underlying currents that had propelled me out of my marriage and, instinctually, towards whatever appeared the safest. 

I found I felt unsafe emotionally, having known a love that withdrew and told me I was a mistake. Unable to trust that a heart promised to protect me would continue to be willing. I had learned I lived in a world where I could give my all, over and over again, and I would not be good enough. I could be rejected, forgotten and unwanted. 

I learned I felt unsafe spiritually, unable to express the truths of my faith without conflict. Unsafe to pray openly at home. Unsafe to talk about what shaped my heart and soul and what I believed at my core. Unsafe to put God first, because that meant my husband would only love me less. 

I realized that, at times, I even felt unsafe physically, having lived with a man who’s rage frightened and shocked. Unsafe in intimacy, unable to trust my body to a partner who pushed boundaries. Leaving me with one eye over my shoulder at all times, in all situations.

Hour after hour was poured into therapy, claiming a new space where I could breathe. It was safe to exist, to take up room, and to trust my environment again. 

Okay. Great.

So I’m safe within myself. Within my heart. My mind. My home.

Where does that leave me and God?

It leaves me angry.

It leaves me feeling like God is dangerous. Because I prayed novena after novena after novena, made sacrifice after sacrifice, and endless, endless, loops on my rosary. Because I journaled and prayed and reflected and talked and asked for prayers and guidance and felt like I was in a good place, I was doing the right things, I wasn’t even having sex! I was even using NFP! 

All that, and, guess what, I got hurt anyway. My heart got broken. He didn’t see me or hear me or want me or convert or grow or treat me better. Nothing. I didn’t get kids or stability or healing or holiness. I asked for help and thought God was reassuring me, thought I was having peace, but really it was just moments of relief. No signs, no reassurance, just interludes in the cycle of abuse. 

And now I look into the face of the God I trusted, the God who led me to believe there were great things in store for me.

What great things? 

This?

Why?

I can’t open my hands, I can’t let You in, I’m angry and I’m hurt and I don’t understand. I think I find You untrustworthy. Because I used to trust, and the one meant to love me for forever, the one meant to make Your love tangible, abandoned me. Abused me. Ignored me. Withdrew from me. It feels like You did that.


I pause in my anger, and I see Mary Magdalene in my heart. I’ve always had a soft spot for her, the woman who struggled with sexual sin. I took on some of her shame in my own relationships, sometimes carrying a burden heavier than I was meant to, not realizing that ‘no means no’ still applies when he says he loves you. Not realizing that not everything was my fault. Not realizing that seeing Mary Magdalene as an adulterer was an unfair projection onto a woman who should’ve been known for more.

I think I finally see her now.

God didn’t love her ‘in spite of’ her sin. He loved her before the sin. He loved her for more than the evils we blame on her, before the labels and the embarrassments and the character she took on in the narrative we created. 

When she was called adulterer and stripped in the street and stoned by her neighbors, God did not see what we all saw- a sinner, a prostitute. He saw a woman abused. He saw a woman desperate and abandoned by her people, trying to survive in a culture structured to leave women dependent on men. A community where women were left with very few options or resources of their own. He saw a woman who had been taken advantage of, her weaknesses exploited, her body marked, her soul abused, her heart broken. 

He saw a woman out of options. 

He presented her with a new one.

He saw her on the ground, kissing His feet, and, no He did not begin by asking her for everything. Even less- he asked for nothing. In return, He presented her with love.

I imagine she was overwhelmed and tired. I imagine she had a multitude of reservations, and a heart in need of healing. I imagine she was afraid. 

I imagine she didn’t have a heart ready to abandon to a Savior. I imagine she was guarded. I imagine that was okay. 

All she did, all she needed to do, was look up, and look into the eyes of the One Who loved her. A small movement, but a movement of courage. Not everything, but a place to start.

Jesus, I don’t have much for You right now. I’m guarded. I’m hurt. 

Even still, even here, I’ll try to let you see me. I’ll try to meet Your gaze.

It’s not everything, but it’s a place we can start.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us. 

promises

“Will He lead you out? Yes, eventually. But first, there might be a time that He is simply with you there.”

A reflection printed in my Blessed is She journal three years ago, meant to be an encouragement for those of us in a season of waiting as we counted down to Christmas.

How little I knew then about how prophetic those words would be. At that point, all I knew was the conflict heavy in my own home; that month’s journal was page after page of notes on neglect, silence, anger, and anxiety. So much anxiety. My body was in panic mode and my heart was in turmoil. I was waiting. Waiting for something to give, something to change, some hope to enter into the drama of my marriage.

My response to that day’s prompt:

“When the desires of my heart don’t line up with reality or the desires of my husband’s heart or even the timing of Your heart- it’s okay to be sad. You hear my prayers- someday there will be a fulfillment of the prayer for a joyful, holy family and a holy husband who knows You. In the meantime You will wait with me here…When my heart feels separate from my husband, my world, You are there. You see me and You know me… Even in suffering and sadness, You are gentle and patient, waiting for me to see You and love You and let You love me. You are with me.”

Christmas morning came that year without my miracle. Without magic. Not the slightest glimmer of hope or sign God saw my waiting and matched it with grace. I was miserable.

“I feel misunderstood and lonely and hurt and very sad that this is my life. After all this, I’m exhausted and suffering. Why? Why do I feel so alone?”

Instead of rejoicing, I was begging. 

“A savior is born. Save me.”

Another year goes by. Another journal fills up.

I am more confused. 

“I need to step away from the part of my heart that wonders, ‘should I have married him or not?’ I need to let that go and fully embrace this and where I am…I need to trust You- I did when You brought me here, now I have to trust where You lead me.”

I used to think I was bad for questioning the solidity of my marriage. I used to think it was holy and good to trudge along alone, trusting, trusting, trusting. 

I heard the passage from Luke, “Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promise to her” and knew it was for me. I had been promised a life of joy and abundance. I had been promised satisfaction. I had been promised life, and life to the full. God would fix it so I could have it, and He would do it here.

Obviously, He had other plans.

My husband didn’t start going to church. He didn’t start paying better attention to me. We didn’t have a home full of joy. We didn’t start building a family.

However. 

I had asked Him to lead me, and He was faithful to those prayers. He led me – straight out of my marriage.

But what of my promises? I was convinced! Convicted! Trusting! I believed! 

Instead of getting what I’d dreamed of, I was alone, wondering what does God actually promise me?

His faithfulness.

Had He been faithful? Had I been comforted? Had I been strengthened? Was I bold enough to change my life? Yes.

His love.

Had He shown me that love? Had I been blessed by His presence? Wisdom? The love of some seriously solid friends and a wildly generous family? Yes.

His abundance.

Had I flourished? Found new confidence? Found healing and hope and permission to be myself in a bigger, more beautiful way? Yes.

God Himself walked through the valley of death. Someday there will be life without suffering, but why should my journey on earth look any different than His? In the meantime, there is daily mercy. Daily grace.

I do believe that someday I’ll have what my heart longs for. I’ll have a love where I’m known and thriving and a way to share my heart as a mother. Whatever that looks like, however those desires are answered, I know I am already seen. Already loved. Already full.

A new prayer for today:

Lord, I trust in Your promises. 

I believe You promised life, and I still believe, even here, even when Your answer broke my heart. Thank You for seeing me. Thank You for saving me. 

Today, I hear again “Blessed is she who believed” and respond the way Your mother did:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

You are a keeper of promises. 

My soul rejoices, and I believe.


And blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to her.

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.

He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Luke 1:45-55

some things i didn’t learn in sex ed

Yesterday I went to the eye doctor and got to check the box marked ‘herpes’ in my medical history so that felt just GREAT. Like an extra treat- not only do I get to have this shitty virus the rest of my life, I also get to tell people like my dentist and my eye doctor about it now!

At this point, I figure I might as well tell a couple bloggy people about it too.

My thought process is this: the problem I have is embarrassing. It’s a little taboo and a little hard to talk about, and it all inspires a rainbow of feelings. I figure if I’m having this experience, chances are someone else is too. 

Whether it’s herpes or some other annoying BS, there’s always someone else going through something similar. There’s no need for any of us to feel isolated, especially over herpes, especially when literally millions of people have it.

And to be honest, when I was first dealing with this I couldn’t find anyone to relate to, so I’d like to be that space for someone else.

Especially in a conservative Christian community, talking about things like this feels very off-putting. It’s not quite kosher, not indicative of a life well-lived, doesn’t point to the the white-washed purity that is the cookie-cutter goal. However, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Christianity is not about perfection. It is where our imperfect, messy, human lives come in contact with grace beyond comprehension. These things we hide in the dark, herpes included, are the very things that deserve to be brought to the light for healing. Jesus didn’t come for us and our perfect track record. He came to meet us where we are weak. He specifically met with the rejects of society, and I imagine they didn’t get ignored or shamed when they looked into His eyes. I imagine they were reminded of their beloved-ness and were invited into love. 

We cannot fully embrace each other, or even ourselves, if we are allowing ourselves to hide in such shame we can’t see our own goodness.  

Of course, I appreciate privacy and protecting yourself from those that will hurt you. I am being open in my experience here, and not everyone is called to do that. That’s okay. Read on and know you are not alone.

In the meantime, I’d also like to call into question the version of Christianity that left me too ashamed to talk about something that happened to me because there are those with uneducated opinions about the way the world works for some of us living messier lives. This content might be too explicit for some communities, but it’s explicit content that I lived, and that doesn’t make my walk towards eternity any less holy. 

Some of us are suffering for the poor decision making of others, and some of us have made our own poor decisions. Some of us got herpes. That doesn’t make any of us less worthy of love, less pure, less whole, or less good.


Stepping off my soap box, I’m going to give you a little glimpse into the experience of someone who’s just found out they have herpes. Exciting!

I see it plenty at work- the moment someone finds out that, yes, those bumps aren’t from shaving/bug bites/allergies. There’s usually plenty of tears. Sometimes the loud theatrical type, sometimes more of the soft weepy display. Luckily for me I was the quiet type (my co-workers would be proud!). 

Anyway, after all the crying and the milkshakes and the wine came the anger. I was angry for a very long time. Silly me, I had thought I had left my marriage behind. Now, instead, I have a permanent reminder that can pop back up for my enjoyment at any moment! A literal permanent mark in my body reminding me, hey, someone loved enough to treat you like shit. You thought you left it all behind, didn’t you?!

I was angry for the future, too. Angry for whatever marriage I might someday enter into; how unfair to someone else to have to risk sharing this affliction. Sharing pain is a normal burden to carry in marriage, but this just felt unfair. And what a hassle, having to add this to the list of prenatal care worries if I ever got to have kids. I could pass this on, I could require surgery, it could complicate things more than I imagined. 

On top of all that was the sense of violation. Something had happened to my body and changed it without my authorization. Without invitation. My boundaries were intruded upon and my DNA altered without permission. 

And then there was the shame. Literally, I was dirty. It didn’t help when I saw a forum where girls were discussing whether or not they’d date guys with HPV. I guess that’s their prerogative, whether or not they want to risk contracting viruses- it’s a choice I didn’t get to make. Still, I hope someone is more open minded towards me in the future. I wouldn’t reduce someone else’s potential to what baggage they carry from their past, so I hope I’d be shown the same courtesy. Whether or not that looks like a virus, a heartbreak, a bad habit (or two), we all carry something from where we were before.

It all seems quite unreasonable. I followed the rules as best I could. I tried to love well and work hard, and instead I got this. I’ve always known there were permanent consequences for certain behaviors. It’s just unfortunate I have to pay the price for someone else’s.


So there it is, in one neat little package. I am less than pure. I’ve been marked, I’ve been violated, and I am always going to have this in the back of my mind with the rest of my relationships for the rest of my life.

And at the same time, it doesn’t bother me as much today as it did before. This illness is only a symptom of the primary one: the sickness of a dysfunctional relationship. There are other things that left deeper scars and, hopefully not, but what feels like more permanent damage. This was a byproduct, and really, there is a part of me that just shrugs my shoulders and says, well, of course, this is what I expected, isn’t it? I’m honestly not that shocked.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what rules you did or didn’t follow or who gave who what. It sucks either way. I’ll still be your friend. 

And, guess what? Either way, you’re still good. I’m still good. Someday somebody will love me anyway and, really, plenty of people already do.

were you there

There’s a song that gets pulled out at church around Good Friday every year that used to give me chills. It’s lyrics lead the congregation through Jesus’ Passion in an uncomplicated but profound way, personally asking each of us if we’ve walked the journey with our Christ: Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree? Laid Him in the tomb?

I heard it again last Sunday and it’s lyrics felt more personal than years before. I found myself in the same sort of sadness, but also somewhere new. It felt almost indignant. Don’t ask me where I was, Lord. Where were You? Were You there? Were you there on the nights I cried alone? Were You there for the panic attacks? For the abandonment? For the anger? For the confusion?

Were You there when I was coerced? When no didn’t mean no? When I was ignored? When I was the target of undeserved hatred? Were You there when I was made to feel less than wanted, less than beautiful, less than a woman? When the desires of my heart, the ones I begged You for, went unanswered, year after year?

Were You there when I had to hide my marriage from others, from myself? When I didn’t know how to explain the strange undercurrent of dread, dissatisfaction, loneliness? When I begged You to bring my husband back to me? Bring Your peace into our home?

When I trusted deeply and implicitly that everything would be okay-  were You listening or laughing? When I felt You tell me everything would turn out alright- is this heartbreak what You had in mind? When I prayed for him to know You and see me, did You know that would never come to be?

I think back to that pivotal morning I met with the priest. That day when we walked through the tortured turns of my marriage I was looking for advice, looking for someone to tell me again it would all be okay. Instead of something encouraging I could tuck into my pocket and casually take back home, he reassured me that, yes, it would all be alright, but no, things could not go on as they had. He said You wanted better for me, and I would need to be brave enough to step out into the world and away from my husband. It was the first time I was faced with someone confirming out loud a truth I had been hiding in my heart. I needed to leave.

Something settled over me when I finally faced that truth- a bittersweet mix of acceptance, relief, and dread. I knew what I needed, but, my gosh, the road ahead was going to be long. It was going to be brutal. Excruciating.

In the chapel afterwards all I felt was the Garden. The Garden Jesus wrestled His Heart in, begging God for the cup to pass. He saw what was ahead of Him and knew it would be Good, but oh, how terrible. The pain of a broken body and broken heart, rejection and suffering. It all lay ahead of Him, yet He still saw that the only way to the Glory of Resurrection was through Hell.

I was in my own small corner of that Garden that day. I was already exhausted and couldn’t fathom how I would be able to pull my heart into even more pieces than it had already been broken. A sense of real grief and no, I’m really not looking forward to this, let’s fast forward, let’s just not. It was easier to suffer in the silence and predictability of my life then rip it all apart completely.

When I walked out of the chapel, eyes swollen from tears, I found myself in the lush sweetness of a rose garden. A little slice of paradise. A little bit of beauty bordering my Gethsemane.

So maybe You were there. Maybe You meant it when You said it would all be okay. Maybe You were present and waiting to set me free the whole time. From abuse, from death, from sin, from fear.

It took me an awfully long time to get there, though, and I’m not sure why I found myself leaving a life I had prayed so hard to start. Why did we go this way? Why did we take this road? I wish I knew.

I’m trying to trust Your presence and grace. You’re writing a story for glory, a crown of roses from a crown of thorns. I’m trying to trust again with that same unwavering faith that You are real and You will heal. You will make paths straight and there will be life renewed. Life abundant.

I’d like to think that You are holding vigil while I hide in the darkness, in this small tomb of unknowing, and while I am waiting here You are sowing a garden. When these stones roll away there will be morning, and I will be met with new life.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

a little feminism, a little catholicism

Let’s clear something up.

Being divorced does not make me a bad Catholic.

We no longer live in a time when women are meant to be white-knuckling it through years of misery for the sake of ‘offering it up.’ We are educated, independent, and now have the resources to pursue our callings in ways that generations before us did not have. There’s no need for us to settle for the facade of holiness when, in reality, our homes are flooded with backwater. 

That being said, you’re not doing anyone any favors, not even God, when you’re staying in a relationship just for the sake of what appears to be a straightforward Christian life. Better for God, and everyone else, to courageously move into the unknown. 

I’m not saying there is no such thing as objective right and wrong. I’m also not saying that love isn’t a sacrifice or active choice. I do believe that even the best of relationships face their challenges, and there will always be ‘offer it up’ days. Please stick around when the Cross is shared in love and the promise of Easter stands above you. 

For today, let’s consider those relationships built on such gravel they could hardly survive a breeze, let alone the storm of real life. These relationships are not going to make it anywhere healthy, no matter who says they hope it’ll work it out. They are plagued far beyond that run of the mill struggle straightened out in therapy. They are fundamentally unwell. 

I had a long, winding talk with a priest about this before I left my own marriage. He was honest, reminding me that God could always work a miracle, and I could stay and hope for the transformation of grace. He also told me that as a woman with intellect, I should feel free to make my decision based on the truth of what had been shown to me in the past and what was happening in the present. 

Based on the facts, our marriage was going nowhere, and had not been God’s plan for marriage from the start. According to this priest, and, I’m sure, Christ, I was made for more. I was made for joy, and freedom, and life. I needed to bravely look at what I believed to be true- all marriages are forever- and walk instead into foreign territory. I had to shift my framework, take a deeper look, and start a new life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Whatever you believe, please don’t tell me you think I should be back with my husband because it says so in your Christian Marriage 101 textbook. I promise, nothing about what was going on there fit the Christian ideal. None of it was meeting the life-giving, holy-growing criteria of what a mutual marriage should be, and anyone thinking I should stick around for more of that is sick in the head.

Also, for the record, asking me if I discerned my relationship with my ex feels a little weird. Of course I did. I didn’t just wander into a marriage without serious consideration and prayer. I’m still sorting out why everything ended up the way it did, but assuming my lack of proper discernment is to blame for the dysfunction somehow makes it my fault everything sucked.

I did not wind up in this situation because I didn’t pray hard enough.

Basically, this is my long way of saying that staying in a place of decay just because it looks Christian is not always the right thing to do. And anyway, when was the last time we chose the Christian life because it looked good? We choose Christianity because it embraces what is actually good.

I can tell you that since I’ve left, I feel more like myself than I have in years. I am free. I don’t have to hide my faith anymore, and I don’t avoid going deeper into my relationship with God for fear of distancing myself from a husband who resented Him. I’m at a point in my life where I am free to take care of my soul, and I’d say that’s the holiest place to be. Not trapped in a life-sucking situation for the sake of what made me a good Catholic on paper. 

Let’s broaden our idea of what good Catholicism looks like. It’s not always going to be sweet domestic bliss, because life is not always like that. A lot of us don’t have that version of the dream, and even when we have something close, there’s something else lurking in our closets. There’s drugs and depression, scandal and abuse, broken families and loneliness and sin. 

That is the beauty of real, tangible Catholicism: it is for real, tangible people. We are dirty and hungry and walking a road through the valley of death. We are clinging to a God Who is merciful. He meets us, broken and poor, and invites us to a table with Him. He doesn’t ask us if we prayed hard enough or why the heck we are broken in the first place. He didn’t look at Mary Magdalene and ask her why did she became a prostitute, ridiculous and sinful woman. He got down in the dust with her and offered her a hand. 

Sometimes what is right doesn’t look the same as what we thought before. 

It’s time to shift the framework.