A couple of weeks ago one of my junior high students in my religious education class at church asked me an interesting question. She wanted to know if God sometimes does not give us what we want. I told her that sometimes he does not give us what we want because it is not what we need and sometimes gives us what we want either because it is what we need, or we may need to learn a lesson. Yesterday, this question was answered for me.
In my previous post, I wrote about how I needed to forgive someone whom I loved long ago. I felt God call me to write to him after four years of no communication and nearly 12 years since we last saw one another. It is complicated story that a lot of military folks would understand, but that is neither here nor there. I did not actually expect him to respond to my email, but he did, rather quickly, I might add.
His response taught me a few very important things. First, it unleashed the power of forgiveness and healing across time and distance. It showed me that in my honesty and vulnerability were both able to say what was needed. Second, it showed me that our perceptions are not necessarily reality. We may not realize that people do not mean to hurt us and if we do not tell them, there can never be reconciliation. He did not realize fully how much he had hurt me. Third, we can love people deeply, but that does not necessarily mean that they are the right one God wants for us in the Sacrament of Marriage. God wants us to become saints and not every person is right for fulfilling our vocations. And we are not necessarily right for that person either.
I think that a lot of us have cared for or loved someone who did not turn out to be who we married or will marry. Many of us, myself included, pray for things to work out with that person, but it doesn’t. It may take some time, even decades to finally see why it did not work out. To see that choices we made at that point, set in motion our future path. This man and I both made that choice when he chose an overseas duty station. It took longer for me to understand that that particular choice would impact both of us over the long term and eventually lead us to each find our proper paths in life. His in the military and mine with my husband and daughter.
Even though I supported him in pursuing his dream of living in Europe, it broke my heart when he left. I did not fully recover for a long time, even though I dated. I wanted God to make things better, to re-unite us, but it never happened. Some of it was pure circumstance, we just never could get to the same place, and some of it was God’s intervention. I am sure of it. That’s the point. Sometimes unanswered prayers are God showing us an even greater love and path. Sure it hurts in the process. But, what a gift this guy was to me in those moments we had together. He was the first to truly teach me sacrificial love. When we are young, we tend to be impatient. We also tend to think in the short term. I wanted him to be the right guy, not looking at how my life would play out, or how his would either.
After I received his email. I cried tears of joy for about an hour. I was relieved and filled with such a deep gratitude. I knew Our Lord was the one who had a hand in our reconciliation. We were finally honest with one another and in doing so, we are both able to think fondly of one another and be grateful for the paths we have been given. I was also able to apologize to him for all of my mistakes. I had a deeper sense of love and awe for my husband. I could see how God’s hand guided me over the last 12 years, even though it came with deep pain. I saw how God wanted me to find my husband and He wanted to give me the tremendous gift of our daughter. He wanted me to truly begin to understand joy and I can only do that with the right vocation. My husband is my vocation. So I found the right path and this man who I loved so long ago, also found his path. It gave me great joy to know that he was safe and that he, like me, was finding his way.
Today at Mass I offered up my Mass for him. I know that he struggles with faith and I prayed hard that he may find Christ. I also offered up the Mass in deep gratitude for the peace and joy that came with our reconciliation. My husband was very supportive. Once I told him what happened he was glad that I was able to be set free and begin to understand the abundant graces that flow from forgiveness. It is when we love as Christ loves that we are truly alive. There are other deeper hurts that I need to forgive and this experience has revealed the graces that flow from choosing forgiveness, which is what He did on the Cross. It is what He offers us every single time we sin. We only have to ask for it.
So, what would I tell my student now? It probably would not matter, because she, like I did, will want to make the mistakes and take the paths of youth. I do not consider this man a mistake, rather a part of the journey. Sometimes we love the wrong people and sometimes we love people who are only a stepping stone on the journey to holiness. It is hard to let go of someone we love. We were made for and by Love, but let go we must. We never know what greater things God has in store for us until we let go. I pray that, like me, you can receive and offer forgiveness and that Our Lord will give you abundant blessings in the process.
And Happy Feast of the Archangels! It is my daughter’s big feast day.