During Lent, I decided, along with Emily of Raising Barnes and Stephanie of Bluebird Songs, to make my way through Mother Teresa's Come Be My Light for a little spiritual reading book club. I have to admit, even after Pentecost I'm still making my way through, but the experience of reading about this beautiful woman's call to found her order as a "call within a call," among immense obstacles in the form of her spiritual director and bishop wanting to be sure the pull on Teresa's heart was from God and, most significantly, in the face of intense spiritual dryness and a complete absence of feeling the Lord's presence, left such an impression on me.
I first heard of the book from my best friend's younger sister, who at the time was discerning entering the Poor Clares. At the time, I saw Mother Teresa as immensely beautiful and holy, so much so that she wasn't the most relatable, though certainly very admirable. The book sounded interesting, yet I'm aware now that during my conversion in college I was protected by grace and didn't really experience much darkness or spiritual attack, so that being the focus of the book didn't really draw me at the time.
I found a copy in a used bookstore after I graduated and decided to read it because of Tersa's missionary nature, as I was spending that year on mission. It was also the year I was engaged, and what stood out to me most, and still did on this second reading, is how literally Jesus and Teresa were like spouses. As I read during Lent, I noticed how Jesus constantly called her things like his little bride and little spouse, and noticed the sacrifice to which she went to do his will, even when in doubt and even when it caused her pain. Before the publication of Come Be My Light, most of the world didn't know that the beautiful sister in blue and white, perpetually smiling and visibly joyful, was thirsting for God, crying out to him for years as she felt, quite literally, locked out of heaven.
What's more, Mother Teresa's spousal love for Christ stood out to me as a pure, beautiful form of obedience. As a sister, Teresa took the Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and later felt drawn to make a fourth private vow: she promised Jesus that she would refuse him nothing. How simple, I thought, yet so immense to consider as it's actually lived out, especially when you consider her dark night of the soul.
I asked myself what Andrew's and my relationship would look like if, after discerning that a request of his was a worthy one, I were to simply do it, out of love for him and a desire for both of our sanctification. Obviously, things like chores don't require much discernment, but our major life decisions do, and the level of trust required of me would be huge. I told my husband this, and after he thanked me for being so willing to love him in this way, he said, "You have to remember that I'm not God. I don't have every answer figured out, and don't have the perfect knowledge that he does of every right path for us." Smart, smart, good-lookin' man. He'd started the book, too, and told me he'd also been inspired by Teresa's obedience to Christ, her beloved spouse. But what he pointed out to me is that of course we can't make each other into idols and blindly assume that everything we ask of each other is something we should actually do. Still, we agreed, what an amazing model for a marriage to imitate Mother Teresa's faithfulness and desire to seek the Father's will in all things, in the form of constant daily obedience.
Reading the book six years ago as Andrew's fiance, Mother Teresa's divine intimacy with Jesus felt like a huge, but worthy, ideal to strive for, though I knew I'd fall short and would have to go easy on myself. And now, nearly five years into my marriage, I actually feel pretty sobered by the realization of just how damn much I fall short. Andrew's weeks of intense studying for his comps exams a few months ago were one of the most stressful times our relationship has ever encountered, and Come Be My Light was a powerful motivation for me to realize this time is God's will for us. I saw, and continue to see, so clearly how a willingness to put yourself aside so entirely for your spouse is worth the constant effort. It's worth our eternity.
Depending on my mood or how I've acted on a given day, that realization is either discouraging or inspiring, but I keep reminding myself that being down on myself is not of God, and neither is feeling frustrated with my abilities in my marriage. Instead, it's an opportunity to beg for grace and try to receive it well.
So that's our life as we prepare to celebrate our fifth anniversary two months from now. I look back at photos of us as newlyweds and see two twenty-three year old kids with stars in their eyes, aglow with the joy of a lifetime to come. And truly, the joy we've experienced is impossible to put into words. The stumbling blocks, the sorrows, though; they're just as incommunicable. We still have stars in our eyes, but we're tempered now by the times we've failed each other in sacrifice or patience or quick apologies or even simple kind words.
I told Andrew recently how sorry I still feel for all these long since forgiven moments, and though we both understand we should still hold each other to a standard of truest love, he said knowing that we've fallen short has still brought us closer to each other and to holiness. When we got married, he said, we loved each other completely (with all the effort and intention that entails), because we knew a completeness of each other at the time. The longer we've been married, though, the more complete that vision of each other has become. He told me that in some ways, the trust we founded our vows on is even more trustworthy and entire now, after being tested by our seeing the deepest flaws and weaknesses in each other. Our love, and commitment to keep loving completely, remains, and is richer than it was on that July day five summers ago.
Approaching a milestone anniversary, three moves and two babies from when I started Captive the Heart in 2012, feels like a good time for a transition. I mentioned to you a few weeks ago how thrilled I am to be collaborating with three dear friends on Spoken Bride, a wedding and lifestyle blog for Catholic brides and newlyweds launching on the 31st of this month, the Feast of the Visitation. At least for now, I'll be focusing my writing efforts there. Spoken will feature real, beautiful Catholic wedding photos and love stories alongside the kind of wedding-related content that's here on Captive the Heart, so my words might take a turn a little away from the personal toward the editorial. I'll still be telling stories and showing you pictures of my babies here. I'll be writing my last few posts here over the next few weeks, and will continue sharing articles, graphics, and photos you won't find on the blog on Facebook through the 31st. I am so unbelievably excited for this new ministry and the truth and beauty it has to offer. I hope you'll join me!