As a child, when examining your conscience, you perhaps looked at a list of do's and dont's which you infringed and then confessed them: I pulled my sister's hair; I didn't do my home work; I did not listen to my mother when she told me to come home at 6 o'clock. Perhaps you still confess a list of infringements even now!
In the Bible, conversion means turning away from self-worship and turning to God to be saved. In God's plan a spouse should be to us a channel of his saving love. When I rejoice in my weakness, then I can open myself to receive God's dynamic strength.
All of us tend to become preoccupied with ourself e.g. my hurts, my comforts, my security, my reputation, my health, my being right, my possessions, my fears, my prayers, my death, what others think or say about me, my position as spouse or parent. Do you confess your sins and your spouse's as well? What is behind this?
As a child did you grow up to believe that life should always be easy and comfortable? That others should always treat you well or as you desired? That others should approve of you, think and speak well of you? That you should never fail? That you should always win? If this does not happen, is life really terrible, unbearable or impossible?
Let me tell you a story about a cracked pot. It could be you or me. Each of us has our cracks and they can be beneficial to others. A gardener had two pots. One was brand new and the other was old and cracked. Several times a day, he would fill them with water from a tank at the bottom of the hill and climb up to the top where there was a shrine. There was a small tank near the shrine, where pilgrims had a wash before they worshipped. He carried the cracked pot on his left shoulder and the new one on his right.
The new pot boasted to the cracked pot that it did its duty well and not a drop of water leaked on the way up the hill. It felt that its companion should be discarded because half the water leaked and never reached the top. The old gardener, however, consoled the cracked pot. He asked it to have a look on the right as they walked down the hill. All along the path, there was a profusion of wild flowers that had benefited from the water that leaked out of the cracked pot.
While climbing the hill, these flowers brought joy and peace to the pilgrims, giving them a foretaste of the new life they would receive when they came into God's presence, in the shrine.
Our weaknesses can humble us and help us to be more tolerant of the weaknesses of others. We can learn to make allowances for each other and to affirm, encourage and help the other. In confession, Jesus forgives us with the outpouring of his precious blood, but he also pours his life-giving, healing spirit into our hearts.
Instead of scrupulously focusing on how we let God down, let us rejoice on how God used our cracks to brings forth little flowers along the route that even the robes of King Solomon in all his glory, could not vie with. Our weaknesses often bring out compensating strengths in those we live with. Husbands and wives and members of a family need one another's strengths and weaknesses too.
Be still and know that God alone is God. We are not God. Sometimes, when we think that we have arrived, he lets us fall flat and experience our human frailty.
St Bernard said that we all drink from the water in our own wells. Is the water in my well tainted by anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, inferiority, hatred, inertia or a feverish activism? Why? What am I clinging on to? How can I draw water from the wells of salvation? Do I invite the Spirit to be a spring of living water in my contrite and humble heart? He can give me courage, hope, love, joy and peace.
God's power is manifest in weakness. Moses is sent to the Pharaoh to let God's people go. David is sent with a sling-shot to defeat the heavily armoured Goliath. Mary, the humble, little servant of God is empowered by the Holy Spirit to give birth to the saviour of the world. Nothing is impossible to God, for those who believe. Every marriage has its strengths and weaknesses. One is not an angel and the other a devil.
Alcoholics Anonymous, invites those who suffer from the sickness of alcoholism and their spouses too, to recognise their helplessness over alcoholism. They can only receive help from a Higher Power, God, as they know him. One day at a time, they are asked to walk humbly with their God and with each other. Those are the first 3 of 12 steps in this beautiful therapeutic spirituality. Every husband and wife should face the obstacles that drive them apart. Recognising their helplessness, they would then turn humbly to God and ask his help to be reborn and renewed by his grace, one day at a time. So let us never give up on each other or believe that God has given up on us. God humbled and emptied himself to become one like us.
There is sorrow when a woman experiences labour pains. But her sorrow turns into joy when the child is born. In many a marriage, there have been difficult times, as couples look back. But each time you fall on the road, you can arise again. Even during trials and set-backs, the Lord is there, inviting you to give each other a helping hand, an encouraging word, a warm embrace. He has no other hands but yours and no other voice but yours to reach out and bring back to life what was dead and to save what was lost.
I once received a card with jagged pieces of coloured wool sticking out in unseemly disarray. There was no discernible pattern. But when you opened the card, there was a beautiful tapestry. As you look back at your marriage, maybe now you can see that God had a plan all along, which you could not quite discern at tough moments of your journey.
"To dream the impossible dream; to bear with unbearable sorrow; to run where the brave dare not go." Have you heard this song in "The Man from La Mancha"? It's about a man who never gives up his quest to reach an unreachable star. "And the world will be better for this, that one man scorned and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage, to reach an unreachable star."
This is the story of many marriages built on hope and grace that God gives to couples who humbly repent and ask for the grace to make new beginnings.