I didn’t always love my family. I polished the home, cooked every day, and cared for little ones when the sniffles and spotties came. But I didn’t spend enough love-time with them, listen to their hearts as much as I should have. I had lovely, joyful children blessed with a freshness only children possess, whose little stories tumbled out eagerly, yet, fell wasted on preoccupied ears. So, I didn’t get to hear firsthand about the yellow and white butterflies playing tag amongst the gardenias, or about the yellow-and-green ‘ballbirds’ in the lush trees at night. My young ones got hugs and cuddles and kisses, but very often, they didn’t get them too, because I didn’t always love my family.
For many sad, bereft years, I didn’t always love my family because I allowed trespassers into my little sanctuary – those who had little or no regard for the sanctity of family life. They came into my home armed with authority, under the pretext of love and shared values, and dispensed wisdom they said I didn’t have. Cowed, I let them hold my mind and heart captive to satisfy their every whine and whim. When my small inner voice rebelled that my family needed more, I made feeble attempts to wriggle free, but the deceivers in my life told me I was wrong because I didn’t know, and they were right because they did.
I bought into the fable of the trespassers that in order to live, I must be enslaved, and my family paid the price for that. A hug when they needed it they did not get. A comfort when they fussed remained a wishful thought. They got a wife and mother who got things done but forgot to love because she was busy putting others before the Family, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. My husband and children fell a distant second because I let others dumb me down and set the parameters for family life. I was lulled into accepting the flawed belief systems of others. I let them dictate to me the hallmarks of a good Catholic wife and mother. I even allowed them to drive my religious beliefs. Family life was not lived through the lens of the Almighty, and whilst we seemed the joyous all-Catholic family, we were tearing at the seams.
I stilled my conscience in order to up the volume of the trespassers, and that was my sin, and mine alone.
Good mother, they patted me on the head in glee.
And they led me out the front door, away from the family, into the dark.
But there was a God above, and He kept watch over my soul. I had in me a hidden part that I misted away from everyone but my Saviour. It was my tiny act of defiance to keep a space of my own that was not overrun by external dictates. It was in this secret hollow veiled from human knowledge that I crumbled before the Almighty. It was here to Him that I took my sorrows and doubts.
But prayer is never a one-way street of petitions and pleadings. My Lord spoke, and the words of Life came back to me, but couldn’t take root because the soil of my heart was not right. It was a soil watered by a lack of spiritual nourishment and a drought of holy obedience. The Word struggled to live in me because I had pledged obedience and loyalty to those who lived dual lives: outwardly upholding family life; in reality, undermining it.
There was an incessant howling at the door of my life, voices not of my family’s, commanding me to come out for I was needed for vineyards not willed by heaven. The feral howls continued for many years. I was powerless to resist because I lived in the dangerous aridity where sin and dark was king. I offered incense in homage to people, not to my Lord. My refusal to break with the dark, my fear of repercussions, was in fact, a personal rejection of Life-giving Truths – God’s Commandments – which would have set me free a long time ago.
Then, one still night, on the tenth chime, the angels broke my heart. I learned a pain never known before. The searing flame of a final farewell marked my soul, never to be erased. The sea of grief formed a wave of walls around me, making me an island; for the very first time in my life, cutting me off from all that had stretched me in a thousand wrong directions. Alone in my pain, a sword knifed through my soul, severing in finality, the ropes that strung me to the deceivers.
Then, came the grace of divine sight, hitherto withheld, borne on a blue wind.
Into that sudden freed expanse, the Mater Dolorosa slipped in quietly. To tell me She’d been here before. In gentle wisdom, She parted the old swirling mists, and bade me see the life my family and I deserved ~ a life lived in freedom to glorify God, and no one else. A freedom that would come only if I let the angels unbind my conscience captive to the world, and avail it for the nurturing of my Lord and King.
From that night of grace of grief, on a journey that has spanned years and far from over, Mother Mary continues to gently lead me down the blossom-blessed path of bitters and anguish towards peace. Every day, my spirit in Her Hands, I learn to fight any darkness that seeks to still and rule my conscience. Every day is a learning to discern the voice of my Saviour from the beguiling chorus from the sewers.
For my Mother has taught me there is only one life that glorifies God.
It is a life where the conscience, the breath to the soul, is never shackled nor governed by human tyranny that seeks to kill God and all of God.