Kathy Harrison, in her honest and moving book, Another Place at the Table:
“It comes as no surprise that finding families willing to open their doors to the rigors of foster parenting is so hard. Fostering means knowing about things most of us would prefer to forget. It means recognizing that our best is often not good enough. It means only knowing the difficult beginnings of a story and being forced to imagine the end. It means loving children who will ultimately leave us, then drying our tears and letting ourselves love again.”
What an apt description of the kind of life and the kind of love that the Gospel requires of us, in response to the love God has given to us in Christ. It is not, of course, that the Gospel requires foster parenting for all, or even that it is only those who know the Gospel who can be good foster parents.
But it is true that the Gospel calls us all to a life of the kind of love Harrison describes: to a love that faces the gritty realities of sin (in ourselves and in others) which we would much rather forget; a love that makes demands of us which reveal the absolute inadequacy of our “best” efforts; that leads us out on a difficult beginning, trusting God to control the ending; and that calls us to love when and until our hearts break, and then in the grace God gives, to love, and love, and love again.
Article in the New York Times, suggesting perhaps our most significant romantic relationships need to be built on commitment after all:
“Founding relationships on convenience or ambiguity can interfere with the process of claiming the people we love. A life built on top of “maybe you’ll do” simply may not feel as dedicated as a life built on top of the “we do” of commitment or marriage.”
“The Church should be the place for prodigal sons and rejected stones, at least as much as it’s the place for elder brothers and other respectable types. The early Church promised that those who gave up family or marriage to follow Jesus would find a new family, a new home, with fellow Christians as their brothers and sisters. Is that what happens to lay people who strive to live celibately today?
From what I’ve seen, we’re mostly left alone. If you’re straight or people think you are, and you’re not yet married, you may get urged to spend time with the young adults’ ministry or the singles’ ministry or one of the other (necessary!) meet markets of the Church. I like these ministries and I like that they matchmaker. I don’t think they’re the catchall solution for unmarried lay people, though, regardless of sexual orientation. And so, people who genuinely want to serve the Church come away feeling exhausted or confused. They’re pretty sure God doesn’t want them to lead loveless, barren and miserable lives, and yet they have little sense of where they might give and receive lasting, sustaining love outside of marriage. The people who are already serving often feel unwanted or excluded; the people who aren’t already embedded in an ecclesial community have no idea where to start. This is an immense waste of love.”
Poet Christian Wiman:
“There are other moments, too, which are simply moments of life. Simply! I think of the poet Paul Eluard: “There is another world, but it is in this one.” I have 3-year-old twin daughters. It would be disingenuous in the extreme for me to pretend that they don’t at times drive all thought of God out of my head and make me want to write a series of sonnets in praise of celibacy, but it would be equally insane for me not to acknowledge that they are the source of my greatest happiness. Father Zossima, in The Brothers Karamazov, defines hell as “the inability to love.” I have known that hell, and I should probably spend my remaining days thanking God that I am free of it.”
When my wife was pregnant for the first time, a friend who had just the year before had his first child, was trying to tell me how great it was to have kids. He said, “It’s amazing. You are filled with so much love.”
I’ve since thought many times of the simple, surprising truth in this: that one of the greatest graces in life (what makes parenthood so “amazing”) is not anything your children give you or do for you. Rather, it is the gift of being filled full of love for someone else. (And of course, you need not have children to know this kind of other-focused love.)
To learn this is to somehow draw near to the beating heart of all reality. To never learn this – to never know this – is an unspeakable loss.
Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage:
“Kathleen and Thomas Hart refer to the ‘paschal mystery’ of marriage – the process of dying and rising as a pattern of life for married people. Each day we must die to our own desires and rise as a servant. Each day we are called to identify with the suffering Christ on the cross, and then be empowered by the resurrected Christ. We die to our expectations, our demands, and our fears. We rise to compromise, service and courage.
In this sense, a true Christian marriage proposal is an offer, not a request. Rather than saying in effect, ‘Will you do this for me?’ when we invite another to enter the marriage relationship, the real question should be, ‘Will you accept what I want to give?'”
Thomas goes on to apply this principle to the distinctly Christian shape this gives to the sexual life of Christian husbands and wives:
“Sex gives us a capacity to give to someone in a startlingly unique and human way. And yet sex is often used to take, to demand, to coerce, to shame, and to harm.
Honestly ask yourself these questions: Is sex something I’m giving to my spouse, or withholding? Is sex something I am demanding, or offering? Is sex something I am using as a tool of manipulation, or as an expression of generous love? If God looked at nothing other than my sexuality, would I be known as a mature Christian or as a near pagan?”
Eugene Peterson, quoted by Carolyn Custis James:
“Giving…is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth. Giving is the way the world is. God gives himself. He also gives away everything that is. He makes no exceptions for any of us. We are given away to our families, to our neighbors, to our friends, to our enemies – to the nations. Our life is for others. That is the way creation works. Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves, to live for ourselves…afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of giving…and the longer we wait the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace.”