Sunday’s Gospel reading had me thinking about the divorce and the hardness of man’s heart. We know, KNOW, KNOW those seeking divorce use any excuse to justify their reasoning and their actions. Some reasons are more justified than others and occasionally, as in cases of real abuse, separating from one’s spouse is necessary, but in every case, divorce is caused by, as Jesus said, the hardness of man’s heart.
The cheating spouse shows his hardened heart by betraying the one he promised to love, honor, and cherish, denying his responsibility to protect, provide, and lead, and abusing his position of freedom, trust, and respect.
The adulteress shows her hardened heart when she first crosses lines and sends signals of availability to someone else’s spouse, when she makes herself more important than the woman and children affected by her choices, and when she lures the married man away with ultimatums and temptations not conducive to family life.
The attorneys involved show hardened hearts by refusing to admit just points by made by the opposing side, by prolonging debates to increase their own bottom lines, and by smilingly promise the elusive more.
The court system shows its hardened heart when it arrogantly assumes it can fairly tear apart two joined as one flesh, when it rewards the abandoning partner with 50-50 parenting when its convenient for him, when it rewards the abandoning spouse most of his salary while the custodial parent and children often fall below poverty lines, and when it ignores legitimate complaints because its been jaded by so much worse.
Society shows its hardened heart when it shrugs off divorce as just part of life, when it uses phrases like, “kids are resilient,” when it embraces the playboy parent, when it looks down on those using government funds to cover expenses, and when it curls its lip at the heartbroken who reach out for love in the wrong people because they are really reaching out for the worth they have never been told they have.
The Church shows its hardened heart when it acts like Marriage is superior even to chaste singleness, when it closes doors of volunteer opportunities on the divorced, when the annulment process is left unexplained, pushed through too quickly, slowed down unnecessarily, or granted without just cause, and when it fails to embrace the soul of the wounded, risking a eternal loss of faith in a hurting Child of God.
Children harden their hearts when they watch their parents fight and are placed in the middle, forced to choose, when they have to meet a parent’s new partner while secretly longing for mom and dad to be Mom and Dad, when they shuttle from house to house, lose track of belongings, get humiliated in class, and miss playing time in the big game, and when they are forced to pick up the Cross of Marriage and Family because one or both parents decided it was too heavy and put it on their shoulders instead.
Abandoned spouses harden their hearts when the one they had known better, trusted more, depended on instinctively, and loved greater than anyone else turns out to be someone else, when they think themselves worthless and question the Father’s plan for them, when they kiss their children goodbye and then cry themselves to sleep missing the emptiness in little beds across the hall far more than the emptiness in their own beds, when the kids cry wanting to stay home but court documents say they have to go, when children choose to go with the abandoning spouse, when long hours and little pay run them into the ground, when the court system demeans and belittles them, when society and the Church turn their backs.
Abandoned spouses have plenty of reason to harden their hearts in divorce. Jesus knows that. Moses knew that. Moses allowed divorce because he knew the danger of living with a hardened heart, but that doesn’t mean he agreed with divorce and it doesn’t mean he agreed with the hardened heart.
Divorce occurs because of the hardened heart. All the excuses people use are just excuses, justifications for their inability to soften their hearts, to offer unconditional Love, and to live unselfishly, nothing more.
The hardening of the heart that leads to divorce is a series of small choices, most seemingly insignificant, most acceptable in today’s society, most things we shrug off or do in private thinking what people don’t know won’t hurt us.
Abandoned spouses can do little to influence the hearts of those around them, but they can influence their own hearts and offer an alternative to observers. At some point after the divorce, the faithful spouse realizes life is no longer about the divorce or about a runaway spouse. Life is about more.
At some point, the faithful spouse realizes that divorce happens because of the hardness of man’s heart, but that doesn’t mean her heart has to become hardened too.
Divorce depends on the hardness of another’s heart.
What happens after divorce
depends on the hardness of your heart.
Fight Against the Hardness of Your Heart.
The same hardening of the heart that caused the destruction of your Marriage causes all destruction of Good; the best way to prevent that destruction and hardness is by using the same tactics hardness uses to invade: choose the little things and then use a tactic opposite of hardness’ approach. Use small choices as opportunities for tenderness, mistake no choice for insignificant, and reign in your mind, your body, and your heart when it threatens to live split-personalities in private and public life.
Fight Against the Hardness of Your Heart.
Even before you begin to feel the anger, bitterness, fear, helplessness, or pain of divorce, fight the hardening that threatens your heart by making small choices to soften it. Stand up for yourself, but avoid situations that lead to conflict. Call a faith-filled friend. Hug your children. Go for a walk or a jog or a run. Look up at the stars and remember how small your problems are and how big your God is. See and really take in the beauty of God’s creation and understand that you, made in His image and likeness, are looked upon as His most beautiful creation. Sing an off-key song. Bake cookies. Give them away. Pray for…
God must have made a way to soften every heart. Let’s see how many we can figure out! I’ll add an additional post this weekend asking how you soften you heart. I hope you join me and add your own ideas here or on Divorced & Still Catholic on G+ or Facebook this weekend!
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