It took a long time to get over my husband leaving, but I did. He made his choices. He was given free will by God, his Father. If God would not take away his free will and make him stay, who am I to try?
What took longer to get over was my fear that my children would turn out like him, that they too would cheat, leaving wives and families, justifying or turning a blind eye to damage done.
My children – These precious souls I carried inside me for nine months, who I nursed through infancy, whose brows I wiped sweat from in long, feverish nights, who I read stories to and did swim lessons with and whose dimpled little hands I held. These precious growing souls who I watched look up YouTube videos to learn how to tie a tie, who I bought acne cream and deodorant and first razors for while praying they didn’t slice their own throats. These precious souls who gave me purpose when I thought I had none, who made me smile in my darkness, who brought me back to faith when I’d turned my anger on God.
I couldn’t fathom the idea that these beautiful creatures might become men who could cause devastation to their wives, to their children, and ultimately, to themselves worst of all. These are my flesh and blood, and I Love them unconditionally, beyond their comprehension.
And yet, if we are to believe the “legacy of divorce,” we are forced to recognize that the sins of the father can be generational.
And for many sleepless nights, that thought haunted me.
Readings like those from Sunday’s Feast of the Holy Family, would cause me to cry out to God begging Him to spare my children. In Sunday’s first reading, from the Old Testament’s Book of Sirach, we see the honor a father is due and the influence he has over his children.
But what about when that father is not acting honorably? What influence does he have? Who will teach those sons the right path? How will they choose differently from what was shown to them by their father?
The second reading continued painfully, the last portion most concerning me as a single mom of five boys.
Wives be subordinate to your husbands…
How would I raise Men worthy of submission with no role model to show them how to be a Man?
Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them…
How would I show them that Love is a daily choice, not a feeling or desire,
that Love is felt in the heart but controlled by the mind,
that where they spend time determines what they Love,
that Love really, truly can be in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, and ’til death do you part,
that Love like that is worth waiting for,
that true Love is work, but a Good kind of work?
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.
How do I tell my children to obey their father when what he is doing breaks God’s commandments, when his lifestyle is clearly not pleasing to the Lord?
Fathers do not provoke your children so they do not become discouraged
How do I keep my children from becoming discouraged in their struggles when their father provokes them,
when even I have failed and given examples born of anger and pain, jealously and bitterness, injustice and fear, mistrust and doubt,
when I, as the one who knows better, should have done better?
And finally we come to Sunday’s Gospel, Luke 2: 41-52 and read of Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus on the journey to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. We learn that the Child Jesus has struck out on His own, staying behind to preach to those in the Temple, but we also see Mary and Joseph searching for the Boy with no idea where He was, what He was doing, who He was with, what choices He was making, or where He’d end up.
He was out of their sight and out of their control,
like the children of a faith-filled, single parent.
Ultimately, like all children.
Upon finding Jesus, Mary and Joseph are asked why they were so worried; Jesus tells them He was in His Father’s house.
This is the key to putting aside parental worry about how our children will turn out.
Jesus came as a Baby, as one of us, the same way we did. He could have come with flashing lights and swift lighting bolts reigning down from the sky. He could have come to take away our free will and to control us. He could have come as an all-powerful, iron-fisted ruler and taken over the world in an instant.
But instead, Jesus came as a vulnerable child, a child as vulnerable as we are, as vulnerable as our children are. Jesus came, not as a Father, but as a Brother, and nothing Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit does is by chance.
Jesus came as our Brother to show us our true Father. He shows us that, when our biological fathers fail, as all human fathers do from time to time, we can look up to our Heavenly Father, that it is truly in Him that we place our trust, it is in His house that we find our Home.
It is our Heavenly Father that, as Sirach says, sets honor over children and, that when given honor, atones for sins. It is in revering and obeying the Heavenly father, even above the most wonderful earthly father, a mother is comforted.
It is in looking at the example of Our Heavenly Father that sons learn to be loving and continually forgiving, as the Lord has forgiven Israel and His people through generations. It is in observing the Loving God that sons learn to be Men worthy of submission and discover the value of Good works done in the name of Love.
It is in submitting to God’s Commandments that children learn obedience in everything. It is in placing our Hope, not in our human parents but in the Divine Father, that children not become discouraged.
It is in the same free will that allows a husband to leave his wife and family that allowed Jesus to leave Mary and Joseph to teach at the Temple. It is that same free will that Jesus used to return obediently to them.
It is that same free will that gives single parents Hope for their children, that they will use the gift of free will, a gift given by God, a gift far more powerful, when applied in faith, than a curse of generational sin.
It is the gift of free will that sons are free to choose to Love as Jesus did,
free to choose to follow in their Father’s footsteps.
And we see this happening, this perpetual offering of forgiveness, this choosing of Love time and again, even through our pain, our tears, and our loneliness, we see our children run off to be with fathers who have hurt them so badly by walking out.
It is in witnessing the Love a child has for his sinful, earthly father that we realize how much better our children are than we, and we realize there is Hope for them to be Men of God, strong faith-filled, loyal Family Men, men far better than their fathers, but far better than we are too.
We, who had once promised to Love unconditionally, eventually find that Love has withered and died. We find that, even when the choice of Marital permanence was stolen from us, we eventually lose the ability to love our spouses as we’d hoped to a lifetime ago. We no longer hate them or are angry at them or anything. That total void of feeling for one we’d promised to Love forever sadly displays our own failings, our own inability to Love unconditionally, our own need to promote the following of our children in their Father’s footsteps rather than even in our own.
Our children give us Hope because, despite the wrong done to them by the fleeing parent, they are able to Love through time in ways we cannot. It is in their display of unconditional Love that we know they are better than we are, that we find Hope that they will choose to use their free will to follow their Father’s path, just as Jesus used His free will to remain in the temple so long ago.
It is in their choice to Forgive and to Love unconditionally that we find Hope for their Marriages and for the permanence of relationships we may Hope to have one day, but it is also in our children’s examples that we realize that we cannot be content with good enough in ourselves or in others, that instead we are called to forgive and to reach out for and to give to others an unconditional Love as we follow in our Father’s footsteps.
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