Maybe I should have expected groans when I asked my boys if they wanted to watch the preview of the movie, The Letters, with me. I hadn’t actually told them what movie it was just that it was a movie I’d picked out. Their groans might be related to the fact that I’d recently made them watch part of a PureFlix movie, Captivated, about the affect of screen time on children and they expected more of the same, but finally they stopped complaining long enough to ask what movie I’d chosen.
I hadn’t expected the dramatic change that came about when I told them.
My 12 year old’s face lit up, “The Letters?”
He sat up straight from where he’d been slouched, sulking on the couch.
“Wow, you got The Letters to preview Mom? That’s cool!”
I looked suspiciously at him, searching for signs of sarcasm but could find none. This little one wants to be a police officer or join the Army and is into the rough and tumble of boyhood. Would The Letters really interest him? The other boys hadn’t heard of the movie but stopped their complaints to look at their brother oddly.
I didn’t wait. It was an opening, and I ran with it. Not stopping to ask how this precious child had heard of the movie, I hit play.
The Letters, Mother Teresa of Calcutta & a Message to the Divorced
The story of Mother Teresa needs no spoiler alert. It’s familiar to most of us, crossing racial, ethnic, religious, and economic lines, but it’s more than that. Mother Teresa would be the first to tell us, it is not her story, but God’s story, a reminder to each of us that we are still living in God’s plan as surely as ancient Biblical figures lived in God’s plan.
The question is whether we are willing to live out His plan or whether we will continue to fight the plan and live for ourselves. For the abandoned and the divorced, this may be especially difficult and there are many aspects to The Letters that relate to the plights of those I’ve spoken with over the years.
Mother Teresa was called to be a nun, and many of us understand callings. We are called to be teachers, nurses, even attorneys. The callings dearest to our hearts though are often not within our careers but within our own homes.
We are called to be wives and mothers. When something turns that calling around and what we expected at the beginning of our journey is far from where we end up, we can be thrust into lengthy periods of darkness. It is tempting to feel utterly alone in our loneliness and to question our calling, but The Letters show us we are most decidedly not alone and implore us to proceed on the path following the way of the Lord rather than seeking our own self interest.
Many of Mother Teresa’s words struck my heart but the phrase which appeared to be the theme of the movie and, I’m guessing, Mother Teresa’s life is:
The greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, and unloved.
The film referenced this idea beautifully and showed over and over Mother Teresa’s selfless reaching out to the poor and unwanted. It was beautiful to watch her touch the children and the sick and dying. The film showed the power of the human touch and how powerful simply laying hands on one another in pure love is. In a world where Hollywood glorifies violence and sex, we see human touch the way God intended it to be.
There are moments in the film that made me want to know more. One such scene shows a Hindu man who had opposed Mother Teresa kneel and kiss her feet after she helps in the delivery of his wife’s breech baby. I longed to know what he said to her, what she said to him, but the point that sunk in was to not hate when hated but instead to do good, to wait for the opportunity to show God’s love over our own, and to reach out in thanks often. I have no idea what impact the man’s show of gratitude had on Mother Teresa, but now, knowing a bit of the depths of her loneliness, I can only imagine the gift that moment was to her soul.
As a girl, I grew up hearing of Mother Teresa. I remember seeing her wrinkled face smiling always. Hearing of her letters and the doubt she had in the Lord’s love for her saddened me. This woman who reached out to so many, putting herself at risk for disease and bodily harm, trusted in the God she privately thought had abandoned her. How many of the divorced feel the same sense of abandonment?
The Letters show Mother Teresa’s patience. Even knowing she had been called by God to serve the poor, Mother Teresa had to wait for Vatican approval to leave the convent, to serve those crying out for God’s Love, and then to start her own religious order. As a divorced woman, coming face to face with her patience and trust, I was forced to reflect on my own life. I looked back on my marriage and thought of how little I had truly prayed over whether this was God’s will or mine, of how I had married impatiently, seeking our Mr. Right Now rather than Mr. Right. I thought of how many people I knew had done the same – and how many questioned, as had I, why their marriages had failed.
I also understood a tiny fraction of the opposition Mother Teresa faced in the Church as her superior continuously put her down. This happens to some who have gone through the annulment process and who feel rejected by imperfect human beings. Sadly, many of the divorced will choose to skip the annulment or leave the Catholic Church entirely. Mother Teresa reminds us to stay the course. She reminds us those imperfect human beings and the imperfect annulment process is not the Catholic faith, but the Love of the Trinity is.
Now that I have an annulment, I prayed to have Mother Teresa’s conviction that I was doing the right thing if I were ever to get into a relationship again. I prayed to have her patience in waiting for the right one and to find Joy in my singleness and in my servitude if that never happens. I prayed to have the strength to continue serving God when I don’t hear His voice.
There are many times in my writing I beg God to show me what to write, “Dear Lord, please give me the words You want me to say. Make this more about You and less about me,” But there is always a part of my writing that IS about me. Somehow, no matter how much I get around that fact, it is true.
The Letters showed how every part of Mother Teresa was about God. It brought home the fact that Good works alone are not enough to make it to Heaven. We must believe in the Trinity and base our lives and our works on that – even in our darkness.
Darkness is a part of every human life in varying degrees. Mother Teresa experienced a darkness we know of only through her letters to her spiritual advisor. The letters are a gift to each of us stumbling about in darkness, experiencing a depth of loneliness we think others do not understand. To quote the priest who investigated Mother Teresa’s possible canonization,
The darkness she lived with is an essential part of who she was…there is no stronger testimony.
If you have been abandoned or divorced or are going through other hardships and dark periods, even if they last six decades, you can draw Hope from Mother Teresa’s letters and be inspired to walk in God’s path through it all.
The Letters, a Recommendation?
Would I recommend watching the movie The Letters? Perhaps the best testimony for the movie is not in whether I would watch it again for I most certainly will, but in how many times it was viewed by my boys.
Part way through the first viewing, I was called away for an important phone call. My boys could easily have turned off the film, put on something else, or just walk away. Instead they stayed and watched. More to my surprise, the next day when I went to watch it myself, four out of five of them stayed up until almost midnight to watch it a second time.
If five active, rough and tumble boys can find inspiration in The Letters, in the beautiful woman Mother Teresa is, and I God Himself, I hope you can too.
To check out more of The Letters, please click here.
And if you’re looking for family friendly, faith-based movies you can watch any time, check out PureFlix, a Christian alternative to what mainstream media shoots into our homes. Purchasing PureFlix through SingleMomSmiling also pays me a small commission. 🙂
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