Who do you trust? Your mother? Your father? Your children, spouse, neighbor? Your girlfriend’s brother’s cousin’s friend? Do you trust an ad on tv or a product endorsed by a celebrity? How about what you read online?
Who can trust you and why? When you give your word or say that you’ll do something, do people believe you? How do you know? Do you look them in the eye, extend a firm handshake, or write up a contract? After agreeing, do you back out, come up with excuses, or simply forget? How does that affect how others view your trustworthiness?
In Marriage, more than in almost any other human relationship, trust is vital. This is especially true when children are invited into the family. Trust becomes even more important when the decision is made for one parent to stay home to care for and raise those children.
The stay at home parent trusts her spouse to provide financially, but also for healthcare and retirement. She trusts her partner to go to work and to be at work. She trusts him to interact professionally with people he meets in his workplace and in nothing more than friendship to those he meets outside of his job. She trusts him to love.
The working parent has a great trust in the stay at home partner. He trusts her to provide for his flesh and blood. He trusts her to feed and clothe and bathe them but also to read to them, laugh with them, and discipline them. He trusts her to teach them right from wrong, to keep them safe from harm, and to be strong in their faith. He trusts her to love.
Both spouses trust that when they reunite at the end of the day they will find acceptance, friendship, and a partner choosing to love. They know reality means this will not be the case every day. They know that some days are just hard. They know that they will have days when a misinterpreted view or snarling glance causes injury or anger, fear or frustration.
They trust they will work these things out. They trust that good days will outweigh bad. They trust that each will act for the short term but visualize the long term. They trust that each will have the imagination to view a time, after all the chaos of having young children and insanity of the teen years are gone, that they will connect on a level that only comes from surviving the rough patches.
They trust in love for each other and from each other.
As far too many know, that love doesn’t always last the way we think it should and one or both partners choose to begin the slide that allows them to eventually choose to turn away. They seek happiness in places they vowed they’d never go, in people they’d once have turned away from, and in things they shunned others for doing not long ago.
The temptation is to blame the partner, blame the institution, blame the Sacrament, blame society, blame yourself, blame, blame, blame. Casting accusations and pointing fingers get us nowhere, doesn’t fix the problem, and imprisons us in unforgiveness. No matter how society tries to tell us divorce is okay, that children are resilient, and that we need to “move on,” the truth is, lasting problems arise when a Marriage is defiled.
Problems increase exponentially when the Marriage vows are shred and divorce is chosen. A decree of nullity does little to change this. Children and abandoned spouses still feel extreme pain. Anger and bitterness threaten to rule. Insecurity and division rule children’s hearts when they lose their sense of permanence as they are forced to travel from house to house and put their parent’s happiness ahead of their own.
It is that backwards view of love, such as we see when the child is expected to sacrifice his stability for a parent’s happiness, that makes divorce so painful. It is not the blame of the partner or Marriage, society or yourself that causes lasting heartbreak. It is a misunderstanding of Love and a placing of Trust in the wrong people and things.
Trust Lives in the Gospel of Matthew:
In the readings from this final Sunday of Advent, we see the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, verses 18-35 tell us a bit of Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, and what kind of man he was. In Joseph and Mary, we see degrees of trust almost inconceivable today. That trust is not limited to, or based upon, a trust in one another though. That trust lives in all they do and in all they surround themselves with.
Mary was raised by loving parents, two people we know as saints today, Saint Anne and Saint Joachim. What role models they must have been for her! What amazing providers of virtue they must have been. How carefully they must have prayed over the who would Marry their immaculate daughter! How Mary trusted these two!
I know little of Joseph’s parents or who or how he was raised but guess he must have had trustworthy role models too. Joseph was hand picked by God, just as Mary was, to be the guardian of Jesus on earth, to care for Mary and the Baby. The Lord trusted Joseph to take Mary to Bethlehem away from from the gossip that must have run rampant, targeting her in their small town. God trusted Joseph with the flight from Herod’s men. He trusted him with Jesus’ daily care. He trusted Joseph to, day in and day, out make the choice to provide financially, for healthcare, and for Mary’s future. How the Father trusted Joseph!
Joseph was probably about 18 or 19 years old at the time. How much do we trust our 18 and 19 year olds? How much responsibility do we give them? How much weight do we try to remove from their shoulders when that weight may build character and help them become the Men they are called to be?
What an awesome responsibility young Joseph was given! What an incredible weight he must have felt, yet Joseph trusted what he heard in a dream! How is this possible? How must he have felt to discover his innocent bride-to-be was bearing a child that was not his? How many men would have been hurt, offended, angered, and felt the need to retaliate? How many would have gossiped and scorned their betrothed? How many would have publicly renounced her as happens today on shows like Jerry Springer? How many add fuel to fires as we, the audience, revel in pain like spectators cheering on the slaughter of innocents in ancient Roman arenas? To follow that dream, how Joseph must have trusted himself!
2000 years ago, there must have been uproar over the scandal of an unwed mother, especially one pregnant by someone other than her betrothed, but we don’t hear of it in this case. Neither Mary nor Joseph, Saint Anne nor Saint Joachim cry out in pain and anger for justice in those early Gospel passages. Instead, they quietly trust, but that trust is not just in each other. That trust is ultimately in the Lord.
Trust in the Lord:
Imagine the level of trust in God that went into Mary’s yes when she was approached by the angel. Imagine the level of trust Joseph had in himself when he had the dream calling him to be the earthly father of his own Savior. Imagine the level of trust Mary’s parents had as they sent their pregnant daughter off to be counted in the census.
But imagining doesn’t grow trust and experiencing the peace that accompanies trust doesn’t happen by accident. When trust in another is shattered through betrayal in an affair or addiction or some other seemingly insurmountable way, fractures in trust stretch far beyond individuals and immediate circumstances. Fractures in trust threaten future generations, future relationships, and future abilities to love and be loved.
Those fractures in trust can be stopped however. They can be mended and broken parts of us can be made stronger, adding beauty, giving character, and shaping us into those we are called to be.
Building trust after betrayal, whether you remain in the relationship of not, is not an easy process and cannot be rushed. It is requires boundaries and clear understanding of which “rules” can be bent and which must remain firm. Distrust is not a life sentence for those who have discovered a spouse’s affair or who have been abandoned in divorce, but it can require a lifelong commitment to occasionally and quietly inspect weak points where distrust may threaten to creep in again, warranted or not.
Trusting after betrayal means surrounding yourself with trustworthy people as the Holy Family did. It means getting away from the gossips and not becoming one yourself. It means trusting yourself enough to believe in your dreams.
Building trust takes practice. Building trust takes nurturing. Building trust means not jumping into decisions or relationships or commitments but discovering who is trustworthy and placing trust in the hands of the right people. It means patience and waiting for God’s timing rather than our own. Building trust means guarding one’s heart but not closing it off.
We do this by giving our trust first to the one who is trustworthy. We must recognize that ultimately there is only one who will never let us down, one who will never disappoint, one who is always and forever is trustworthy in all times and all matters, one who never goes back on His word, one who never breaks the rules, one who always rewards the faithful and punishes the guilty in a time He sees fit to do so. We must recognize that there is only one who is trustworthy because He is Truth.
Trusting after Divorce & Betrayal:
In divorce and betrayal, it is easy to see so much pain and suffering that one can be tempted to vow to never love again. It is easy to see yourself as part of a broken family, so far removed from what the perfect family should be, so very different from the image the Holy Family provides us with. It is easy to fall prey to negative thoughts and what the world dictates we do. It is easy to crave love and confirmation of our worth to the point of falling for someone who we are not meant to be with. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking Matthew 1 is just a nice story with no applicable connection to us today, but it wasn’t just a nice story and it applies to you today more than to anyone in history because it is your history.
Matthew 1 is more than a nice story. It is history that changed the world. It is history based on trust built over years of making small decisions that built trust in big ways. It is history of individuals surrounding themselves with likeminded people and then stretching beyond their comfort zones to do the seemingly impossible. It is a history of love based on Truth. It is a history that affects generations across cultures and barriers. It is a history built on a tiny Baby in a manger and the people around Him who chose to trust in Him.
Betrayal is a page in your book, but this is your history. What steps will you take today to build trust? How will you allow your history to change your future?
The Father is calling you to love by opening your heart and embracing His plans for you. Trust in Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He loves you. You can trust Him and be free to love.
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