“You’ll never guess what he did now…” I grabbed my best friend, my confidant, and bit into the story. I needed someone to empty the latest episode with my ex on. I don’t believe in telling everyone the all the gory, ongoing details, but I needed to unload on someone. She listened and then went into what her ex had done too. Both of us shaking our heads in disbelief as we heard each others’ stories and added our own comments.
For me, the intense agony of abandonment and betrayal has long been gone. Any feeling of romantic love or longing for a reunion as well as any fear of not being good enough or pain of worthlessness was long ago replaced by nothing more than amazement that I had ever loved a man capable of doing what my ex does and that I had ever found him the least bit attractive.
When my husband left, people came out of the woodwork to let me know what they thought. Men said he needed to be taken behind the woodshed and taught a lesson. Female friends were at a loss, often tearing up with their own powerlessness and the idea that any husband could walk out on a pregnant wife and five small children.
Many said what my ex had done was unforgivable. They said he should rot in hell. I was in a strange place. I appreciated and even needed their support but did not want this man I loved to rot in hell. It was something I’d wish on no one. I also tried to not exact my own revenge, but I hoped he faced justice one day. I hoped God avenged me for things done to me. At the same time, I hoped God sympathized and overlooked things I did when the pain was just too much and I took vengeance into my own hands in petty little ways.
I was picking and choosing who was deserving of healing and forgiveness and who was not, what actions were justifiable and forgiveable and which were not. I was finding myself worthy of forgiveness and healing and my ex not. I was playing God.
In Sunday’s Gospel, we see Jesus heal ten lepers and only one return to Him in gratitude. Our assumption is that the nine lepers who did not return to give thanks are ungrateful and therefore unworthy of healing. There is an assumption that those nine lepers had their leprosy return and they returned to lives of isolation and suffering, but that is not the end of the story.
Our minds quickly jump to conclusions. We write people off as quickly or even more quickly than an abandoning spouse writes of his vows, his spouse, and his children. We assume that when one leaves, that is the end of the story.
The truth is that we don’t know the end of anyone’s stories, not even our own.
The Bible never tells us what happens to those nine lepers. We assume they are ungrateful and unworthy and therefore justice demands they return to leprosy and a life of misery, but God works differently.
God is a Father who loves each of us to a depth we are incapable of understanding. That love does not change when we are unworthy or ungrateful. That Love welcomes us to His embrace when we turn to Him whether through Baptism in infancy or through humble submission as adults. We continuously see how welcome one who “doesn’t fit” normal conventions of Christianity is in the Lord’s family.
In the case of the ten lepers, it is a Samaritan who returns and is the example of humility and gratitude. It is he who shows us how to act. It is he who grows closest to the Lord and who chooses to follow Him.
Anyone who chooses divorce believing it to be the answer to life’s unhappiness is fooling him or herself. Marriage is the joining of two flesh as one. It is the beautiful coming together of a sacred, albeit imperfect trinity, of husband, wife, and God.
Divorce leaves scars when flesh is torn apart and God’s plan for Marriage is rejected. Divorce is not an end of the relationship between two people who shared so much. Instead, it is a beginning for a new way the couple must learn to interact. For some, over time, they will become tentative friends. For others, even tentative bonds of friendship will never be formed. As the day in and day out weariness drags on years later, it is very tempting to assume your ex is an ungrateful leper. After all, he fails to acknowledge how much you sacrificed for his benefit, how you cared for him when he was sick or did the chores when he was always too busy. Worse, he refuses to acknowledge that the beautiful children he has are part of you or how positive your influence and parenting have been on them.
This appears unforgivable, but it’s not the end of his story. He may be an ungrateful leper at the moment, but his journey continues. We can’t know how his story will end. We can’t know if he will suffer in the future for his actions. We can’t know whether he returns to the Lord and becomes a changed man. We just can’t know.
We also can’t know how we appear to the Lord. No matter how bad your ex seems, to the perfect Lord, our sins are also an ugly scar on the beauty of His creation of who we are created to be. None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all mess up. It is why hope cannot lie in a person or our court system or in any earthly cause. Our faith must lie in a merciful and forgiving God. To those washed clean and living eternally with the one true and perfect God in Heaven, we also must seem ungrateful lepers.
Fortunately, it’s not the end of your story either. You can be forgiven. You can be healed. You are worthy. You are precious. You are Loved. Seek the Lord and remember to give thanks for all circumstances. Times of good give thanks for the good, and in times of darkness give thanks for the opportunity to seek a deeper relationship with God by learning to love more unselfishly, yes, even those who hurt you.
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