"Love One Another!" 13/2009 → True Love Waits - Pure Hearts
I am a single, though by no means lonely, person. This year I will be thirty-nine years old. To put it delicately, I was raised in a family overshadowed by “alcoholism.” The term covers a host of problems: lack of self-acceptance, various complexes, anxieties, difficulty in making important life decisions, etc.
The atmosphere at home was hard to bear. My parents could not get along. My father sought escape in alcohol, while my mother did nothing but whine and complain against him. Both were wounded people and unconsciously passed on their low self-esteem to my sister and myself. Although they tried very hard to love us — above all, by providing for our material well-being — their love lacked that “personal quality” which flows from marital unity.
That domestic wound festered in me as well. Ever since I can remember, I always lacked a sense of security, inner peace, and self-confidence.
At high school I took an active part in Renewal in the Holy Spirit prayer meetings. The joint prayer sessions were a welcome respite from the heavy atmosphere of my home. There I experienced moments of intimacy with God and others. In hindsight I can see what a great gift and support those youth groups were, for it was there that I came into contact with high ideals, a passion for life, and a love for God. I am convinced it is thanks to those experiences at that formative time of my life that I did not subsequently fall into evils such as drugs, alcohol abuse, or destructive friendships.
After graduating from high school I decided to pursue studies in my favorite subject — theology. I continued to bear my burden: self-inadequacy, low self-esteem, constant anxiety, the feeling of being an “outsider,” a fool, and an emotional cripple (even among friends), rejection, and lack of respect from others. I know now that if you do not respect yourself, no one will respect you either.
After college, I met Mark. We spent our Sundays together, went for walks, listened to music, and — nothing else: meaning, no plans on his part for a future together. Neither of us was mature enough for marriage. He was dependent on his mother who ruled his life, and I depended on him. I suffered over this, but did not know how to get out of the relationship. I wanted to live on a deeper level, where I could be open to God and grow spiritually, but Mark was indifferent to religion.
Three years passed. I was torn by contradictory emotions. At last, just before the Feast of Divine Mercy, the scales fell from my eyes. I got up the nerve and broke off this co-dependent relationship that was leading nowhere.
After making the break, I entered a very difficult phase in my life, especially since I had no support from my friends. Many of them blamed me for breaking off the relationship. Others started families of their own; as a result, our ties of friendship gradually loosened and fell away.
The one support I had was my belief in God, but in those days God often seemed more distant than close to me, as though He were hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. I fell into a state of sadness. I suffered from loneliness and a sense of abandonment. In tears, I would ask God why I was worse than others and why He had deserted me. I needed someone to talk to, to experience people’s kindness and support in my daily troubles. But I found none of this at home or at work. I carried a heavy weight in my heart — a thorn, which prevented me from breathing freely and taking joy in life.
I went on a holiday and met Peter. Thirteen years older than myself, he impressed me with his self-assurance, familiarity with people, and sense of humor. Hungry for love, I clung to him with all my heart. Before long I moved in with him. Where was my self-respect then? My respect for my womanhood! Those were my first experiences with a man. Each time I would go at once to confession and beg God’s forgiveness, but I could not make the decision to leave the relationship. I wanted to, but I could not. That man seemed to control my life, and I submitted blindly to his whims, unable to take any independent action. Needless to say, I did eventually leave him, but only because he told me he “had never loved” me. I felt dirty, used, and empty inside. A sense of guilt and self-loathing gnawed at me. After a few weeks total desolation entered my already tormented soul. I knew I had lost something precious, something that was meant to be a gift to my future husband alone. The pain I suffered is hard to describe.
I felt unworthy to stand in line with my married friends who belonged to our Domestic Church group. I understood I had hit rock bottom. I had to do something with myself and make restitution to God for my sin.
I began to attend Ignatian retreats. I listened to the talks, took notes, and tried to pray. At first very little of what I learned seemed to penetrate my heart. But very gradually the results of my sin, the depressions, the waves of sadness and anger began to leave me. I learned the art of meditative prayer, which required focus, concentration, and effort. In time a genuine faith, independent of moods and emotions, began to take root in my heart. My intense prayer life enabled me to open myself up to God who became the central Person of my life. I began to experience God’s love deeply. I grew to feel the respect that God the Father has for each of His children. After each meditation I felt myself more securely anchored in this love. God’s grace brought order and harmony into my soul.
In a personal relationship with God the Creator, complexes and fears vanish. Negative patterns of thinking lose their grip on us. Naturally all this did not take place at once. God’s light illuminated what I had to change over the course of several years. During the Ignatian retreats I learned the rules of spiritual discernment. I began the daily practice of examining my conscience. I learned that lvviving a life of genuine values — love, friendship, beauty, and good — is not possible without maximum effort on our part and without the involvement of divine grace. The possibility of cooperating with God, of co-creating our personal history with Him filled me with a desire for life and hope in the future. I began to see God working in all aspects of my daily life. Since my friendship with Jesus has become more personal, intimate, real, and conscious, I no longer seek out improper relationships. I appraise my friendships soberly. I no longer seek people’s approval at any cost, because I already have the one, most important relationship with my Father and Friend. It is a life-giving relationship. It gives me joy.
For several years I have been seeing a regular spiritual director, who is a great gift to me. I also have several tested close friends, whom I value as treasures. But I know that no one will ever be as great a friend to me as God is.
To all those who come from dysfunctional families, to those who carry emotional wounds, to all those who feel lost and rejected, I want to say this: God wants to heal your wounds every day. Allow Him to do so! Open wide the doors of your hearts to His spiritual gifts! If those who are deeply wounded do not allow Jesus to heal their soul, they will go on unconsciously wounding themselves and others. Satan seeks the weakest places to attack us. Only through the power of God can we overcome him. Despite your painful past you can love and be happy!
I also have this to say to those who are quick to judge and condemn others. Every person’s life is unique and unrepeatable. Lonely women need support. If they do not find it at home or at work, where will they find it? Let us build a network of friends where we can find kindness, mutual respect, and cooperation. Let those who come through a crisis understand those who are passing through the shadow of the valley of death. Let us change our world for the better, above all through prayer and a good word.
When I abide in a close relationship with God, I have peace in my heart.