“Doubt” Gives Way to Truth in a Marriage

We sat and watched “Doubt” last night. In case you haven’t seen it, it involves a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is wrongly or rightly accused by a nun (Meryl Streep) of an impropriety with an altar boy. In the movie, Father Flynn (Hoffman) gives one of two short sermons, during mass. The second one is about a parishioner, who is having trouble with a gossipy tongue. Likewise, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep) gossips with Sister James about a doubt she has about Father Flynn. Together they blame him for something they think he may have done.  The doubt grows and festers and eventually takes over the life of Sister Aloysius. She simply can’t quiet the doubt until it brings the results she wants.

Doubt, gossiping, blame: those are some interesting bed fellows, aren’t they? They have wreaked havoc in my own life and marriage. I have doubted my husband and his love for me. I have talked over this doubt with others. I have strung the pieces of doubt together, like a poorly-made garment, called them facts, and then blamed him. The doubt took over my life as well, causing sleepless nights, and depression. During this period of ugliness, our marriage suffered, and my husband suffered. He took my blame on the chin and never retaliated, which is his nature. Then it occurred to me, “Perhaps, I am partly to blame.”

In a poignant scene, Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius were in a similar situation. He asked her if she had ever done anything of which she was ashamed and if she had asked for forgiveness. She said that she had. He responded with guarded enthusiasm that this made them the same. She said that it did not and continued with her campaign against him. Some marriages can play out like this with one giving into the lure of self-righteousness at all costs. Sometimes the cost is high.

The relationship doctor, Dr. David B. Hawkins, speaks to this in a letter entitled, “The Futility of Blame.” In the letter, there is an email from someone whose marriage was torn apart by blame and how the husband wisely chose to step away from the battlefield. Like him, I have made the same choice. I no longer share with others the ups and downs of our marriage and I have given blame a rest. Today, our marriage is better. There are still problems and, occasionally, Doubt will come pounding at my back door. Instead of letting him in, however, I don’t answer and trust that my Savior will fight those battles.  God is love, afterall, and who among us is better at creating and mending love than He? No one.


Are You Good?

I weighed in on a discussion online with a mom, who was choosing to raise her daughter without the influence of the church. She, along with her husband, had been hurt by religion and chose to reject that path for their family. They were basically good people, she said, and could adequately teach their child right from wrong or how to be good. But can they? I’m not saying that this couple isn’t nice. I’m sure they are nice law-abiding people, but are they good?

As I read the comments from others about this topic, many admitted also to being good and that they didn’t need God or the church and were going to let their children grow up and choose a faith on their own…or not. Their reasons were that they had been hurt by religion and, as a result, had either chosen no faith at all or had chosen something like agnosticism. Many encouraged this young mother to keep her daughter away from the church and choose, instead, another community, like a mom’s group of some kind, say one that meets at a park regularly.

I know that this is the way of contemporary society and I think it’s sad. There are countless people who have been hurt by religion, I was one of them. My parents used religion to discipline, invoke fear, and squelch self-expression. Too, I once worked for a Christian company and was betrayed by the same people who said that they “loved” me. But, you know what? I now know that that is NOT who God is.

For me, God is loving and forgiving prone to jealousy, yes, but always has my best interest in mind. This doesn’t mean that I will not face hardships or that people I love will not face hardships, like death, addiction, divorce, betrayal, but it does mean that God is there waiting for me, always, to come to Him, abide with Him, and seek comfort in His care. It’s not an easy relationship, and it’s confusing, and it’s often not what I want, but it’s reliable and steady.

I think I’m a good person. I volunteer, I give to charity, I tithe, I obey the laws, but that’s probably a few hours out of my week. What about the rest of the time? The rest of the time I have, on occasions, been spiteful and mean to the people close to me. I have rejected those who needed my friendship. I’ve succumbed to road rage. I have lusted and have wanted to leave a loving environment to “find myself,” I mean, come on people, are we really THAT good. No, we’re not and we can’t possible teach another how to be good, especially a young, impressionable child.

The BEST that we can do is to teach a child in the ways of his Creator, to teach him or her about His church and its people, and pray for forgiveness for the rest. Without that, what do we have to offer our children…really?

Live Like You Are Small

Occasionally, I have the opportunity to substitute teach in the public school system. One day I was standing at the door greeting the children and one precious little 2nd grade girl with strawberry curls looked up at me and said, “I like your clothes, and your belt, and your necklace, and your (painted) toes, oh, and your eyes.” I blushed a little, smiled and thanked her, then began my day.

I thought about that little girl later and how loving she was and without any apologies. Then, I thought, she, along with her classmates, will grow up. They’ll grow up, become adults, and look the other way when they see you coming down the hall, just to avoid speaking. They’ll talk to everyone at their table but you. At a lunch outing, you’ll share with one of your “close” friends an intimate moment about your life—a struggle you’re having—because that was the topic of the day and then you won’t hear from her for months. All attempts to email or make additional lunch plans return to you void. Sometimes, they’ll profess their admiration for you and how much you mean to them and how glad they are that you are friends, and then they’ll never write or keep in touch. All attempts to stay connected are up to you.

Like the little girl in curls, I’ve had similar encounters with boys. They don’t really notice the appearance thing, but they will hang around my desk. They’ll ask me if they can help with anything (on a good day), tell me stories about their weekend, each competing with their buddy to tell the better story, ask me to come and see something they have built with blocks or Legos, ask me to help settle an argument between friends, and so on. Then they grow up.

They grow up and become men. They become men who will also profess their love and adoration for you, and then never call or come by again. They will do something nice for you, without being asked, but then will point to their “selfless” act later and want recognition for it. They’ll offer to do housework, which will spark much pride and love in your heart as you see them vacuuming or washing the dishes, only to find out later that they forgot your birthday.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had many cherished moments with adults, but what if we could love like little children. What if we could walk up to anyone and say, without apologies or wanting the compliment returned, “I like your voice, your eyes, your concern for others,” etc. What if the men in our lives would tell us something intimate about their own life and without shame? What if they would ask to help with housework not because they want a “trophy” for it or because of guilt, but simply because they love us?

I think that is why Jesus loves the little children, because their hearts are big and full of love. They trust without suspicion, they’re curious and full of wonder at the world around them, they’re eager to help with anything or to lend a comforting pat when we are sad.  They’re truly interested in us and our lives. What if we all would take a cue from them? How much better our lives would be if we would live like we are small.

An Inward Look, An Outward Expression

There is a radio program here that I enjoy listening to in the evenings called “Delilah.” It is a program geared towards love and relationships and plays “sappy love songs” (think BeeGees) until your heart’s content. During the program, Delilah will take callers. Being of the “my dirty laundry is my own” persuasion I am amazed at the callers’ candidness and of Delilah’s graciousness at pointing out, in some cases, the caller’s contribution to the failure of the marriage or relationship.


To wrap up, she will usually leave the listeners with some positive message and encouragement. On one particular evening, she challenged her listeners to perform a random act of kindness for someone the next day. She suggested pumping gas for an elderly person, helping a busy mom load groceries in her car, allowing someone to go in front of you in a long line at a fast food or grocery, and so on.


The challenge really made me think about my own contribution to the greater good. Delilah often speaks of God’s love (imagine that coming across liberal airwaves, but it does, just the same) and how we can be comforted by it and should share it with others. Jesus’ life and death is the epitome of showing love for others. Jesus did not have the Internet or a cell phone or a TV or a newspaper or any of the other thousands of distractions we have that draw us inward, but even if he did I still think he would have made others his focus.


Say he was in the middle of performing a miracle, like healing the lame or forgiving a woman of her sins and his cell phone rang, I doubt that he would have stopped suddenly and said, “I’m sorry, I have to take this.” If he was answering important questions from his disciples or from the many who followed him, I doubt he would have paused and said, “Let me Google that and get back with you.” No, he would have quickly consulted his heavenly Father, as always, and then spoke to the people from his heart.


I’m as guilty as the next person for not reaching out and showing love to others. As we become more and more crowded as a nation and as society’s demands to stay ahead increase in intensity, “circling the wagons” and keeping my personal contacts only at my fingertips has tremendous appeal. I would challenge us, though, to live the life Christ set before us, placing people and relationships first.


This would mean, turning off our cell phones while we’re on an outing or at a restaurant with family or friends. It would mean picking up the phone and calling a friend that needs to hear from you. It would mean handwriting a letter to show your interest and that you took time for the recipient. It would mean giving your undivided attention to the overworked retail person who’s trying to assist you. And it would mean walking out of your home and shaking the hands of mailmen and, yes, garbage men who service your street each day. These are just a few; there are thousands of other ways we could show love and appreciation for the human race.


We’re all in this together after all. The “bear in the boardroom,” the lady at the tollbooth and everyone in between want the same thing: something that will make their lives better, sharper, clearer. Google can’t provide this for us and neither can that last minute email or cellphone call. But an outward expression of kindness towards others may be part of the healing balm for which we search. Christ knew this, Delilah knows this, isn’t it time we learned?

Please Tell Me You Didn’t Call to Talk About Garbanzo Beans!

My husband called tonight. He’s been out of town, you see, so he called to ask how I was doing, and he wanted to talk about the exciting things that had occurred in his life. Those exciting things weren’t about work or about a new friend he had met. No, it wasn’t about that at all, but about three really good meals he had eaten. He had never been to this part of the country, so the experience was new for him, I’ll give him that. But when he called he talked to me at length about what he ate…for breakfast…for lunch…and for dinner.


I like food as much as the next gal, but I don’t really want to discuss it longer than, oh, 5 seconds. My husband is a different story. He talked about his plate of food like, I don’t know, like it was another woman. It went something like, “I ordered this wrap and they fixed it just…like…I like it. It had spinach and feta cheese. Then, I ordered a side of couscous that they made right there! [cue music] I also ordered a three-bean salad. They had the regular kidney beans and garbanzo beans but then they had beans like you fix. You know, how you put whole beans in a pan with a little butter?” (I was beginning to feel jealous about a three bean salad. He continued.) “Well, they did it just like that,” he said, “but the beans were cut up…you know, shorter.” Here, I resisted the urge to jump up and yell with delight, “They were shorter? That’s fantastic!” I didn’t though; I let him get this out of his system, so we could move on. And we did, we moved on to the fleece jacket he was thinking about buying.


Guys, if you’re reading this, I know that you don’t like to talk about your feelings, because you’re men, right. I mean, you like dirt and grease and you never talk about your feelings. It’s a guy rule, like leaving the seat up, occasionally, is your kind of rebel yell. However, to never talk about your feelings or to never “go there” leaves the women in your life feeling replaceable. I mean, if my husband and I were, say, figures in a dollhouse, sitting at a tiny table with a kind of crude background with a tiny picture of a family hanging on the tiny wall, a giant hand could easily remove me from this scene and replace me with anyone—a tiny postman, a tiny electrician, a tiny fireman, or even a tiny chair and it would be just as fulfilling…for him.


So, the next time you’re thinking that you’re “connecting” with the woman in your life, ask yourself, “if she were to hang up the phone right now (or walk out of the room, etc.) and I were to continue talking, would it hold the same meaning for me?” If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should take a different approach. Just for fun, ask her what she is thinking or how she feels about something or be willing to answer that question when she asks you. It wouldn’t kill you and contrary to popular belief you would still be a man afterwards. In fact, instead of losing your manhood, you might gain something. For instance, You might remember why you fell in love and or married her in the first place. And you might, just might realize that a garbanzo bean really doesn’t hold a candle to the significant woman in your life.