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I've come to the conclusion that whoever said, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" didn't really love whoever he or she was absent from. That little saying just hasn't been my experience. I think when you really love someone, you love them even more when you are with them enough to experience the reasons you loved them in the first place. I know when I don't get enough time with Andrew, I start feeling irritated and annoyed. And, yes, ironically I get the most aggravated with him.
I know it's unrealistic. But when you fall in love and decide to build a life together, it's easy to make the mistake of thinking that you'll actually be together. The fact is that after you get married you see a whole lot less of the person you promised to love first and best of all. Jobs, kids, all the things you must/should/can do: it gets a lot harder to make or steal time. The coffee you used to have together gets poured into travel mugs. The weeknight "grocery store dates" are replaced by an early Saturday morning run through the register after dropping a teenager off for work. The events you would have otherwise attended together become casualties of scheduling conflicts. The tasks you once tackled as a team are divided between you for efficiency's sake.
There's all kinds of advice out there about how to help married couples keep this from happening. I've noticed it often comes from people with a lot fewer kids -- and a lot more money -- than we have. To be honest, "date night" hasn't really worked for us. Probably because it's hard to have quality time with your husband or wife when what you really need is quantity time with your blanket and pillow. And, of course, there's always the unanticipated but truly important issue that needs attention. Now.
I think God must feel this way about each and every one of us. It is paradoxical that the Eternal One has difficulty getting much of our time. We're often too busy, too caught up, or too tied down to just be with him. The moments we once snatched somehow drift out of reach. And yes, it's easy (at least for me) to get aggravated about it all. But when I actually do manage to make even just a little bit of time for God, something amazing happens. I realize how very foolish it is to live any breath of moment without him. I experience how lovable God is, and how lovable his presence makes me feel.
Love isn't all hearts and flowers and chocolates, but it is some. As we plod through the rest of this winter, we ought to remember that for Christians, spring is always at hand. It blooms, even amid the snows and in the desert. The new life we are given in Christ Jesus flows from love and toward it. That new life places new love forever in our hands. God is with us and we are called to be with one another. Presence makes the heart grow, not only fonder, but broader, fuller, purer. It does this for the married and the monastic, for husbands and priests, wives and religious sisters.
This time of year the Church draws our attention to love as it takes shape in both consecrated and married life. Love takes time. Religious communities, families, husbands and wives need time together. They need to rub up against all that grates on them, as well as what comforts and sustains them. They need to be challenged to make a total gift of their lives to one another, and they need to learn the openness that enables us to receive such a gift from another. None of us can count on being swept off our feet for a lifetime. But sometimes we ought to put down the brooms and dustpans long enough to remember what being together felt like, at least once upon a time.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.