It’s February… the month where as a society we “celebrate” love. Of course society’s version of love and our Catholic understanding of love are often vastly different. I don’t wish to focus on the over-hyped version of love that we are often pushed into believing is best but wish to write about a deeper and more fulfilling kind of love.
I have been very fortunate in my life to have fallen deeply in love three times. The first time I ever fell in love was when I was 15 years old. I wasn’t looking to fall in love and in fact felt like I would never find someone who would ever love me for just being me. Still, one April night I found myself falling in love with a young 16 year old boy. He had asked me out and I said yes. We went to the movies. During the movie this sweet young man gently took my hand in his and held it throughout the movie. I could feel his hands slightly shaking as my hand was nestled in his. It made me smile that he would be so nervous to hold my hand. After all, I wasn’t anything special, just a girl whose hand hadn’t been held much.
When the movie ended he took me home. He asked me if he could take me out again sometime. I know I was smiling from ear to ear when I said yes. He took my hand and gently pressed his lips against it and told me he had a wonderful time and he couldn’t wait to see me again. He never made an attempt to do anything other than kiss my hand. Oh the butterflies in my stomach! As I looked at him I could see such love and respect in his eyes. I knew I was lost. My heart beat faster and I felt something click inside of me. We left each other and I went inside. I couldn’t stop smiling. One of my sisters asked me how my night went. I told her that one day I was going to marry that boy. She giggled and said “sure” but I assured her that I would. I knew I was in love and that this was the man that God had brought to me. It will be 25 years ago this April that I went out on that first date with Mike. In April it will also be our 22nd wedding anniversary. I did indeed marry that man who lit a fire in my heart and showed me a love that I could never have imagined. He still gives me butterflies in my stomach.
The second time I fell in love would be just 2 years after we were married. I was just a mere 20 years old and giving birth to our first child. I had desperately wanted to have a boy and was shocked when they announced “It’s a girl!” as she was born. I had always wanted a big brother and had hoped for my own children that our firstborn would be a boy. I can’t deny that there was a fleeting moment of disappointment when they made that announcement. Still, as they laid that precious little girl in my arms I knew at that very moment she was exactly what God intended for me to have. That fleeting moment of disappointment turned immediately into a joy that I have no words to even express.
As I held my little girl, knowing my husband was so far away in Somolia with the Marine Corps, I felt an even greater bond with her. She connected me to him… the first love of my life. I stroked her fingers and kissed her chubby cheeks and knew that whatever God had planned for me was always going to be so much better than anything I could ever hope or plan for. She was perfection wrapped up into a tiny body. The love I felt for her, and then again for each of my children, was so pure and so complete that I knew it could only come from God. I am always amazed and overcome with awe that with the addition of each child I feel the same way. It would seem that those feelings wouldn’t be as strong, especially when you have had so many children, but the truth of the matter is, I fall deeply in love with each of my children the moment I know they are growing inside of me and that loves strengthens in a way I can’t explain the moment I look into their eyes.
One would think that I would feel completely satisfied with the love that God has blessed me with through my husband and my children. For a while, I was satisfied. In fact, I had no idea that there was any other kind of love waiting for me. Of course this was before we had the world streaming into our home through the internet. Once we had the world at our fingertips I realized that something was missing from my life.
I have always been a practicing Catholic but once I began having children I decided I needed to know more about my faith. I decided that I wanted to know why I believed what I did and if I believed what I had been taught all my life. I started to dig into my faith. The more I dug the more I had a thirst for knowledge. Whenever I had free time I was online looking up documents, finding sources to reference, and inquiring about things I didn’t understand. I made friends through various chat rooms and found others, who like me, were yearning for more. There was a hunger that I just couldn’t satiate.
I remember one day while on the computer, my house so still and quiet with napping children, that I made an extraordinary discovery. Through my research, through my longing to understand my faith, through my need to be closer to God, I fell in love. I literally stopped what I was doing and began crying. I said aloud, “I am in love with Jesus!” It was a strange feeling. It wasn’t that I just loved Christ. I was in love with him. My heart skipped a beat and those familiar butterflies were fluttering around in my stomach. I had fallen in love for the third time… I was in love with Christ.
It may sound strange to fall in love with Christ and it felt strange those first few years. I didn’t want to tell anyone how I felt lest they think I was just completely off my rocker. I didn’t want anyone to know that thinking about how much He loved me back made me breathless or how wanting to make Him happy became a main focus for me and how thinking about Him made my heart beat faster. Thankfully my husband gave me the space I needed to work out this new love. He wasn’t jealous and wasn’t resentful. He knew that this new love that was enkindled in my heart was something that God Himself had given me. Mike’s love for me allowed me to strengthen and develop this new-found love for Christ. His acceptance of my love for Christ helped me love him, my husband, in a much deeper way than I could have ever imagined.
I always pray that the love I have for my husband, my children, and my Lord shine through each and everything I do. They are the three true loves of my life… loves that I know come straight from God. It has been many, many years since I felt those first butterflies in my stomach as Mike held my hand, but the love I have for him continues to grow with each passing day. I see our love reflected in the eyes of our children who bring me such joy. Of course falling in love with Jesus made the love I have for my husband and for my children that much stronger and meaningful. I can only hope that one day they each will fall as deeply in love as I have all three times.