The anticipation is almost too much to take.
I find myself antsy, cranky, irritable, bursts of energy followed by troughs of apathy marking the ebb and flow of each day for the last two weeks.
When will this baby come?
As if I had anything to complain about. My wife has a whole other person just hanging out inside of her, finding new organs to push his head and shoulders against, redefining her idea of “uncomfortable” on an hourly basis.
And yet, a certain joy brims quietly beneath it all.
The greatest gift God has given me in my interior life has been a sense of peace at all the big transitions of my life. I firmly believe that through prayer and the Sacraments He placed His peace within me, massaging my anxious soul with the salve of His love. When I got married, it felt like the most natural thing in the world for me. When we had our first child, the same sense of ease came with it. The whole time it felt like, “Well what was I waiting for? This is what I should have been doing all along!”
I felt much like Adam when he first beheld his bride: “At last…”
This peace is the voice of God. It is His touch. It is Him, present.
And it is only possible by being who we were made to be.
I was made to be a husband. Everything in me desires self-gift. I know this mostly because I have spent the majority of my life up to this point taking, and it left me empty.
I would take beauty without permission in my lustful thoughts. I would take in excess with my gratuitous eating and drinking. I would take a break with a cigarette whenever I needed it. I would take time for myself with my hours of apathetic sleeping and vegging out.
Oh, but I deserved it. This part of my job was really stressful or that person just didn’t understand or MAN WAS THAT A LONG DAY or I’m just really feeling down and I’m not sure why and I could sure use a pick-me-up.
I would take and take, giving only my inexhaustible excuses, and yet I stayed empty.
And then, “at last”, came the woman I would give anything to be with. She seduced me into selflessness. I started giving of myself just because I didn’t know any other way to get her attention! I would give my time to set up surprises for her. I would give my talent to write poems and songs for her. I would give my treasure to take her on dates and buy her bad presents and send her cheesy letters.
I was tripping over myself to be what all those parish “stewardship” people talked about. Except I did it for my wife, not the Church.
At least, not directly. But we’ll get to that.
My relationship with my wife awoke in me an intense and completely natural desire to forget about myself. Finally, something outside of me that I couldn’t help but chase, couldn’t shake from my mind or stop my heart from loving.
I was becoming a man.
And when she finally accepted my gift of self, she turned it into so much more.
I gave her my offer, she accepted, and she gave me back a relationship.
I gave her a ring, she accepted, and she gave me back a marriage.
I gave her what little money I had, she combined it with hers, and she gave me a house.
I gave her my hard work, she combined it with hers, and she turned that house into a home.
I gave her my genes, she combined it with hers, and she has given me back children.
I give her my time and my words and my fears and my sins and my jokes and my mistakes and all the little corners of my love, she combines it with hers, and she has given me back a life, an abundant life, a life worth living!
This is why we are not equal! In the Catholic worldview the man is penultimate; it is not until woman that God’s creative genius has crescendoed. That is because God did not build man for himself. He built man, physically and spiritually, to give of himself, and when the masculine gift is received, physically and spiritually, by the feminine, it explodes into new energy and new horizons and new life.
We can see this clearly and literally in our biology, what John Paul II coined the “theology of the body”: the man’s body is built to give, the woman’s body to receive his gift, and the result is a new life that is them, and yet not them. The result is a family.
This is not crude or profane. It’s beautiful. It’s true.
It is a tremendous truth.
And while it is present most obviously in sexual intercourse between a man and woman that’s not it in its fullness.
As a matter of fact, it’s most important manifestation comes in the Church.
It comes at the foot of the Cross.
To be continued…