Discover more from Through a Glass Darkly
Forgiveness, Adam and Eve, and Discerning Marriage
I promised you a free newsletter this month, and with just five days to spare, I am making good on my promise!
July has been an insane month in an insane summer, but I am hoping better things await us as fall gets closer. There is one thing in particular I am over the top excited about and that is opening up registration for my family’s upcoming pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, and Sienna. We’ve been waiting for the airlines to release the dates for next June (June 13-22, if you are inclined to save the dates), and that should finally happen by the end of this week. This means the full announcement, with all the details, will be coming shortly thereafter. I’ll be sharing it first with full subscribers to this newsletter, who will have the first chance to register. I’ll then open it up to everyone else. Planning this pilgrimage has been a wild ride, but I am trusting God is in charge and has great plans for every person He wants joining us on our trip, including, hopefully, you.
If you want to be among the first to register for this—possibly insane—pilgrimage with Chris, our babies, and me … or if you’ve decided that these newsletters are valuable to you and worthy of the cost of one cup of coffee a month, upgrade your subscription today.
How can one begin to forgive a family member who doesn’t think they have wronged you?
This is such an important question, and it’s so good you’re even asking it, because in this world, there is a 10 out of 10 chance that someone will hurt us who can’t or won’t recognize the wrong they have done . There is also a 10 out of 10 chance that each of us will hurt someone else and not recognize the wrong we have done. This is the human condition. Sin and stubbornness go hand in hand for all of us. So do sin and ignorance. And if we don’t learn to forgive as we hope to be forgiven, our lives will be miserable. We will be miserable.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that when someone hurts us, anger can be a just response. Anger itself is not a sin. There are evils in this world so great that not feeling angry about them would be sinful. Christ was enraged when moneychangers took over the temple. You can be enraged by injustice, too. God doesn’t ask us not to be angry. He asks us not to indulge our anger—to not hold on to it and nurture it and let it lead us. We are not to give anger the reins, allowing it to control us and our responses to others. Saint James explains why, writing, “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God,” (James 1:20).
Along with not letting anger lead us, God also asks us to forgive, and He doesn’t put conditions on it, limiting that forgiveness only to those who ask for it. Rather, He says, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses,” (Mark 11:25)
It can be easy to ignore those words and fall into the trap of thinking we only need to forgive those who ask for our forgiveness. We think this because we see forgiveness as something we do for others, a merciful beneficence that we, the innocent, bestow on the guilty. But forgiveness isn’t just something we do for others. It’s something we do for ourselves. It’s a gift to us, too. It helps us to let go of anger, bitterness, and resentment, three powerful and spiritually dangerous emotions, which, if allowed to grow unchecked, will consume us.
Forgiving those who haven’t asked for our forgiveness helps us in another way, too. It reminds us that we are not really innocent. We are not just victims. We too are guilty. We too are victimizers. Maybe our sins aren’t as serious as those of the person who hurt us (or maybe they are), but either way, we’ve sinned. We’ve hurt people. We’ve turned our backs on the God who loves us. He is the only true victim. Not just on the cross, but every day, six billion times a day. Every sin we commit—every sin anyone commits—is a sin against Him. And yet He keeps loving us. He keeps blessing us. Even when we don’t ask for His forgiveness, He cares for us still.
Remembering that is how we start to forgive those who’ve hurt us and aren’t contrite. We think of Christ and His incredible generosity. We try to see people as He sees them, looking not just at the wrong they’ve done, but all the wrong that was done to them. We strive to see the hurt they’ve suffered, which led them to hurt others. We also look for the good in them. We look at a person’s strengths and gifts and the good they do. We try to see the whole of the person, not just how they hurt us.
It also can help to look at ourselves and remember the hurt we’ve caused others. We can choose forgiveness as an act of atonement, offering up, in reparation for the wrong we’ve done, the pain we feel and the difficulty of forgiving .
Lastly, it can help to remember that forgiving is not the same thing as forgetting. Nor is it the same thing as restoration. We can forgive someone, and still draw healthy boundaries. We can forgive someone and not engage with them as we once did. We can forgive someone and still take measures to protect ourselves from being hurt again. We can forgive people and no longer have a relationship with them. What is best in each situation depends on the person, what was done, and how time and grace change you both. These things have to be discerned carefully and wisely, with both charity and prudence. Forgiveness, however, doesn’t have to be discerned. It just has to be given.
That likely won’t be easy. We can’t make ourselves not feel anger or resentment or bitterness. Those are emotions, and none of us is completely in control of our emotions. But we can choose not to indulge those emotions when they come. We can ask Jesus to deliver us from them, and fill our hearts with mercy and compassion instead. We can pray for the grace to see people as He sees them and love them as He loves them. We can make a conscious choice to be kind and considerate to another person, even when we don’t feel kind and considerate.
That’s virtue. It’s hard. It can feel like the most unnatural thing in the world. But the more we do it, the easier it gets. And in time, the fruits we experience from forgiveness become too sweet to pass up. The peace and freedom that come with forgiveness are powerful. They heal. And they will heal not just you, but all the world as well.
Father Jaques Phillipe has a wonderful essay on forgiveness in families in his book, Real Mercy. I highly recommend checking it out.
Adam and Eve: fact or fiction?
Fact. The Church teaches that Adam and Eve are not symbols or metaphors or made-up storybook characters, but rather a real couple from whom we all are descended. That’s the Church’s official position on the couple who opens the story of salvation history. The Catechism explains it this way:
“The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents,” (CCC 390).
In other words, as the Church understands it, the opening chapters of Genesis show us what happened to man and woman at the beginning of time. They show us something real. But they don’t show it to us like a documentary on the History Channel. Rather, they show it to us more like an artist does when he paints a picture or how a poet does when he pens a poem.
The picture (or poem) given to us in Genesis 1-3, definitively asserts three things: 1) God made the world and everything in it, including man; 2) We share one common set of parents; and 3) Our first parents’ free choice against God has marked every moment of human history.
The Church does not require that we believe in a literal rendering of the Creation account and man’s fall from grace. We can, but the Church doesn’t hold to that literal interpretation as an article of faith. She recognizes that so much of the world’s beginning is shrouded in mystery and that the author of Genesis 1-3 was not trying to teach a science lesson. As long as we acknowledge that the world was created by God, with love, purpose, and full knowledge, Catholics are free to also believe in evolution (certain aspects and in some forms) or Intelligent Design. We can think the world was created in six days or one big bang. We can date the world’s beginning to 6,000 years ago or 5 billion years ago. We also can believe that human-like creatures, without a soul, existed before Adam and Eve. The Church does not insist on any one theory for how life began or if Adam came from dirt or another creature. But on Adam and Eve’s existence and uniqueness—as ensouled images of God from whom all humanity is descended—she is quite insistent.
In the encyclical Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII definitively condemned polygenism (the idea that humanity is descended from multiple sets of first parents) and declared:
“the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own,” (37).
All of Catholic magisterial teaching, from the first centuries through today, reflects that belief. The consistent teaching of the Church is that Adam and Eve were our first parents, that sin entered the world through the particular person of Adam, that all of Adam’s descendants are implicated in his sin, and that we received our fallen human natures from him and Eve (Catechism of the Catholic Church 375, 388, 404, 417). Without equivocation, the Church affirms what Saint Paul said in Romans 5:18: “Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”
How is that possible? I don’t know. Neither does Pius XII. There are some reputable scientists who have theories about how that could be, and it will be interesting to see what insights science can continue to shed on this question. But for now, as it has for the past 2,000 years, the Church’s teaching remains that Adam and Eve were not the symbolic representation of multiple people, but rather as real as you and me.
What would you consider important things to talk about before getting engaged?
This is a question I answered in the car, earlier this month, on our way to my friend Rachael’s funeral. I have gotten so many requests, however, to reprint these questions in a more shareable (and readable form), that I’m sharing them again here … with the same caveats. This is not a comprehensive list, just a long one. Nor is this a list to whip out on the first date; some questions can be discussed early in a relationship, but others should not come up until engagement is imminent.
It’s also important to remember that every question on this list is not a life or death issue; some might be deal breakers, but many are not. And lastly, there are no guarantees that the person with whom you’re talking through these questions will be honest with you. People lie. People also change. Nothing is full proof, least of all these questions. But these are still absolutely conversations worth having. Not only because they will help you better know and understand the person you’re dating, but also because the simple act of having these conversations demonstrates a willingness to engage and share your hearts, two things which are absolutely essential for a happy, holy marriage.
Okay, now for the questions.
Families of Origin
What was your parents’ marriage like? Did it last? What did you like about it and want to imitate? What did you not like about it and want to avoid?
How were you disciplined as a child?
How did your family deal with conflict?
How was affection and encouragement expressed (or not expressed) by your parents, both to the children and each other?
What was your family’s relationship like with your grandparents and extended family? What about with friends of the family?
What roles did your parents take on with various household and parenting tasks?
What was your family’s attitude towards hospitality?
What were your parents’ financial priorities?
Did your parents have a strong faith life? If so, how did they live it? How did they share it?
What were the expectations for holidays and vacations growing up? Did you spend them with relatives? Did you take vacations? What are their expectations of you now regarding holidays and vacations?
Does your family have any expectations about where you will live? Do you have any expectations about where you will live?
Work and Vocation
How do you understand your work?
What are your career goals?
How do you hope to balance work and home life?
What are you willing to sacrifice at home for the sake of your work? What are you willing to sacrifice at work for the sake of your family?
Do you think one parent should stay home with the children? If so, which parent and for how long?
How will you support each other in your respective vocations?
What are your desires for your family?
Do you have a dream number of children?
Will you follow Church teaching on contraception?
Is adoption or foster care something on your heart or that you would be open to doing?
How do you envision your roles in childrearing?
Do you have any strong feelings about how you want your child educated?
Do you have any strong feelings about any aspect of disciplining or raising children?
Do either of you have debt? If so, how much?
Do either of you have a history of money mismanagement, compulsive spending, or compulsive control of money?
How do you feel about tithing? Do you tithe? What are your tithing priorities?
Do either of you have strong feelings about who will manage the finances?
How do you feel about budgets?
What do you think should be a family’s top budgetary priorities?
Have either of you ever struggled with an addiction of any kind? If so, have you sought treatment for it?
What are your thoughts on gambling? Do you gamble? If so, how much have you wagered? How much do you think is too much to wager?
Have you used pornography? Do you still? What kind and how often?
What are your attitudes towards alcohol, pot, cigarettes, and other drugs? What amount, if any, do you think is acceptable?
How many committed relationships have each of you had?
What was good about those relationships?
What was bad about them?
How did they end?
Were any of those relationships consummated?
How important is your faith?
How important is Church attendances, family prayers, Bible/faith study, and devotions?
If Catholic, are there any teachings of the Church with which you struggle?
How do you understand your roles as husband and wife?
If you have different faiths, in what faith will you raise your children?
Which church will you attend? Will you attend together?
How will you speak about your faith and your spouse’s faith in front of your children?
Questions for Yourself
Are there things that irritate you or concern you about your significant other that you are afraid to bring up?
Are you hoping your significant other will change? If so, how?
Do you think more about your life with your significant other or without them?
Do you wish someone better would come along?
Is there someone else out there who you would prefer but who is not available?
Do you want to marry your significant other or do you just want to be married/have children?
Do you feel like you’re settling?
Do you feel safe with this person?
Do you feel free to be yourself with this person?
Do you feel like you are hiding a part of yourself from them?
Do you feel free to disagree with them?
Do you feel like your thoughts and opinions are valued in the relationship?
Do you feel like they are trying to change you?
Do you feel known and loved for you who you are?
Last but not least (for them)
What are you afraid to tell me because you think it will end our relationship?
Five Things I’m Loving
Tuna Mayo Rice Bowls. I don’t why I am obsessed with this New York Times recipe. Maybe because it’s a fast lunch on busy days for me? Maybe because we always have leftover rice, and this is a great way to use it up? Either way, I’ve eaten this four times in the past two weeks, and love it more each time. It helps to NOT use the low sodium soy sauce (you really need the umami in this one). I also shake tons of Furikake on it, and add some scallions, cucumbers, and carrots when I feel like chopping things.
The “Welcome to the Museum” books. We have three—Botanicum, Animalium, and the Dinosaurium—and Toby is obsessed with them. He loves pouring through the pictures and is constantly asking me to read to him about the different plants and animals. The illustrations are gorgeous, and it’s a fantastic resource for learning about the natural world.
Greta Gerwig’s last line in the interview the New York Times did with her about Barbie: The Movie. No, I haven’t seen the movie yet. Yes, I probably will. But no, probably not in theatres (because who has time?). Even if your feelings about Barbie—the movie or the doll—are complicated (mine are!), read the interview just for the last paragraph. It took me completely by surprise.
Poetry Fashion. I discovered them last year, when I was looking for a couple nice outfits for Church that were neither too young nor too old for me (an incredibly difficult task in your forties). I ended up buying two of the most gorgeous long wool skirts I’ve ever owned. This summer, I needed to restock my dresses (because the kids are not easy on my wardrobe), and so I went back to the well. I found two dresses on sale that I am now wearing almost every day. I can’t link them because they sold out, and I have no code, but they have a hundred beautiful things, so if you are looking for beautiful, feminine, high quality clothing with a British, they fit the bill.
Beautycounter’s Mystery Bags. I admit, I was skeptical last year when Beautycounter ran this promotion. Why would I want to buy a bag of skincare and cosmetics, when I didn’t know what it would contain? But the discount was so good—50 percent—that I broke down and placed an order. It was such a good decision! I was able to try new products I’d never tried before, restock on a couple of favorites, and the one item I didn’t want, I gave away as a gift. This year’s Mystery Bags include one for “Safer Skin and Body Care,” another that promises “Head to Toe Glow,” and a third filled with “Everyday Essentials.” The items are a mixture of travel sized bottles and full size items, and, like last year, everything is discounted a full 50 percent. These are super popular and have sold out in the past, so if you want to grab one, don’t wait.
This post is free to all subscribers and everyone with an Internet connection, so feel free to link and share with abandon