I was looking for some important personal documents one day when I chanced upon some old photos. I was struck by how much weight I have put on since my days as a seminarian.
Strikingly, we never really notice how much weight we put on until months and /or years pass, and we see ourselves in our old photos and notice the added inches.
Our clothes are good indicators, but sooner than later, we dispose of them because of changing styles or simply because we are tired of them. Sometimes we do this even before we notice that they no longer fit. When things happen slowly and gradually, we normally do not notice the difference between one state and the other.
Then, we wonder what has happened to our relationship with God? I have heard many young adults tell me that, as young boys, they were regular mass-goers or that they even served as altar boys. Now they cannot even get themselves to go to regular Sunday Mass. I know from experience that this does not happen overnight. It is like the parable of the different types of soil on which the sower randomly planted. The harvest is dependent on the quality of the soil. The soil has to be prepared and optimally worked on constantly. The planted seed has to be nurtured regularly, slowly but surely. The same is true with our relationship with God. If we are not open with Him about the many circumstances, difficulties, joys, and the roller coaster ride of our lives, then God will seem more distant. We cannot maximize the harvest of grace so readily available to us because we distanced ourselves from Him. God never abandons us. It is we who drift away from Him.
We give up those quiet moments of prayer with Him. We give up going to the Sacraments. The easiest to give up is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We assume our sins are too small, and it will be a waste of time to see the priest for them. Then later, we think we are such great unforgivable sinners that God will not possibly take us back. In fact, for others, the break can be as dramatic as waking up one day and looking at ourselves in the mirror, saying, “Where is God? Who is God? Why am I in this rut?”
I do not have to go so far. Time and again, I have accompanied people struggling through difficult times in their relationships. Women who have been married for 20 years are not exempt from this. After all these years of enduring with a spouse, they sometimes decide to throw in the towel. It saddens me, but it does not surprise me, especially after I listen to them unravel their stories. As I listen to their stories, I see clearly how the erosion of the relationship happened gradually but steadily. For example, at first, the woman suffers quietly. She keeps giving and giving. So she thinks. She decides to take the stance that she must try to understand her husband’s priority for work or any other concern. She tries to reach out for a while, and then when she does not get her expected results, she goes back to trying to process things on her own. Maybe she will seek comfort and consolation from a friend who will listen to her heartaches. Since her friend is now the shock absorber of all the withheld emotions, the ailing wife no longer feels the need to make her husband know what she is going through. “What for?” she rationalizes; after all, the few times she has tried to reach out, he does not seem to care or show any desire to change his ways. Henceforth, she learns to withhold things from him to maintain some semblance of peace. She may continue to serve him like a dutiful wife, but she withholds vital emotions that carry a great deal of weight on the relationship. They may be ill feelings, but her spouse has a right to know. This is all a part of building intimacy and strengthening their bond. Yet, she shrugs it off and says to herself, “Ganyan na talaga iyan. Hind; na iyan magbabago.” She is quick to throw up her arms and not create any more waves and says in resignation, “Pasyensya na lang.”
Unfortunately, the psyche has its way of protecting the individual. Repressed hurts and hidden anger has a way of surfacing either in the form of disease or the person becomes extremely resistant and non-receptive to any moves of love and reaching out on the part of the other partner.
The wife’s own love and respect for her husband start eroding, slowly but surely. Then the day comes when really there is nothing more to give. The finish line has been reached.
With children, it is the same. When children start withholding information or emotions from their parents, they drift away. Till one day, the children become more and more unreachable. The gap is not a generation gap but a communication gap.
What, then, am I saying? The measure of love is not confined to the giving of attention, goods, and services. It is more a sharing of the mind and heart. It is not so much”doing for” as it is “doing with” feeling with.” For as long as feelings or even stories are withheld from those we relate with, love cannot flow freely. Sadly, the withholding is usually accompanied by indifference. There could be nothing worst than indifference to kill a relationship.
Let us not wait for the day when we find ourselves walking around, sharing the same home with total strangers who are, in reality, related to us. Let us remove the barriers of indifference. Let us stop withholding. It is a form of giving to reveal your innermost thoughts and feelings. It is a much higher form because it deals with who we are from essence. Not to withhold leaves us vulnerable because we seem to lay ourselves bare. This is an indication then of a total givenness-a sign of true love.
Jesus Our Light