The first chapter of Tim Muldoon’s Longing to Love introduces an important aspect of love: love usually takes us where we don’t expect to go. I heard a man say years ago, “You can choose the road you take, but you cannot choose where that road takes you.” How true. And how especially true when it comes to our most important relationships.
If I could have seen ahead to the changes and challenges of married life, would I have said yes? Some days I’m not sure. The fact is, the love relationship is designed to help us grow into ourselves, into the people God created us to become. And growth, by its very nature, is complex, often difficult, and often painful. Yet we act as if something is wrong when we experience change and pain in our relationships. It’s as if we expect everything to remain calm and happy, even though such a life rarely stretches or develops us.
When we look at our relationships honestly and with humility, we see that a sizeable portion of conflict arises out of our resistance to change and growth. We want things to stay the same. We want to stay comfortable. We want life to be simple enough for us to understand and easy enough for us to control. We want, we want, we want. Ultimately, as Christians, we must ask ourselves, Why am I so angry at this person I love? Why am I being so stubborn? What am I afraid of? What do I really want?
In the spiritual practices of St. Ignatius we have habits of reflection and prayer, and their purpose is to help us examine our hearts daily so that we can understand what we’re doing and why. When we bring our reactions to God and ask for wisdom, we are free to see ourselves. We can begin to recognize our own resistance, our fears and lack of trust. We can ask the Holy Spirit to show us the way of love and generosity in this love relationship. And we can identify what our true desires are. Do I really want my husband to pay more attention to the To Do list on the refrigerator—or do I want him to care that I’m feeling overwhelmed and would like his help? Should I simply tell him I’m overwhelmed and need his help, rather than post a list and get irritated when he doesn’t attend to it immediately?
The way of Christ is indeed the way of love. But it is not blind, needy love. It is wise and reflective, aware and open. This love is not afraid to be challenged or changed. In fact, this love learns to look forward to the adventure.