November 15, 2007 Length: 10:13
Today we eavesdrop on a tender letter Molly has written to her children.
Well children, here is the story (at least as I remember it). I am sure some of the details may have eroded over time. Unfortunately, I haven’t acquired as many examples of sacrifice, heroism, and wisdom as I had hoped to be able to share with you by now, but there is, I am pleased to say, at least one choice I have made that I take great pride in and long for you to emulate when the time is right. Though much of my life has been wasted on vanity, self-pity, worry, and envy (I pray for the discipline to learn from my own mistakes), when faced with a decision that would affect everything I was to become, I forsook what was accessible and easy in exchange for pursuing what was worthwhile. I said goodbye to something good in order to embrace what would ultimately be so much better – I chose, my sweet ones, to marry your father.
This may sound overly sentimental to you now but I believe it (like I believe in little else), that there is nothing that can compare with the thrill of giving and receiving true love - love that has its source in the Divine, love that flexes its muscles long after the initial electricity has grown dim, and love that draws its potency from mutual submission. This kind of love will, indeed, last forever; it follows you beyond the grave. It is a gift, a legacy, to those you leave behind. I want to record this while the particulars are relatively fresh in my mind because one day you will inevitably ask me about how I met your dad. This future question should be answered now, while I still remember the intensity of being young. The passions evoked from your first real brushes with independence should not be squandered, or belittled on my part. Celebrate this time of your life. Take advantage of the freedom and energy that you have to make a difference. I know this is easier said than done, but please don’t make the mistake of falling in love too early - of losing out on the fleeting moments to focus on, challenge, and stretch yourself. All too quickly those years will pass by and the friendships you’ve fostered, the knowledge you’ve gained, and the experiences you’ve taken with you will, quite literally, become more precious than any material thing you can imagine.
Guard yourselves against the temptations of tender words and romantic notions for their own sake. There is someone worth waiting for, who can transcend mere flattery and flirtation to make you a more pious, resilient, and empathetic individual. If you are ever in a relationship and find yourself feeling smothered, coerced, or discouraged from expressing any true part of you, please think hard before getting in too deep. Always remember, you don’t owe anything to anyone as far as dating is concerned! People get hurt, that’s how it works. To stay with someone in order avoid wounding them is not only an insult but also a lie. On the other hand, if you are simply crazy about the person you are seeing but they are not treating you with the utmost respect then speak up! You are much too special not to! If nothing changes, then walk away - it wasn’t meant to be. And yes, I’m afraid that the only answer to, “How will I know when I’ve met ‘the one’?” is still the simple and frustrating reply, “You just will.”
In college I was courted by a sweet and generous boy and to his consistent source of affirmation, I would soon become addicted. As my coursework and homesickness increased (in conjunction with the decreasing of my confidence), I clung to our relationship like a drug. When all was going well, I guiltily resented his hovering presence. But whenever insecurity reared its ugly and deceitful head, I would run back to his ever-open arms for a quick hit of instant adoration. As that first year passed, however, I began to make new acquaintances and found the wherewithal to rely less heavily on one willing young man for motivation. After a second year of hemming and hawing, it became obvious that I had let things go on for long enough - it was time to make a change. By God’s grace I found the courage to break it off and move forward. I knew immediately that I had made the right decision.
A few months later, I took a class with your father. We became fast friends, sharing similar backgrounds, ambitions, and spiritual fervor. We ran into each other fairly often on campus, and eventually I would catch myself looking for him – in the library, at the gym, or on the streets of Chicago. The emotions I experienced during that period were completely foreign to me. Although we were spending more time together, I had no indication of his actual feelings about “us”. I couldn’t conjure up a guarantee about anything and yet my attraction to him began to grow. Our conversations weren’t always fluid or without effort, but we enjoyed each other’s presence immensely. Jeopardizing the pleasantness of our friendship (by opening it up to the unpredictability of romance) was a threat we avoided as long as possible. And, wouldn’t you know it, that when we did take that leap, I was ready but he was not. Vulnerability proved to be quite a challenge for him.
As much as your dad tried, I could tell his heart just wasn’t in it and I could not allow myself to remain in a relationship that was one sided. My mother had always drilled it into my head that I shouldn’t stay where I was not completely wanted. It was nothing to take personally, nor was it something to get all self-analytical about. He never coddled me, your father; he was not a crutch or a habit I couldn’t break. I was not in love with the niceties he offered me, I was just so in love with him. I had learned through our relationship how to be part of someone and yet maintain my own identity. And by way of that realization, I braced myself for what I knew was the best course of action: grieving and then leaving; I had to set him free.
Break-ups are only valuable if your paths are truly parted, if you experience, authentically, what life would be like without that other person in it. Your dad and I knew that if we did ever get back together it would most likely be for good and neither of us wanted any regrets about such a decision. If you, my sweethearts, are ever aware of serious doubts within your own relationships but deny yourself the chance to explore those feelings, you have the frightening potential to dampen your marriage with a lot of “what ifs” when things get hard. Here is where you rely upon your Faith, on our belief that life is not random. As Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, so are we sometimes asked to give up what is precious to us. This is not because God is cruel but rather because He knows us better than we could ever know ourselves. On our own, we can take a thing as extraordinary as love and distort into something hideous and possessive. But if we can trust enough to unclench our fists, God can transform our incomplete and defective offering into something pure, selfless, and eternal.
I wanted your dad to yearn for me but even more than that, I wanted him to be committed wholeheartedly to our existence together. My absence was exactly what he needed to make a prayerful and genuine assessment of his own priorities, fears, and desires. When he came back around awhile later, more certain and more devoted to our future, I was cautious and then exuberant because I understood clearly the aching difference between a full and partial commitment. I knew this time that he was investing all of himself. While walking down the aisle on July 5th, 1997 to join my life with his, I was downright giddy with assuredness, excitement, and gratitude. I couldn’t believe that after all the ups and downs I was finally marrying Troy Sabourin. And your father, I must tell you, is more beautiful to me now than he ever was. My salvation is being ever spurred on by the solidness of his convictions. Our marriage has made me stronger, braver, and more at peace. I want to give him all that I am and all that I have, not out of obligation but because it brings me joy. You are an extension of this love story, the result of something good and holy. My greatest hope is that through our marriage you will internalize what it means to revere your, eventual, partner as an image of Christ - that you will not compromise or be satisfied with giving or receiving anything less.
My dearest children, may true love (Divine love), find you, fill you, and never let you go.
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"Just wanted to let you know that because of AFR, and especially the Our Life In Christ series, I am becoming Orthodox. A parish is building a new church near me and have put out a sign. I've been a Protestant for years, and when I saw the sign realized I didn't know much about Orthodoxy. I Googled it, read a bit, and was intrigued. So then I found AFR and started listening. I now listen to it every day on my drive to and from work. My knowledge and understanding of Christ has grown so much over the past six months. I have now started regularly attending a local parish and meeting with the priest. God bless you."