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Rebuilding a Home After Complete Destruction
As counterintuitive as it may sound, the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to endure is witnessing my marriage transform from chaotic and traumatizing to something utterly different, something sacramental and holy. It’s surreal, to say the least. Talk about wandering into Wonderland and not being able to figure out the topsy-turvy landscape …
Isn’t this what nearly all individuals in traumatic relationships dream about, but so few actually achieve? My husband and I have beaten the odds, we’ve done what the secular world has told us can never happen; we’ve defeated the evil influence of abuse, we’ve embraced the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother, who promised she would win souls for Christ and triumph in the final battle over marriages and families. I should be filled with joy that my husband has traveled the Road to Damascus rather than staying on the delusional Yellow Brick Road.
And I am. Truly. But that doesn’t mean the transformation hasn’t been painful and without major bumps and downward slopes. It also doesn’t mean my wounds are instantly healed, that all trust has been regained, and that I can allow myself to be vulnerable to my husband’s newly discovered, self-giving love.
Quite the opposite, in fact. The fence to my boundaries still remains necessarily closed. I must go slow. Even after nearly three years of healing and active change, I can’t quite trust again.
And that’s ok.
I’m full of grief, confusion, anger and frustration due to all I’ve endured during the course of our marriage. Now, with this positive turn of events, I feel anxious and wary of all I’m going to have to go through to do my part in restoring this bloody mess of a relationship.
Actually, scratch that. There is no restoration when something has been utterly destroyed. The only option is building a completely new structure.
The quaint town of Thomaston, Maine boasts a grand Colonial-looking mansion called Montepelier, supposedly the home of General Henry Knox, who was a Revolutionary War hero and close friend of George Washington. Knox was General Washington’s right-hand man throughout our war for independence. He stood by Washington’s side at the crossing the Delaware; as Chief of Artillery, General Knox was at Bunker Hill, Trenton, Yorktown, Brandywine, and Valley Forge. Because of his war-time heroics during the birth of our country, his mansion is now famed for both for its beauty and historical significance.
Yet modern-day visitors to Knox Mansion aren’t touring the real home. Built in 1794, the original mansion fell into disrepair in 1854 when Knox’s two surviving daughters were unable to manage the upkeep. In 1871, the original mansion was destroyed to make room for the burgeoning railroad system. What we have today is an exact and precise replica of the mansion, built in 1930.
But it’s not quite the same.
The upkeep of the original mansion was too much for Knox’s daughters to endure, and the home fell into disrepair despite all their efforts. It fell apart, bit by bit, until it had to be sold. Although the rebuilt Montpelier closely resembles the original, it’s not the same structure. Even so, it’s stronger and more resilient than the original.
This is how my marriage feels. There’s no restoration of a falling-apart structure. Annihilation has already taken place, and the railroad has run straight through my heart, destroying any rooms or keepsakes that were left inside the house. And right now, I’m too tired to lift a hammer, or pick out flooring, or arrange for a professional to come in and do the electrical work needed to construct a new home.
My heart has been broken, completely shattered and destroyed by what has happened in my relationship. I used to feel despair at my brokenness, wilted by loss of self, yet now I realize this inner destruction isn’t such a bad thing after all.
When a caterpillar undergoes its transformation into a glorious butterfly, its previous self must be completely annihilated. Amazingly, the caterpillar has to actually digest itself, which causes enzymes to be released in order to dissolve all of its tissues. Despite this inner annihilation, certain cells remain that enable the caterpillar to reform itself into something even more amazing and beautiful than before.
The process takes struggle, and release, and surrender to the ways of nature—in other words, to the ways of our Eternal Creator. Yet in the end, it’s always worth it. The glorious resurrection of the caterpillar into butterfly is an amazing way to look at our own healing journeys.
At least this is what I’ve discovered. The process from being crumbled to dust by another, and rebuilt by my Divine Physician, has been a glorious struggle that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The journey has allowed me to take my shattered heart and offer it to Christ, through the pierced wound in His side. My heart to His. He can put my heart together again like a piece of kintsugi pottery, securing the pieces with His Precious Blood.
He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.
Our Lord, our Divine Physician and Bridegroom, has sealed the pieces of my heart back into their proper places, sealed and cemented them together with His gloriously Precious Blood. It’s at this point that I begin to run—toward Him, toward wholeness, toward my Imago Dei—my true Self, made in His very image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-27).
“Draw me in Your footsteps, let us run!”
(Song of Songs 1:3)
This is the place where I can feel His peace surround me, where I can be open enough to allow His Divine Mercy to pervade my entire being and take over my soul.
And this is the place where He will come in and help rebuild my marriage upon a foundation of stone, not of sand.
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