I recently reread A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. I read it for the first time when M was on Crossroads and we were considering becoming engaged soon. The book is about the love story of Sheldon and his wife Jean (Davy). The started off as pagans when they met, and had a great love of beauty. When they first fell in love they decided that they wanted to preserve the springtime of their love with what they called the Shining Barrier. The Shining Barrier was preserved by the sharing, of all ideas and things, and they wanted to defend against what they called “creeping separateness.” To do this they had regular talks about the “state of their relationship” and called each other out to have total trust. They decided also that having children would destroy the Barrier and cause a creeping separateness, so they weren’t going to have children.
When M and I first read this book, we loved all the elements of it (except for the no children part). Our common studies and subjects made the sharing easy. When Sheldon and Davy converted to Christianity they had were unsure of how to incorporate God into their inloveness, but M and I never had that problem since our common faith was the base of our inloveness. We went to daily Mass together and Adoration daily for our whole 18 month engagement, and we prayed several of the hours together a day. We discussed everything that we read and read many of the same things. In my mind I always felt like we had that inloveness preserved.
Then we graduated and got married. I felt that we still had the strong bond with each other. My favorite time of day was the evenings after dinner when we would sit and read silently, read a play together, play cards, just be together. Then we had our first child. It was an adjustment, but once she was a few months old, she went to bed before us. We still had our evenings. We continued daily Mass. The same thing happened with our second child. We still had our evenings. We have been very possessive of our evenings together our whole marriage. I felt that as long as we had our evenings everything would continue happily. But children get older, don’t go to bed as early, and we had our third child. What used to be three hours of evening alone time has been reduced to about one, once the older kids fall asleep. And the kids are having trouble sleeping at night, unhappy a lot of the day, and begging us for attention. And I realized that Sheldon and Davy were right about kids ruining a Shining Barrier. We cannot continue as we had before. It is surprising to me that it has taken until the third kid to see how we have not loved them as we should have.
|G running to the light.|
I am not saying that I do not love my children, and I am really happy that I have three beautiful girls. I am just realizing that I lack the enthusiasm to be with my children and devote time to them that I’ve seen holy mothers that I know. I am not in the habit of giving all my time to them, and in fact I am a little afraid to let go of everything and just love them with my whole life. I know it has to happen, but it is hard to be a mom and a wife and give everything. It also is okay that it did not happen naturally for me; I know that. If it were a purely natural thing, it would be much easier. But to lose oneself for others is a supernatural thing and it requires God’s grace. So I am surrendering to graces urgings and letting go for my children and my husband so that His grace will be the Shining Barrier of our family.