Fun during the summer months meant something entirely different to me when I was younger than it does right now. Excitement in my youth was defined as long hours of free time and careless amusement, but now I find great joy in blissfully accomplishing all the many things on my to-do list while still taking time to soak in the nice weather.
For the past several weekends, I have been happily working on my outside gardens, enjoying the sunshine as I lay down mulch, plant flower beds and trim trees and bushes. What used to seem like a dreadful chore in my youth has been turned into finding great satisfaction in fulfilling work and the beauty of creation. However, as many backyard gardeners know, my joy can quickly turn into frustration whenever I end up battling weeds that seem to have sprouted overnight.
Weeds appear in Scripture in the parables, and are almost always described as an invasive species that choke out the healthy plants around it, or prevent growth. We know that nature and gardening can be metaphors for life — and also marriages. What starts out on a wedding day as a plan for growth and abundance can sometimes be choked out by things that may invade or begin to diminish the relationship. One such “weed” that can seek to destroy a healthy marriage is resentment.
Resentment is truly one of those invasive species that can symbolically have very deep roots. Although it is common for couples to have disagreements and it’s necessary to find ways to work through troubles, resentment is something altogether different. This occurs when one partner feels or senses that they are putting more into the relationship than the other and thus creates an undercurrent of emotional fatigue or anger.
The one spouse may feel there is an injustice that isn’t being resolved, or that they are not being heard or understood. As efforts to communicate the frustration are not successful, the roots of resentment take hold and can begin to suffocate the relationship. Left unchecked, it can lead to other offshoots that can also choke the marriage such as bitterness, distrust and an altogether shutdown of communication.
If this is the situation you are facing, or you know someone who is struggling with this in their marriage, know that there is a lot of hope and that many couples have overcome even this deeply-rooted problem. There is help to be found in one of the many resources we have available in our diocese. Our priests, pastoral leaders and deacons cannot only be a listening ear but may also help you and your spouse untangle whatever it is that caused the issue to begin with. There is also counseling available through Catholic Charities and help for hurting marriages through the Retrouvaille programs. Much of this information can be found on our diocesan website, gbdioc.org, and parish web pages.
Take time to learn the love languages or investigate some personality profiles to better understand your spouse. All of these are great suggestions. However, one remedy for resentment seems to be the most effective and that is, of course, forgiveness.
So as we venture forth this summer to enjoy the longer days and sweet moments of sunshine and fresh air, take some time to think about any weeds that might be growing in your heart or relationships. Now is a good time to root those up with some help from God and the power of forgiveness.
Remember this also as you are praying this summer and reciting the profound words of the Our Father: “… forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen!”
Tremblay is Marriage and Life Ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.