Monday, June 11, 2012

Reality tv and sacramental grace

My husband worked this weekend. So in my burnt-out-with-children-under-6 mental state and with no one to shoot me daggers for watching terrible reality television I watched some reality television. Most of it was pretty horrible without any redeeming features, kinda like processed cheese. But then I watched a little Bethenny Ever After...

The title "character" is Bethenny Frankel a former Real Housewife of New York who hit it big (and I mean BIG) after getting on camera by creating a low-calorie margarita alcoholic beverage sold by the truckload at a liquor store near you. She's always been forthcoming with her troubled childhood, mistakes made while an adult, and her own emotional problems. In the last two years she's married and had a child all on her own reality tv show, she thought she'd finally found her fairy tale ending.

The second year of her marriage is depicted openly on this season of her show. With the new windfall of wealth, beautiful baby girl, and the renovation of gorgeous New York City apartment, you'd think it'd be perfect television to just watch the rich enjoy the fruits of their reality show ship coming in. But instead the marriage is in serious trouble. Both Bethanny and her husband Jason confess to the camera how awful they feel about the other most of the time, how much they argue, how many issues come up that they can't seem to resolve or deal with. They recite these issues with precision. They've clearly been to therapy.

And yet they both repeat how they can't seem to move on, or let go of arguments, or acknowledge the problems the other has so competently expressed. How much of this is their real marriage or reality tv is unknown, but I seem to read this part of their lives as genuine. Usually on reality tv the arguments or marital issues are blazingly superficial or one-sided. Here it seems as if they truly want to work through their issues, which seem deep-rooted and legit.

Its heartbreaking to watch. You can't shake the feeling that although both sides are trying their best that its not going to work. And if it does work much real happiness won't be found. It seems as though they just can't get that little bump which pushes you to either love the other even if they're wrong in all their brokenness, or to love the other and humble yourself, to admit your fault, and be the loser of an argument. And then I thought, they don't get that little bump because that little bump that somehow gives you the superhuman ability to let go, forgive, submit, love is the sacramental grace of marriage.

Any person who has been married for even the shortest amount of time comes up against a brick wall that is the other person in the marriage. Stuff happens. Arguments over little things happen. Hurts and wounds from our pasts happen. Things that aren't magically explained away from the happy "in love" feelings that come when you're dating and going to the movies. And they may be there a long time. You wake up to them, eat with them, go to bed with them-your spouse and your problems. It feels impossible to let go, forgive, or even to just admit your mistake and apologize in an argument. Its agonizing and miserable. What makes us do the right thing then? Its supernatural. Not within us. Freely given grace that comes from the sacrament you live every day.

I guess while watching and thinking a little grace could go a long way in this relationship, I couldn't help but wonder if this is how God sees so many relationships. I'm sure it must be a little like yelling through a tv for God to work in marriages where he wasn't invited in the first place.  I for one can't imagine a marriage without the grace that nudges and bumps us towards loving the other and not living only to make the other miserable. It reminds me that a little sacramental grace that I don't usually notice goes a long way in my life, and theres probably a whole bunch waiting to be given.

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