Husband & Wife Articles


Free Love

There is nothing I can do to earn God’s love – or my wife’s

By Jeremy Paff

My favorite interpretation of St. Joseph’s reaction to finding out that Mary has conceived and bears a child in her womb is the one put forth by some of the Church’s greatest scholars. This interpretation states that Joseph was fully aware of the miraculous nature and cause of Mary’s pregnancy. Yet thinking himself unworthy of playing so great a part in God’s plan for the salvation of humanity, he humbly tries to separate himself from her, in order to protect and keep safe the mystery within her. What strikes me about this interpretation is the humility of St. Joseph. As a married man, Joseph is a saint to whom I look for constant example, and whose aid I implore as I try to lead a saintly life in marriage with my wife.

The humility of St. Joseph, in particular, has provided me with endless occasions for reflecting on the gift of marriage and the life that my wife and I are called to live with each other. There were and certainly still are times when I feel completely unworthy of being married to my wife, much like St. Joseph felt before the mystery of Mary and the Incarnation. When I am stressed, frustrated, in a bad mood, and downright miserable, my wife is there for me and her love remains unwaveringly constant. Her love is not something for me to earn; it is only something for her to give freely and willfully.

The same, of course, is true for me. The love that my wife and I are called to share with each other is unconditional; we promised each other, before God, to make ourselves and our lives a gift to each other in good times and in bad. For me, it is in the more difficult moments—when I am at my worst and my wife still freely and willingly shows her love for me—that I feel that I gain the most profound insights into the love of God.

Much in the same way that I so often feel unworthy of my wife’s love, I frequently feel that I am unworthy and undeserving of God’s love. I often mistakenly think that there were things that I could do better in my life to earn God’s forgiveness—that somehow, through my own actions, I could fix things. Like many men, I still struggle with that mentality to this day. It takes a great deal of humility to accept that this is just not the case. It takes real humility to accept as a gift that which you cannot possibly earn of your own merits. Marriage has helped me to better understand this aspect of God’s love. His eternal love is there for me, whether or not I deserve it, much as my wife’s love is there for me, whether or not I feel as if I have earned it. To proudly presume that either the love of my wife or the love of God was something that I earned would detract from the wondrous beauty of the free gift.

I pray, through St. Joseph, that I may always have the humility to accept gifts that are given in love.

Jeremy Paff graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. He grew up outside of Allentown, Pa., and now lives with his wife, Kelsey, in Plainsboro, N.J.  He works for a small investment fund located in Princeton.