The man you thought I was

tinyobsessions.files.wordpress.com

“When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women” — Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

[Spoiler alert for Sherlock fans]

[Spoiler alert for Sherlock fans]

[And one more time, spoiler alert for Sherlock fans]

At the end of episode 2, season 4 of Masterpiece Theater’s Sherlock, there was a dialogue between Sherlock and Watson about Watson’s dead wife, Mary. There’s too much to explain background-wise, but suffice to say that in this scene Watson was confessing both to Sherlock and to his dead wife that while Mary was still alive he had had an affair (of sorts) with a woman he met on the bus. He was tortured with that memory. There was an insight in their dialogue that led to a reflective exchange between my wife, Patti, and me later the next night.

Here’s the part of that dialogue I wish to highlight:

Watson: She was wrong about me.
Sherlock: Mary? How so?
Watson: She thought that if you [Sherlock] put yourself in harm’s way, I’d rescue you. Or something. But I didn’t, until she told me to. And that’s how this works. That’s what you’re missing.
She taught me to be the man she already thought I was. Get yourself a piece of that.
[…Watson then confesses his affair to the ghost of Mary]
Watson to Mary: That’s all it was. Just texting. I’m not that man you thought I was. I’m not that guy. I never could be. And that’s the point. That’s the whole point. The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.
Mary: Well then, John Watson, get the hell on with it…

Brilliant. Unquestionably true in my life. “The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.”

That phrase, rightly understood, has a very particular meaning for me. In fact, I know many, many men who would say much the same as I do here. While I cannot say what I am for her in this regard, I can say what she is for me. Here’s the gist of what I said to Patti later, as I captured and expanded on it in my journal. I share it because my wife is a living witness whose story I wish to tell as I am able. She, imperfect in her humanity, has taught me more of the Way of Perfection than any other one person. How can I keep from writing?

+ + +

It’s not simply that you want me to be something I’m not, which can be toxic were it accompanied by your constant frustration, nagging, by seething anger and resentment when I fail because, in reality, you despise these things in me. Were you that way, I would never want to become what you hope from me. And if I did become it, I would be only a chimera, a distorted reflection of your own needs.

Neither is it that you wish me to be who you want for your benefit, to extract what you want out of me. Or that you want me to be what you know I could never be. Or again, neither do you charge me to change by being manipulative, coercive, employing the weapons of guilt or exploiting my weaknesses against me. I’ve seen those before at work in couples or whole families, and it’s bitter poison, the stuff of a suffocating, crushing, life-sucking and joyless marriage and family life.

No, why you motivate me so powerfully, so effectively is because you love me. Plain and simple. You see in me what I can be, awakening me to God’s dream for me. You know me, know who I am all too well, and you see so many things — great and petty — that inhibit me from becoming who I am to be. Because you love me, you see, and you want me free. You see so well the chains that keep me from becoming who I was meant to be, because you listen so long, so deep. And you kiss my chains, you slip your hands between mine, into those chains with me, and you show me the key to unlock them. It was just beneath my hands, but I never saw it. I miss so many things.

And my limits, so many, slowly migrating, sometimes expanding, other times receding, still other times exactly where they were from the start. I know you’ll be a saint for them, grueling patience, relieved by occasional gut laughs together that make us cry.

At times, you’ve known your love must be tough, direct, precise. You grabbed my tie and shook me, looking deep into my eyes as only you can, and said: “This is who you were made to be. You know it’s true. Do it. Don’t let fear keep you down. Your family needs you to be strong. Be a man.” The only reason I finished my PhD. Your eyes, His eyes.

You pray over my chains. You pray for rain on the drought. You call on the Angels to drive away the demons of doubt and fear, of despair and lust, of hate and unforgiveness, of self-loathing and mediocrity. You dismantle the armor, break up the hard clods and clear the stones. You see what I should have known, but never did and, instead of shaming or blaming, you say: “Here, see, look at true beauty; understand the liberating order God has made; a path of life; taste what hope is; be gentle and know that strength is only thus wrought rightly.”

You listen me into wisdom, sing me into peace, gift me into outward love. You never let me get away with what I should never get away with. Highest, greatest of all: you brought to me the gift of children who, with your motherhood, recreated fatherhood in/for me, rebirthed childhood, resurrected wonder and awe and simple joy and spontaneity and so many of my favorite things life had trampled on.

It is commonly thought that women are more capable than men of paying attention to another person, and that motherhood develops this predisposition even more. The man – even with all his sharing in parenthood – always remains “outside” the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own “fatherhood” from the mother. — St John Paul II

“The man you thought I was is the man I want to be” not because you demanded it, commanded it, but because you inspired it. God breathed life into Adam before He made Woman, but He has breathed life into the New Adam through the New Eve. Likewise, He has breathed life into me through you, with you, in you. Deo gratias. 

Tom: The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.

Patti: Well then, Tom Neal, get the hell on with it…

27 comments on “The man you thought I was

  1. Nos says:

    +
    +
    +
    +
    ++++++WOW++++++
    +
    +
    +
    +
    +
    +
    +
    +

  2. Sherri Paris says:

    Ahhhh, I just walked on holy ground… what a blessing! Thank you so much. ❤️

  3. Joanna Brady says:

    Holy Spirit, you are welcome here,
    Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere,
    Your Glory Lord,is what our hearts long for,
    To be overcome by your presence,Lord…………

    Amen ..Amen ..Amen ……..

  4. trudymm says:

    Thank you Dr. TJN for the insightful post, but most of all thank you very much for the opening quote. My comments are apropos to a sentence in that quote by the masterful Venerable Fulton J. Sheen: “The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women”. What Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said helped confirm a few of my thoughts that were written down in the Retreat Companion workbook for 33 Days to Morning Glory.
    (Inspirations came to start off 2017 well by consecrating myself again to Blessed Mary Immaculate. With free access to the videos by Fr. Michael Gaitley, and being able to download a PDF copy of the Retreat Companion, there was nothing left to do but gather a few spiritual buddies and put the pedal to the metal. Someone turned me on to a gem: “FORMED”. A parish purchased a subscription and is sharing their code with others so that the wealth of material can be available and lives transformed. There are hundreds of Catholic video programs, movies, audios and ebooks that can be accessed. If you are interested you can check this out if you haven’t already experienced the site. The link for registering: https://formed.org and the parish code: 9de851)

    There was a question in the Retreat Companion about what progress is being made, and my answer was about gaining a greater insight into how important it is for women to model our Blessed Mary, Most Immaculate. Such behavior can change the world, yes a civilization. We now see all the examples of the “fallen Eve”, she is being showcased in the world at every turn. How many women dress immodestly, are on the abortion tables, keeping alive the porno industry, sleeping around, and not raising their children properly? This insight inspires me to be one like the “new Eve” so that there will be one less “fallen Eve” parading around. Women do rule and run the world. Cause when women say no to sleeping around, using contraceptives, getting abortions, dressing modestly, the moral climate will drastically change. When they quit the porno industry, start raising up children to respect and follow the commands, laws & precepts of the church, and living for God not self, a spiritual revolution will take place right before our very eyes. When all the negatives collide with the positives, the “new Eve” will emerge modeling the Blessed Virgin Mary and glorifying God. Praise God for the women who are modeling the Blessed Holy Virgin. It seems the “fiat” will never become obsolete
    📖Romans 11:4 But what is God’s response to him? “I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.”

    Let not the men think they are off the hook, it is imperative for them to be the man God created them to be, not just idly standing by the side, indulging, supporting, or promoting the fallen “Eve”.

    Yes, yes we need men to be “the man” God created them to be, the one we know they can be if they truly want to be. Amen, discourse concluded. Succinct?, so not eligible for that categorical award.

    @ Eucharist we drink da Precious Blood & on da body of Jesus feed
    We have spiritual food dat strengthens & helps us meet our every need
    Without da Lord God on our side we’ll never B able 2 succeed
    He alone helps us climb perilous mountains in our way dat can impede
    \ 😇/
    |
    / \http://gigapostolate.weebly.com/ tmm/PTL

    • Say it! Always always love your meditations and rhythm. #Blessyougigapostolate

      • tmm says:

        Thanks so much for serving as a compass, indicating that the Holy Spirit is at work. Double blessings 2 you & the Neal clan.

        When @ Eucharist we drink da Precious Blood & on body of Jesus feed
        We have spiritual food dat strengthens & helps us meet our every need
        Without da Lord God on our side we’ll never B able 2 succeed
        He alone helps us climb perilous mountains in our way dat can impede
        \😇/
        |
        / \ http://gigapostolate.weebly.com tmm/PTL

  5. DismasDancing says:

    “Love and marriage…go together like a horse and carriage…Ya can’t have one without the other!”

    My dearest brother, “words have meaning” is an oft-overworked phrase (mostly by folks in the political spectrum who masterfully manipulate words to “fool” the hoi polloi who aren’t as smart as they who utter them.) As applied to you, however, underlying the words appearing in almost all of the posts in which you refer to your remarkable soul-mate, Patti, is a sub-strata of powerful, meaning-packed words that should remind every man of their duty (and ALL that the word denotes and connotes) to “perform” in a marriage relationship as Christ indeed did as the bridegroom of his beloved Church. This post, at least for me, is perhaps the most powerful of any that you have penned–at least for the nearly three years I have followed you.

    Throughout my life, I have met, observed, and heard many a so-called man declare (or decree) that their brides should be, as St Paul observed, “submissive” to them. They conveniently forget the follow on statement that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved his Church. During my early days as a red-hot fighter pilot in the Corps, it was not uncommon for those of us who thought we were invincible to take such attitudes home, contributing to a whole host of internal ills serving as sparks to ignite tiny fires within a marriage. Tiny fires ultimately fuel unquenchable conflagrations that simply destroy indiscriminately, leaving nothing upon which to rebuild or rehabilitate. How sad and depressing to remember those friends, acquaintances, colleagues who threw it all away, fulfilling the oft-iterated grade school nun warning, “Pride goeth before a fall!” And did we have pride?!!! Providence, for me, held a different fate; but not because of (rather, in spite of) me.

    The point of all of that preamble–in your words:

    “You pray over my chains. You pray for rain on the drought. You call on the Angels to drive away the demons of doubt and fear, of despair and lust, of hate and unforgiveness, of self-loathing and mediocrity. You dismantle the armor, break up the hard clods and clear the stones. You see what I should have known, but never did and, instead of shaming or blaming, you say: “’Here, see, look at true beauty; understand the liberating order God has made; a path of life; taste what hope is; be gentle and know that strength is only thus wrought rightly.’”

    Over 48 years, 7 months, and 9 days, my bride and I have each occasionally attempted to sabotage our relationship with something stupid, usually borne of pride. Three fingers point toward me. As I said in a previous post, during those times of self-imposed exile from the essences of our mutual promises, the other took firm hold of the chains of bondage, serving as the “Angel” that would hold true to those commitments, assisting in the extremely difficult task of destroying the “self-loathing and mediocrity, dismantling the armor…clearing the stones” blocking returns to the right path. But we would never have made it to the extent of the years enumerated above were it not for the commitment to each other to “be FOR each other the man and woman we expected each other to be”. All of that said, were it NOT for my wife, I might be a man of any unknown stripe, surely not who I am today. For, in the early days of our marriage, SHE took the first step and, in words very clearly meant for me, meant to spur me into action, “change or die alone”. With help from my beloved father (who really did personify being a “man” in every sense of the word), I did alter my life. Took me a long time and some long, lowered-head, no-joke looks from a woman seriously committed to our relationship. But, through and because of her, I am here marveling at your ability to capture in awesome “words” the essence of what a man needs to do to become worthy of being “The man you thought I was is the man I want to be.” Thank you for your powerful amazing post.

    Peace, blessings, and love be with you always and in all ways!

    DD

    • I was hoping hoping to hear from you again — and when you wrote me the other day and then again now I was *overjoyed*. Your words are always an amplification of mine, because of your eloquence and your lived witness. God bless you abundantly, and your family, DD! Pax tecum, TN

  6. Jennifer says:

    God love you, Patti!

    And how blessed to see three of my favourite brothers- NOS, DD, and Dr.T- all on the same comment thread. Happy day!

    • “favourite” (ou) made my day:) I love our tiny thread fellowship here. Thank you for being a sister to us. Peace!

    • DismasDancing says:

      My dear Jen and NOS. I had originally penned a note back to you that I was planning to put here as comment. Got much too long for this forum, however, so I will say this:

      Your comments humble me in many ways. Dr. Tom, you, too, are far beyond gracious in your comments. The three of you AND the other contributors are very, very special. But I feel a special bond with the two of you. I look forward every morning to seeing something from you. So much wisdom to be gleaned from those who contribute herein.

      The gist of my other comment was talking about the suggestions of a “book” Jen must have been discussing (or simply mentioned). I wanted to relate a story that happened to me a little over 20 years ago–a day I was only a few minutes from death. The meat of what happened explains a great deal about who and what I am and believe and the words and experiences I have shared since finding this site nearly three years ago.

      Bottom line is that, with Dr. Tom’s indulgence, I want to ask how to get in touch with you that I might share a document with you, asking your thoughts on whether what I send is the kind of thing you are considering putting into book form. I know you don’t want to put very personal ID in this place. With this note, I am asking Brother Tom his opinion on how to best do that without compromising privacy of anyone. I can use a new email I established if that is “kosher”. Since I am a guest, I don’t want to do anything that is not fitting for this site.

      Much love and many prayers for each of you. Praying you have a blessed Sunday and good week.

      DD

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi DD. Dr Tom certainly has my permission to send you my personal Gmail address,. As for the book I took it as kind of a running joke that I am going to write a book and NOS can’t wait to get a copy. That being said, I am actually thinking about writing a book. I have an outline in the works but that’s it for now.Surprise y’all! I’d love to hear and see what you,’re thinking. God bless you and the Missus! God bless you! I missed you guys!

      • DismasDancing says:

        The “two of you” should have been “the three of you” since the entire post was meant to include NOS, Jennifer, and Bro Tom. Love you lots NOS, did not mean to diss you, my friend.

  7. Nos says:

    DEAREST D.D., my heart is extra happy upon seeing you name, May the wooden tower continue to offer that insightful view many of us who read this blessed blog by the good Dochtah… have been spoiled to expect… methinks you and “small scale” J … need to collaborate on that book she’s contemplating… “J” 78 ° today down here, eat your heart out my chilly northern sister in CHRIST … Thomas give Patti a hug for me and tell her the prayer for a music position continues… Truddymm what a powerful statement I’m praying for the HOLY SPIRIT and the BLESSED MOTHER to continue to bless you with the gift of council in fearless proclamation of the truth… P.B.W.Y.A.A.

    • Jennifer says:

      If you don’t stop bragging about the weather then don’t be surprised when a very pale woman with a gaggle of kids shows up on your door begging for climate refuge. 🙂

    • tmm says:

      To NOS: Thank you so much for your much needed prayers.Praise the Lord, my comments brought me a treasure more valuable than gold. You have given, so now may you bountifully receive from the Lord Himself. My prayer wishes for you:
      May you have no detours & be so blest that absolutely N othing
      O bstructs
      S ainthood

      Having strength & power 2 persevere with vigilance & be N ever
      O blivious
      S piritually

      Thereby meriting graces galore to help you become a N umber
      O ne
      S aint

      Of course there is the need to be schooled, in the dark about … P.B.W.Y.A.A

      When @ Eucharist we drink da Precious Blood & on body of Jesus feed
      We have spiritual food dat strengthens & helps us meet our every need
      Without da Lord God on our side we’ll never B able 2 succeed
      He alone helps us climb perilous mountains in our way dat can impede
      \😇/
      |
      / \ http://gigapostolate.weebly.com tmm/PTL

  8. wonderalice says:

    In the many times I’ve listened to TOP “Tear at my Heart,” I’ve never, until now, applied its chorus to anyone or thing other than martial matter but upon reading this post, I’m left feeling a painfully satisfing tear at my heart. Thank you!

    It hurts so GOOD!! 🙃

  9. Nos says:

    Tmm, your so kind, the acronym P.B.W.Y.A.A. equates to peace be with you and all+ + + + + + +

  10. Katy says:

    I have shared this post with many people, and have reread it countless times. I have no doubt I will keep rereading, as well. Thank you, Tom (and Patti) for this post. It is an incarnate answer to “how Jesus saves us” through each other. What a privilege to save and be saved.

    I wanted to share this song, “Break Every Chain” sung by Paxton Ingram. I get chills every time, and I love most that the tempo of the song never quickens, even though the meaning and sound intensify. It speaks to me that “Christ knows what he is about”, about His Father’s business, and nothing will deter him from breaking the chains that bind us. “Not one of them will be lost…”. He is consistent, there is always more, and He is faithful.

    Enjoy!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s