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Give up SELFISHNESS in your Marriage for Lent

20 Feb

selfless-selfishPicture_65

To understand what marriage is – we must first understand what it is not: It is not dependent on romantic love, it is not dependent on your spouse doing their fair share, it is not dependent on your spouse not making mistakes – even grave ones that wound you deeply.

What marriage is about: a vow you took before God when you bestowed freely the sacrament of Marriage on your spouse and gave yourself to her in service until your death, marriage is about forgiveness, marriage is about loving even when that love is not returned, marriage is about remaining faithful even when your spouse is not, marriage is about doing whatever is best for your spouse instead of what you think is best for you, marriage is about putting your spouse above everything else save God in your life.

By now you are likely angry. Obviously, you have not stopped reading. Let me explain as Jesus did in the beatitudes – to become first, we must make ourselves last; To become the master, we must become the slave.

What that means in practical terms is that marriage is not about YOU. It is a vow of perpetual service, and when that vow is practiced by both parties simultaneously unfathomable joy and love bloom like roses in the desert. You should also be realistic and understand that any marriage will have it’s ups and downs – some very severe. In order to achieve those joys one must often endure hardship and even sorrow with dignity and commitment. There will be times when nothing but your commitment to your promise and Christ himself carry you in your marriage.

Let your marriage be a reflection of the Love of Christ for humanity. For if you cannot love your wife, how can you hope to love God, much less the world.

Your impediment to doing this is SELFISHNESS. For Lent, please consider giving it up in your marriage and see the difference it can make in 40 days. Then stop and imagine the difference it can make over a lifetime.

Pax Christi,

Colin

About Big Expensive Weddings

14 Oct

Cutting the Wedding Cake as one

Like all of Marriage, How symbolic is the act of cutting the cake together. Showing that everything we do going forward will done by two working as one in purpose.

I have noticed of late that weddings are getting bigger and bigger, as well as more expensive. Shockingly people are starting their lives together in debt to finance live bands, open bars, lavish food, pricey venues, and other frivolities. On the flip side, so many seem to think that if they are too poor to afford these things then they are too poor to get married.

Full disclosure here – I was married in a small church, including the dress my wife and her mother made the wedding and reception cost under $1000 for everything. When we married we did not need fancy gadgets, expensive crystal or china, or any of the commemorative knick knacks (save the one person who did a wonderful framed wedding announcement for us). It was a family affair, but most important we were there to get married. We were not there to get drunk. We were not there to cater dinner to dozens. There was no booze, light refreshments, and wedding cake.  Our wedding gifts were practical things – study serviceable towels, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, recipe books, and from her parents a honeymoon cabin in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We were there to get married and start a lifelong journey together.

I do not feel I missed out or was slighted. All the other trimmings of the wedding are gone – but my wife remains. Her companionship for life as my spouse was the only wedding gift I wanted. Young love would grow and mature over the years – and the path would be rocky, even seemingly impassible at times. The truth is  – if you are going to throw a party to celebrate something, why not wait until you have an accomplishment together to really celebrate?

“If I ran the zoo”, said Gerald McGrew, “I know Just what I’d do!” – and Seussian rhyme aside, I do!

I’d celebrate big anniversaries with aplomb!
The 20th one would be quite a bomb!
The 25th would be a muted and private affair,
but the 30th would certainly include dancing bears.
40 and 50 seem so far away,
Big numbers they are,
so big bands will play.
By 60 and 70 we’ll just be glad to be there,
and watch the great grandchildren from our tandem rocking chair.
While old and decrepit our bodies may be,
By then a shining example of marriage,
to them we will be 🙂

Think for a moment about what is truly important, consider what is truly an accomplishment? Is is really appropriate to do a victory dance at the beginning of a marathon? Or is it more appropriate to dance a little jig and let out a whoop at each major milestone along the way. My thought is to set your own milestones – a long journey is taken one step a a time. Use your anniversaries to rededicate yourselves to your marriage and celebrate you successes thus far. Because in the end, the marathon never ends – and the real joy comes from happy memories and success which are celebrated on the journey.

Pax Christi,

Colin

Young Love – Young Marriage

7 Jan

Cutting the Wedding Cake as one

Like all of Marriage, How symbolic is the act of cutting the cake together. Showing that everything we do going forward will done by two working as one in purpose.

Young Marriage – This topic comes up a whole bunch. No matter which side you are on, I’m sure you have strong feelings about it. It could be based on what you were taught, or the damning statistics floated before your eyes, or the scary lectures given you by parents/peers/counselors, or on the plus side grandparents who were married at of before 20, parents who married young and made it, and the examples set by other couples you know who have made it work and are deliriously happy.

One thing to keep in mind is that if the person you plan on marrying is NOT the one, then no amount of waiting will make it so. If they ARE the one, then you risk losing them forever and always wondering the rest of your days what would have happened if you had just held that one when you had them. Let’s be honest – there is more to a potential spouse being the ONE than good looks, great pre-marital sex, being pretty, being pregnant, or even wanting to get married. What makes her the one is when you cannot imagine life without her, you are best friends, have no secrets, and the rose colored glasses have been sewn into your head. By that last bit about the glasses, it does not mean that she is without faults or that you cannot see them or are blind to them – but that you are able to effortlessly ignore them as inconsequential – nothing that gives you serious pause and nothing that you would expect to change later in life. In short – you love her exactly as she is, and are accepting of the fact that both of you will do a tremendous amount of growing and changing, over the next few years especially. You must understand that this is a lifetime commitment that cannot be abandoned or broken, that you are choosing your partner for life.

When we think of love, how do you know with all those hormones and so little life experience. I remember the words of my grandmother who raised me, who was also 14 or 16 when she married her soulmate – depending of which of her birth certificates you trusted more. When she asked me what I would do if they (my grandparents) disapproved of us getting married, I told her I would miss them terribly and I would hope for them to come around. She said to me that there were thousands more fish in the sea, was I so certain about his one that I was willing to give up fishing forever – and be always happy with my catch? Was I really that sure? When I looked her in the eye and said YES. She paused for a moment, then with a tear running down her left cheek hugged me and said I had their blessing. I was 19. I would turn 20 before we married, my wife a year younger within a few days! For those that are wondering no she was not pregnant, though it always came up as the first question from people who assumed it would be the reason we married young.

In truth we both KNEW that we had found the ONE and we wanted to be together forever. While it may not be right for everyone, it was right for us – and it has been right for a number of very long married couples I know, in fact the vast majority of them married well before 24. Those horrifying statistics on marriage failure, are reflective of people failing to keep their vows and work to stay in love. Was it rocky at times – VERY. Did both of us have to make unplanned sacrifices – YES. Did either of our lives turn out the way we had originally planned – NO. Hindsight being 20/20 – would we do it all over again if given a chance – WITHOUT HESITATION.

I cannot in good conscience discourage anyone from marrying young if they both have found the right person in each other, fully comprehend sacramental marriage, and at least think they are prepared and willing to face the challenges involved. The amazing bonds which can be formed in those formative years can be a bedrock for your marriage, the shared experiences in learning and growing can bring you closer together than you ever imagined, and as you grow and change you can fall in love with each other over and over again on an endless succession of mornings.

However, if one who wants to marry is selfish, narcissistic, and self-centered then no matter what else is there I suspect you will fail no matter what your age. If there is not a deep and abiding friendship and cooperation between you then you will likely fail – no matter how old you are. If you are not willing to adapt and embrace the changes life throws at you – then you will fail at any age. Most importantly, if either of you is unwilling to submit your will and your life to the service of the other before yourselves in all things then you will likely fail. Being older is going to take away many opportunities to grow together and make adaptation harder as you will both be different people with already set complex expectations – rather than having simple expectations including that you will have to adapt. Most importantly – you must both know in your hearts that you are their ONE and they are yours, marriage is not a place to settle for the “next best thing”.

If you have any doubts, a simple examination of conscious may be of assistance. If you were faced with a grave threat to your future spouse, but any intervention was not assured of success, would you hesitate (even a moment) to place yourself in the path of grave bodily injury or even death to protect her? If you answered yes, then you may have the ONE – since you feel sure that you value her life and well being above your own. If you answered no, you may want to stop and think about why you did not say yes – and whether it is that she is not the one – or whether you are just not ready yet to make such a commitment. Marriage is about readiness and willingness to commit ones life to the service of another and then keep that commitment, not about how old one is.

Please Give it Some thought –
-Colin

Anniversaries and What They Mean

30 Dec

Anniversary Watch

Anniversaries. What do they really mean? Another year has passed and a sacrament has survived?

Let’s be honest we take great pride in hitting milestones like 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20, 25 years. We do this because so many marriages do not make these numbers. Too often we place far too much stock in the celebration and recognition of these events – to the point that if one partner forgets the date or does not provide some token of affection a fight ensues and recriminations begin.

I love presents, a nice dinner out, and mind blowing sex as much as the next guy – and likely more. However, these things are not what an anniversary is about for me. Given they joyous effects of neurosurgery on long term memories – our early years are somewhat patchy. Please indulge me while I explain what I have thought of for the last 15 anniversaries.

Yesterday was our 22nd anniversary, and it’s funny that it is a gift I received on my 7th anniversary from my beloved wife that I still wear every day is a continual reminder of her selfless love. It’s a watch, that never needs batteries (Kinetic), like our love it is powered just by being ourselves. To understand I have to explain about me and watches – I kill them. Wind up or digital is no matter – on my wrist they all quit ticking and tocking or beeping in hours – days if I’m lucky. The wind up ones often ended up with hands bent inside the cases. Call it an occupational hazard of sorts. She wanted me so badly to have a watch that she searched high and low. She knew I had pinned a very small ad for this particular watch by the side of my desk among other papers for some years. Sapphire crystal, plain and simple – no “bling” at all, kinetic (No battery – powered by a slow leak capacitor), made of pure titanium (non-ferrous so no magnetic field issues), and more expensive than a used car. The Service Merchandise chain or Jewelers was still going in those days and she went in to look at after Christmas sales – they had one left and it was on clearance, cheap – under $1000 (This was 15 years ago!). It was still very expensive, but she was sure it was for me – her heart told her so. She carefully explained my history with watches, the salesman brought out that very watch and included a promise in writing that they would take it back unconditionally if I managed to kill it. She wanted to have it engraved but the back was sapphire crystal as well so the inner workings could be viewed if one desired and the crystal could not even be scratched by their engraver. She bought the watch and brought it to our dinner out that night.

While we waited for our food I could see fear or trepidation in her eyes. She was nervous and scared, I got nervous – it was the 7th year after all – and things had been rocky at times that year, but I thought we had really grown and bonded more deeply through the adversity. Now I wondered. She turned to me and said “I got you something special, I spent way too much money – please don’t be angry” and passed the box over. I about fell out of my chair when I opened it and the outrageously expensive watch I had admired, but never thought I would own, was in the box. You could have knocked me over with a feather, I was speechless. She was worried and hurriedly explained that she had gotten it on super sale, she could take it back, that it couldn’t be engraved to her disappointment, and that it came with a money back guarantee my body could not kill it. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes. They were truly windows to the soul for her that night. She had done something beyond selfless to make me feel loved and wanted, to let me know that she was not just listening to me – but noting and absorbing every detail of my being and though I had never said a word to anyone – she knew about the watch. She wanted more than anything to make me happy, to know that I was loved, and that she cared very deeply about those things I wanted in the depths of my heart that I had put aside to take care of her and our daughter. Tears welled up, I was touched in a place I had never been touched before – this feeling was new and joyous, and heartrending at the same time. I had no equivalent gift to offer. I looked into my heart, painfully aware that I was lacking and did not deserve this kind of love. I resolved that moment to keep trying to be the husband she deserved – not that I ever was, or have been successful in that endeavor.

I still keep trying. To this very day I still keep trying to match her in just that one moment. I know her moods, her body language, her smell, her eyes to the point I can often know whats she is thinking by a flash or glimmer in her eyes – and just as often as if by telepathy. I have tried my best to return that gift, but nothing will ever be enough. While the watch is a symbol as important to me as my wedding band because of the turning point in our marriage it represents – the gift was knowing unequivocally just how loved I was. Knowing that nobody deserves that kind of love, and that it is a gift to be accepted graciously and returned of the best of your ability. I am still trying to return a gift given 15 years ago – one that opened my eyes and my heart, everyday. She deserves it. In fact, she still deserves better.

That is what anniversaries mean to me. Like New Years they are an opportunity to reflect objectively on our marriages and identify those things we could do better – then resolve to make it so. That doesn’t mean that the other accoutrements are not nice or important – but that we should always use them to look ahead and not behind.

Yours in Christ,

Colin

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