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Why I Love My Marriage (at 4 months)

March 9, 2014 3 comments

I have many reasons to be grateful for my life — certainly many more than I deserve. I have my health, my faith, a well-compensated job that I find rewarding, and have been blessed with great friends and family and memories of wonderful experiences all over the world. Yup, My life is pretty good. To be honest, it always has been.

Sure, I’ve had to deal with failure, rejection, pressure, negative influences, injury, nearly getting arrested (a story for another blog), loneliness and  burning out, but no matter how bad or depressing my life has been, I have always been able to fall back on realities that were more important, more permanent, and more positive than the negatives of those times. No matter where I was in the world and no matter how well or poorly the temporal things were going, I was grounded in the knowledge that my family would be there for me and my God loved me and was in control (making all things work together for good for those who trust in him [Romans 8:28]). It didn’t mean that I never had a bad day, or that I didn’t let things get to me, but when things did get to me, I could step back and choose to be grateful (even when every bone in my body was reacting with fear or depression.

None of that has changed since I have been married. I still have those same reasons to be grateful, but now I have another one. In fact I have dozens more reasons to be thankful and I have a beautiful, living, breathing reminder of those reasons constantly before me. Here are just a few reasons why I love married life:

– I wake up every day knowing and experiencing that a person has CHOSEN to love me freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully for a lifetime. The love of my family has been amazing  and constant throughout my life, but they were kinda stuck with me (and I’m so glad that they were!). In some ways, the same is true for God. Sure, He loves me more and better than anyone in this world (including my wife) ever could hope to, but that is true for everyone. My wife, on the other hand, made a commitment to me that she will not make with anyone else even though she could have chosen whoever she wanted. What an amazing experience.

-I get to fall asleep every night holding the woman of my dreams and realizing that it’s not a dream at all. After all the lonely nights praying and hoping and trusting that God would introduce me to the right woman in His time, it is such a sweet experience to lay down and rest with my arm around my wife and tangibly feel the completion of a void that I felt for so long in my life.

-Its not about me anymore. Given, it was never about me to begin with, but having another person intertwined in every aspect of my life has been a great reminder in so many ways that my decisions don’t just affect me, and my wife is such an inspiration to me both to lead the family and grow personally. Sure, there are moments that seem purgatorial (in learning and experiencing her expectations of facial care, for instance), but the sight of my wife and the ring on my finger are physical reminders of the calling that I have to lay down my life in love. Some might consider this the downside of marriage; the ball and chain, the forfeiture of freedom, but I think they are missing the point. As a human being, God made me because He loves me, built a need and desire for love and self-donation into my spiritual DNA. I will never be happy in this life until I’m taking the skills, talents, passions and gifts that God has given me and using them to give back to the world.  I discerned my vocation to marriage through prayer and recognition that the specific skills, talents, passions, gifts and experiences which God blessed me with were better suited toward devotion to one woman, and through that one devotion, bearing fruit to love and serve many more.

-I get to learn a whole new set of my own weaknesses. Once again, not a statement that most people jump up and down about in excitement, but it really is a pretty exciting and wonderful thing, because it’s the only way that I will truly grow. God loves me as I am, but he loves me way too much to let me stay there. In the invitation to marriage, God is allowing me to experience life from a completely different perspective. It’s almost like moving to a new country or starting a new job; you can ask people who are over there, and you can read books and study but in the end you will never really know what it’s like until you get there. Sure, finding some good books, and good mentors go a long way to make sure you choose the right location/job and are properly prepared, but there is always a learning curve. Even though that curve is painful and frustrating at times, It’s making me into a better person than I could have been had I not made that commitment.

-Every point that I wrote above is equally true for my wife, and I get to have the unique and irreplaceable role in this world of walking with her on that journey… our journey. Being invited to play such a pivotal role in the life of someone who I care so deeply for could not be a greater compliment or a greater incentive to step up to the challenge.

-We both saved sex for marriage, and now the act has so much significance to our relationship because it is a sign of everything we are sharing and aspiring to be for each other and for the world. The physical pleasure pales in comparison to the relevance of the embrace.

-We can (and do) talk about everything and anything. Sometimes, we don’t talk at all and we just share silence.

-We laugh SO MUCH. I don’t think I have ever laughed as regularly in my life as I have since my wedding day. Neither of us are comedians and it’s not like we are laughing all the time. But we know each other, and we can see and appreciate the ridiculous in so many of our daily activities and situations that we can’t help but laugh at the comedies of errors or irony along the way.

I can’t help but think that God is smiling and laughing with us 🙂

AMDG

these 2openhands have a new permanent accessory

these 2openhands have a new permanent accessory

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The Crisis of Vocations

August 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Most Catholics who pay any attention at Mass have probably heard that there is a crisis of vocations. Leaders in the Church regularly mention the urgent need for more priests and religious and use the term to describe the shortage in our church here in America (and around the world). I agree that we don’t have enough priests and religious and I absolutely agree that there is a crisis of vocations, but I think we ignore a greater crisis when we focus all of our attention on the call to religious life and ignore the call that applies to many others. Read more…

Same Sex Unions and Marriage

July 3, 2011 4 comments

Alright this is a pretty long blog, so I decided to give you the summary first…

Short Version:

Some say Love + Commitment = Marriage, but the government doesn’t legislate love or personal commitment. It does however define legal relationships in order to ensure appropriate rights and protections. In the case of marriage, the definition gives rights and protections to both members of the relationship as well as any children. If we change the definition of marriage to include same sex unions we effectively say

man + woman = man + man = woman + woman

which means (by subtraction from both sides)

man = woman

Which is true if we look at “=” to mean “equal” but false if we look at “=” to mean “the exact same” (which would be required to give both institutions the same name).  The whole reason that we have different words for men and women is because we are not the same. For the same reason, there should be a different word for same sex unions. But wait, there’s more math:

(woman + man) child

This a possible reality which is unique to the union of man and woman and not possible for same sex unions so there is also an inherent inequality. This inequality specifically arises when we look at the issue of children. Some claim that same sex couples have the same inherent ability to parent a child as a father and a mother, but when we evaluate this claim it can only be true if men and women have NOTHING UNIQUE TO CONTRIBUTE to a child’s development. I have a hard time believing that. I think there is inherent value to a child having a mother and a father. And I don’t think that makes me a bigot.

Long Version: Read more…

Love that Lasts a Lifetime

June 26, 2011 2 comments

The other night I had the lovely blessing of catching up with an old friend of mine. We discussed life, work and family, but mostly we talked about relationships. I asked her about hers and she gave me some wise advice on my lack thereof. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “Does he CHERISH you?” I’ve asked her that question before, and she likes that I ask it. Not just because her answer is yes, but because the question looks a little deeper than the typical “do you love him?” and “does he love you?” That should be a given. As Christians, we’re called to love everyone. It’s easier for some than others, but if we can’t even manage to love our significant other, we are in a pretty bad place. When we look at the romantic side of love though, it’s important that we take the time to CHERISH the other – to be captivated by their presence and desire desperately to soak up every moment of it. There’s a reason that the Song of Songs is in the Bible. This enchanted, cherishing, captivated love is one that God has for us also. And we do well to imitate it in that exclusive relationship that may lead to one which images Christ and his Church.

As we continued our discussion she shared some of her anxieties about marriage and the fact that she wanted to make sure that she knows a man really well before committing herself to marriage. In a society where so many marriages end in divorce, she thinks that the only way you can have a good chance of making it last a lifetime is if you take all the years necessary to make sure that you fully know the person (or as much as you possibly can about them) before you tie the knot. This view has a certain degree of validity, but the problem is that no matter how long you spend, you will always be discovering new things about your significant other (just as we are always learning new things about ourselves). This brought up one of my other favorite questions, “How do you define ‘love’?” The look on her face spoke volumes. It’s the one that I’m used to seeing when I ask that question. The kind of look you get if you were to ask someone what air tastes like. After her initial shock though her reply went into a few different directions and came back to the same fundamental building block that many people and our society at-large seems to identify: a feeling. To her credit, she gave much more depth to it than that, but it would all fall away without that loving feeling at the core.

This understanding of love pervades our culture, our media and our friendships and there is certainly an element of reality in it. We have these deep and passionate emotional attachments to our beloved to help us bond in a way that will last a lifetime. And I would never recommend that someone endeavor into a romantic relationship if you never felt an emotional attachment to the other. But there is also a grave danger when we fail to look beyond those feelings and root our relationship in something deeper.

“What’s the danger?” she asked. Feelings and emotions, by their nature, change. I think that so many people with this sentimental view of love find a person that they are absolutely head-over-heals for and grow so close to that they decide they want it to last forever. So they say to each other, “I feel so close to you and amazed by you that I want to commit my life to being this enamored by you and making this feeling last a lifetime.” And so they get married with the full and honest intention of keeping this feeling for a lifetime. As the years go by though and maybe after a child or two, one or both of them notice that they don’t feel the same about the other. That light seems to have gone from their eyes. They’re no longer excited the way that they used to be about just being with the other. So they talk about it and try to bring it back. They try some romantic dinners and getaways. They go to counseling. They knew that love would take work and so they commit themselves to working to bring a feeling back. The problem is that no amount of work can make you FEEL a certain way about someone or about anything for that matter. Sometimes it can help, but emotions are funny things. You can’t really pin them down. So after some work and trying everything that they can think of they finally give up. They say, “we tried, we gave it our best, we loved each other and now we don’t even though we really want to” and with that they go their separate ways wishing each other the best and searching for another love that will last a lifetime (and that’s the best-case scenario).

“So then what’s the solution? How do you define love?” Was her next question.

In order for love to last a lifetime, it has to be a CHOICE. Many people much wiser than myself have come up with great definitions for love, but the way that I see it, love is a SELFLESS allegience of the heart, formed and solidified by the WILL. (I’ve brought this up in a few other blogs of mine) All of the emotions and feelings, attraction and desire can help us to make that decision and solidify it in our heart and mind, but we must take that step of choosing to be interested in the well-being of the other REGARDLESS of what it may mean for us or how we feel at the moment. For love to last a lifetime, I need to look at my future spouse in the eye and be able to say, “I am amazed at who you are and the way that I feel around you. I am more blessed than I can say by your simple presence and truly enjoy spending time with you and I find everything about you absolutely beautiful. And all of the time we’ve spent together has helped me appreciate who you are and made me want to help you become the woman that you want to be. You inspire me to become the man that I long to be. And so I CHOOSE to love you. I choose to be for you. I choose what’s best for you over my own pleasure. I will lay down my life for you. Whether that means taking a bullet for you or taking the train to work so that you can have my car and drive to the doctor, or avoiding an attractive coworker who is making advances at me. I will be faithful to you even if after a few years I find myself more attracted to someone else (although that seems inconceivable to me at the moment). Even when I don’t FEEL the love I will CHOOSE to LIVE the love. I WILL cherish you even if their comes a time when I don’t want to. And as I spend my days getting to know you better and discovering new things about you and rediscovering old things about you I will never cease to love you. If you can make the same commitment to me, then I know that we can live a life of mutual devotion and through the trials of life; through our worst moments and our best, we will have each other and be able to share this journey with each other for the rest of our lives.”

I’m not advocating that you memorize the short speech that I just rattled off for your engagement. I’m really not even suggesting that you adopt my definition of love. What I am recommending though, is that you take the time figure out how YOU define love, how your significant other defines love, and discern DEEPLY how those definitions will be able to withstand the inevitable variations of time and emotion. After all there is a lot riding on it…. Define wisely.

AMDG

 

Chris West at USNA

June 18, 2011 1 comment

During my senior year in college (2006), I was fortunate enough to have Christopher West come and speak to an open audience (both Catholics and Protestants who were interested) at my school about “God, Sex, and the meaning of Life.” He allowed us to record it and share as we saw fit, so there’s no copyright issue. Here is a link to the download if you want to check it out (about 90mb and 90 minutes long).

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/21653317/CW%20%40%20usna.wma

(note: the first voice you hear is the priest saying an opening prayer, Chris starts right after that)

also, while I still have space (over a GB), here is the link to the full video…

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fdl.dropbox.com%2Fu%2F21653317%2Fchris%2520west%2520at%2520USNA.mpg&h=84774

AMDG