Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Not About You: Why Marriage in the "Me Culture" Is Not Successful

According to Webster, marriage is, the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law. In this post, I want to look at the first eight words of this definition; the state of being united to a person.

What exactly does that mean?

Marriage is, by definition, a state of being. When a person goes from being single to being married, they are entering into a whole new "state of being". This is important to remember. When entering into this new state of being, the person is leaving another state of being, namely the single state. Think of the person as walking out of one room (single life) through a door (the marriage ceremony) into another room (married life). Needless to say, most people recognize that there will be an adjustment as the married person learns to embrace the new room (or state) that he or she is in. A lot of resistance can occur when the person is in this new room and instead of venturing through it, seeing how they can  make it beautiful and embracing it, they keep trying to hold onto that other room; their old life. They may have been very comfortable in the other room and scared to find out what may lie ahead in the new room.  Nonetheless, countless couples, regardless of their background or belief systems wind up "getting married" every year. Could the desire for this "state of being united to a person" be somehow written on the heart of man? So, the person goes from being single and "un-united" if you will, to married and being united to a person. And, this, is where the rubber meets the road (is that the expression?).

Getting to the title of this post. When the single person lives their life in such a way that life becomes all about them and they are not used to sacrificing for another person, it becomes that much harder to adjust to the state of being united to another person; marriage. There is not a clear understanding about the very nature of marriage. To be united, it becomes about the other. Love is an action that oftentimes looks and feels like sacrifice. To grow in love and unity can/will be painful, but it will be impossible if the couple doesn't have an accurate understanding of what it takes for true unity to be built.

Unfortunately, we grew up in a culture that has put so much emphasis on independence and do whatever "feels good," that our desire for unity has become fractured. It's like, we want unity with another person, or to be united, but we don't want to make the sacrifices that would make that unity possible, because it would require something from us. There is no judgement here because I struggle with this very ideal.

There is so much to say about this and of course, there is no true unity without God, the One Who has united heaven and earth and humanity with divinity through Jesus Christ. But just on a natural level, the couples that I know who are successful, have learned this simple, but profound and life-changing truth; life is not about me and my personal happiness. It's about sacrificing for the other and learning how to love authentically. Then joy comes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spiritual Amnesia

Since my last blog post a lot has happened. I'm still running, slacking on prayer and writing though... The good news is that I am praying more than I am writing. I have something that I like to call spiritual amnesia, and I don't think I am the only one who suffers from this disorder. Basically, I forget that I need God. So then I don't pray one day and one day turns into two days and before you know it I've been going on auto-pilot for a week. Then I feel all anxious and I wonder why God doesn't feel "near" to me. Then I pray and the light bulb goes off, "oh yeah, I have to come to You and make myself available to hear You and receive from You whatever it is you have for me ." It's usually His peace. Then I commit to a regular prayer time and so it goes. I'd like to forget less.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A child-like faith

Remember when we were little and we were given certain "rules" to follow by our parents? They were always cramping our style and making us come in before dark, stay on the sidewalk with our bikes, not talk to strangers, and go to bed by 8 o'clock. At the time, we said, "WHY!?!" And we didn't understand. It's obvious now that is was for our protection, to keep us safe, to preserve our very lives. They didn't put limits on us just to put limits on us; they did it because they knew better than we did what was needed to keep us safe and happy. They could see the bigger picture. We know now they put these limits on us because they loved us.

God is the same way with us. We are His children and we often ask that same question, "Why?" in regards to the "rules" God asks us to follow. Why does He ask me to wait to have sex until marriage? Why does it matter if I have an abortion? Who am I hurting if I steal, committ adultery, covet what my neighbor has or slander my co-worker behind his back?

When we see God as this ruler who cares only to "keep us in line" then it is impossible to have any desire to follow these "rules." In fact, we may go out of our way to break them (human nature). But when we come to trust Him, that He loves us and wants what is best for us, we recognize that He asks us to follow these rules/guidelines for our own good, to protect us, to keep us from harm. He's not waiting with a stick to hit us if we fail (actually it's quite the opposite), He's waiting to pick us up when we fail. If we come to a more accurate understanding of who God is and who we are to Him, only then will His ways make sense to us. He's not trying to limit our freedom. He just sees the whole picture and knows that certain things that may bring us temporary happiness will lead to emptiness and oftentimes despair. He sees the whole picture.

When we begin to see God for who He really is (not the distorted image we often think He is) we begin to trust. This makes all the difference. Then we are not following rules, we are following Him. And He wants to lead us to Heaven! He came that we "might have life and more abundantly." John 10:10 Not a life of temporary pleasures, but a life of deep joy and peace that transcends all understanding.

He knows what is best, even if we don't understand. Like the child who trusts her father to catch her when she comes down the slide. How much more can we trust our Heavenly Father?!? We must become like children, with child-like faith (this is not to be confused with being childish) and ask God to help us trust Him with our whole lives. Then we will not be following rules that are impossible to follow by our own strength, but we will be on a journey with and to the One who our hearts long for in the first place.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

run, write, pray...just do it.

I have heard this advice about all three of these areas that I (and I know many others) struggle to do consistently. I think I have finally had a turning point. I'm just doing it.

I've been wanting to get back into running now for many years, but have made excuse after excuse. I have been inspired by so many runners, my brother is a triathlete and me starting to run again is a long time coming. Finally, I was inspired by my friend who is a marathon runner who was asked for some advice about starting to run. She simply said to "just do it." Anyone can make an excuse. Just get up and start running. I am happy to say with the encouragement of another friend who is training for a 5K I too have started my training to run that same 5K! The website has an awesome training tool called Couch-to-5K running plan which lets the "couch potato" ease into running and not get discouraged which many beginners do because they try to do too much too fast. Anyway, so far so good.

Writing. I'm doing it right now. An author friend of mine who I asked for writing advice told me: Just start writing; write everyday. I don't know what I want the end result of writing to be for me, but it feels kind of like breathing to me. So, I write all the time and now I have started this blog and honestly don't care if anyone reads it. I just like to write and feel led to.

Now about praying... I think it was Mother Teresa who said something like, "don't think about praying, just pray" that may be totally misquoted, but you get the idea. A lot of people (including myself) think about praying, talk about praying, encourage other people to pray, but the important thing, the thing that will change a person's life, is to just pray. With the help of yet another awesome friend in my life I have committed to spend at least one hour a week at Adoration. Just sitting quietly with my Lord (except for the old woman who was sucking loudly on her cough drop earlier today!) and allowing Him to change me. "Make me more like You, O Lord!" It's not going to happen unless I spend time with Him, listen to Him. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. The mistake we often make when we try to pray is we come at God with an agenda, a list and we do all the talking.  Another MT quote: "God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer." So, there you have it. Just listen. What God wants to say to us, particularly about His Love for us, is way more important than what we could ever say to God. He already knows what is on your heart. Just open it to Him. Sit quietly and I promise you, He will sort it all out.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Being grateful

Lately I've been thinking about how blessed I truly am, yet I manage to maintain a healthy amount of negativity! It's funny, isn't it? How we can be so so blessed, yet be so ungrateful and allow ourselves to think and behave in ways that would make an outsider believe we were anything but blessed! The thing is... no matter what my circumstances (and mine are not bad) I am blessed! Simply because I am a daughter of the King! Yes, the King.

After mass this past Sunday I took a few moments to thank God for all He has blessed me with, not just material things, although I am grateful for the roof over my head, food, clothing, etc. but for the immaterial things. His very Life in me. His Presence (which gives life, the spiritual kind). His Love. His Strength. His Faithfulness. His Kindness. His Mercy. His Gentleness. His Patience. As much as I sometimes dwell on the "not so ideal" circumstances of my life, God is good. And I am blessed. So this blog will be many things, but one of the things I will be working out is that struggle between recognizing I am blessed and giving in to the temptation to complain.