You Came Into My Life
"The Way We Make Christ Present To Each Other Is The Way Christ Will Work His Cures Today.”
Marriage And Its Gifts
Good day! We want to compliment you on your ability to motivate yourselves to do this Marriage Encounter Online and to keep at it. May God bless you.
I hope you remember us. We met in the Hall of Mirrors where Diane and I gave the presentation on “Reflecting on Self”. Now we are going to talk to you about the importance of our Sacrament/Covenant of Marriage. The Great Room is another wonderful room in the Marriage Mansion, and it’s ideal because what we will share is truly great news. It’s also the introduction to the greatest part of the Marriage Encounter program.
We’d like to start with a short prayer: “Lord, we thank you for this couple sitting before us. You know exactly how far they’ve come since starting their journey. You know their concerns, hurts, desires, and needs. We ask at this time that you speak to their hearts. Give them guidance and direction as they continue their encounter. Bless all of us as we open our lives to you. Shower us abundantly with your love.”
If you’d like, we’ll wait while you offer a personal prayer.
On our wedding day, Diane and I were given a precious gift -- a treasure from God. It was the covenant God made with us, that He would be with us in our marriage, loving us and helping us to love each other. This covenant came as a gift, the gift of our Sacrament of Marriage.
When we married, we didn’t realize the full significance of our Sacrament of Marriage. I’m not sure I realize it today. How can we ever hope to understand the full power of God? But we have come to realize that the covenant God made with us in this sacrament is a precious treasure – the best wedding gift we could ever hope to receive. It’s the gift He keeps giving us day in and day out.
The word sacrament means to “make holy”, therefore, anything we do together in love is sacramental, whether it’s sharing ourselves in dialogue, supporting each other in a crises, planning a budget, playing cards, or, preparing for this Marriage Encounter.
The point is that God works in and through our love.
As Christians we believe that God gave us the sacraments as an outward sign of the inward help He gives us. For example, in Baptism, water is the outward sign of the cleansing of original sin which allows God to live within us.
Bret and I gave each other the Sacrament of Marriage on August 21, 1976. Bret became the outward sign of the inward help and grace which God gave to me. And I became the outward sign of the grace which God gave to Bret. In other words, God’s helping hand came to me through Bret, and to Bret through me.
The most important part of our Sacrament of Marriage is that God didn’t just come to us once on that important day when we said “I do” to our marriage vows . . .
. . . God comes to us every time we say “I do” to our marriage vows. With every act of love and thoughtfulness we are saying “yes” to our marriage vows. Diane says “I do” to our Sacrament when she fills my mug with ice water before I leave the house, or when I’m working at my desk. She says “I do” when she scratches my back, or cleans my shoes. I’m reminded of her love when I see my towel hanging over the shower door. She says “I do” to our marriage when she asks for a hug, esp. after we’ve had a disagreement. I feel her love when she teases me about something which is followed by her coy smile and her wiggle as she walks out of the room. Her love shows daily in her cheerfulness and her giving of self to me and our family. Living with a happy, cheerful wife is a true gift from God.
Bret says “I do” to our marriage sacrament at night when he puts toothpaste on my toothbrush; the way he smiles at me for no special reason and says “I love you”. I’m reminded of his love when the car is filled with gas, or in the morning, when I find a glass of juice waiting in the refrigerator for me. It certainly is an act of love when he puts aside his magazine and really gives me his full attention; or when he shares his thought and feelings with me even though he's been hurt. I appreciate the way he tells me things like who was on the phone, or who he saw when he was out. I feel more a part of his life
I felt his love recently in an amusing way. I had told him I was worried because he seemed to have lost the bounce in his step. He bounced and jumped around for several days after that. With each of these acts of love God lets His Grace flow through Bret to me. Everyday is like a wedding day and that’s pretty neat! In this way we are signs of God’s love in our marriage.
But it doesn’t stop there. As husbands and wives we are not just signs of God’s love to each other. We are signs of God’s love to the world. Diane and I learned that we were witnessing to our Sacrament of Marriage when we attended a program at a neighboring church that involved small group sharing. One of the men asked us, “Are you always that happy together?” We were taken by surprise and answered, “I guess so.” To which he said, “I’m not surprised. You seem to be a happily married couple.”
We certainly weren't doing anything just for show but God used our marriage as a sign to others of His love.
How often do we stumble along without the awareness that God is the third person in our marriage covenant, ever present and ready to provide help and guidance? Even though we know His help is available, those little acts of love can be so difficult. There are times when I can be pretty selfish, and not in a very loving mood. When that’s linked to a husband who’s not very lovable, acts of love don’t come easily. That’s when I have to make a very strong and deliberate decision that I want to love Bret, and that I want our marriage to work. Then any act of love that I'm able to perform becomes a fervent prayer that God's helping hand will be there for us.
Not long ago, I was feeling unhappy with Bret. He didn't answer several questions I asked and seemed to be ignoring me. I thought he was mad at me. I didn't want to ask what was wrong because I was very tired. As we went up to bed I said a prayer that God would work through me to heal the situation. I wasn't in a loving mood, but I tried to think of an act of love. As I got to the bed, I fluffed Bret's pillow – but he didn't notice.
When he got in bed, he pulled the covers over him, and with that they went off of me. That irritated me. Then, with his back toward me, he opened a magazine and started to read. Without thinking, I pulled at the covers and said, "Do you want to read?' Because I had pulled the cover, he flipped back and bumped into me. He smiled and said: "How nice of you to ask! You sure are sweet." Then he kissed me. I was speechless! He wasn't mad at all. And even though I was feeling irritated, he took my words as a little act of love. Immediately, I felt healed.
It turned out Bret had a construction problem, and was so engrossed in thinking about it he didn't hear me ask him questions. Then he thought he read something in a builder magazine that might help him. I thought – how much God loves us. If we only give Him a little chance, He wants to help us; He wants to bless us with His healing grace.
It is often only because of our decision to love and this helping power of God that we can live in peace and unity.
Twenty centuries ago, the mere presence of Christ brought about many wonderful happenings. His words of love and understanding caused the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the leprous to be cleaned and even the dead to live again. Some say a sacrament is God’s way of abolishing time and making Christ live among us just as He lived in Palestine. The way we make Christ present to each other is the way Christ will work His cures today.”
Diane’s words of love and understanding still have the power to cause the deaf to hear.
When everything’s in turmoil at home, Bret’s loving patience still calms a stormy sea. If some misunderstanding causes me to crawl into my shell, Bret’s kiss of acceptance empowers the mute to speak.
When the problems of business and the world bear down on me, Diane’s tender words of understanding and acceptance help me to pick myself up and walk again. Diane’s generous love still cleans away the leprosy of my selfishness.
Fr. Gabriel Calvo, expressed this idea to married couples in these words, “When you communicate, when you trust, when you really love each other, you make Christ present in the world. You are a sign of His love and unity.”
We’d like to share an example from our lives that involved sharing feelings, each of us looking inward, and then the Grace of Healing:
Our son and his wife and their young children moved out of state. They asked Diane if she could draw a remodeling plan to add a 2nd floor to the ranch they bought. Diane drew several plans which they narrowed it to one, but asked for changes in the 2nd floor.
My experience has been in drawing plans for new construction, not remodeling. Bret designed an exterior to blend with the houses in the family’s new neighborhood – a cape cod with dormers. I had never drawn a floorplan with dormers, and I needed Bret to explain how the slope of the roof would affect the size of the rooms. He did this and then showed me a picture of a house being framed for dormers. He said, “It’ll be just like this except this roof will be lower.” I fired back, “Lower than what?”
He immediately became upset and snapped back, “For crying out loud, what have we been talking about? The roof will be lower on either side of the dormer.” I was stunned at his harsh voice.
I was surprised by my anger and response to Diane. I walked away from her. I felt miserable. I sat down and picked up a magazine to read but my mind was on what had just happened. I knew I had hurt her and I asked God for healing.
I guess 10 minutes passed and I went over to Diane. I told her I was sorry and asked for forgiveness. She forgave me and said she was sorry, too – that perhaps she wasn’t listening well.
Well, that could have been the end of it, but by the grace of God, I saw more. I told Diane that things were not as they seemed. That my anger was covering over fear; fear that perhaps my brain had short circuited and that what I was saying was not logical. My worst fear as I get older is concern that I might lose my mental capacity.
I was so touched by Bret’s openness and honesty, I was near tears. I thought -- what greater love could he express to me than to be so humble and open?
I believe God’s grace touched me, too. I told Bret I believe I was defensive because I didn’t want to appear stupid. I admitted that the fear of sounding stupid is so strong in me, I’d rather try to make him look stupid -- or at least at fault for not explaining it well -- before admitting that I didn’t grasp what he was saying. I told him I was really sorry, too. We hugged each other for a long time.
Being able to forgive was so important but it seemed to us that it also helped that we both looked inside to see why we reacted the way we did, and to share our feelings about it. We believe the healing was more lasting because of our encounter with self, and expression of feelings. And this was only possible by the grace of God.
If we picture husband and wife as the 2 points in the base of a triangle with God at the top, notice that as husband and wife move closer to each other they also move closer to God. Through our unity as husband and wife with God, we can build a strength that nothing will divide. We are a trinity of love.
We are now entering into the heart of the Marriage Encounter, called the Great Encounter. This is a most important part of the program, drawing together all the topics dealt with so far. We are going to give you a long list of questions, and ask you to write in detail on those that apply most to your own lives. It is okay to write on the same topic you have written on before as you are at a different place now than you were then. Do not worry if you don't finish the whole list. We’re going for depth here, you can always resume writing on your own at a later time if you don't finish now.
Since this is such an important part of the program, we will give you about 75 minutes just for writing. Keep the pen going the whole time even if the brain seems to stall for a few moments. Continuing to write is the best way to get back on track. Besides, no one has died from a tired wrist yet. During this time, please do not disturb each other. When your PR time is finished, take a 5-minute break. We have a prayer for you to pray before doing your CD. We suggest that you allow 90 minutes for your CD.
Go in peace and write with love.
When you finish your CD we will take you to the Sun Room. Joe and Mary have a very engaging presentation on Marriage Spirituality. When Diane and I made our Encounter and came to this presentation, I thought, “No was! This has been a great program so far, but if they are going to try to encourage us to live like celibate religious – count me out. It ain’t going to happen.”
Diane was more pragmatic and so we went. When it was finished I thought “Bret, you struck out again. That was an eye-opening experience.” As I look back I would rate Marriage Spirituality as one of the top three concepts that has helped our marriage the most.
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