If Your Day Is Hemmed
Hi! Come on in. We’re Mary and Joe, your Guide Couple. We enjoy being here in the Sun Room; it’s so bright and uplifting. The title of our presentation is Marriage Spirituality. Just as the sun brings life and growth to plants, so our couple spirituality brings life and growth to our marriage.
Marriage Spirituality refers to a growing relationship with your spouse and God. It’s difficult to explain because our relationship with God is very personal. Spirituality is not what we believe or do not believe, and it is not my religious affiliation.
Marriage spirituality is an inward thing. It’s the living reality of love present in the relationship of God, husband and wife. It is the reality that draws the three into a unity. This reality is the Spirit of God in our marriages.
Fr. Calvo, the founder of Marriage Encounter explains it clearly. "I believe spirituality exists in relationships; it is the way we relate to God, to other people, and to everyone else in the Universe. So Marriage Spirituality is about the couple's relationship with God, with each other, with their children, and with all other people...
“The love between husband and wife is inseparable from their relationship with God. These relationships with God and with one another depend upon, and are mutually conditional upon one another.... Marriage Spirituality is the reality which draws the three--God, husband, and wife—into unity."
Our Marriage Encounter was the first time that Mary and I heard about the idea of a couple having a relationship, as a couple, with God. That was an idea that was particularly hard for us to understand because neither Joe nor I really felt we had "a personal relationship" with God. In fact, our ME was the beginning of a new and exciting understanding of God's love. It was also a beginning for us in understanding God's grace -- and how He gives us the gifts of grace to bring us closer to each other -- and to Him.
When we married we each brought an individual spirituality into our marriage. Whatever our relationship with God was, whether close or distant, we brought that into our marriage.
When I was very young, my mother taught me about Jesus. Sadly, Mom died when I was still young, and soon afterwards I went to live with my grandmother. No other children lived nearby, and I experienced a lot of loneliness. It was then that I turned to Jesus as my friend. I could talk to Him anytime I wanted, just like I would a friend. I would even tell Him about my loneliness, sadness, and sometimes anger I felt. I knew He understood and cared. I felt loved and cherished.
As I grew older, I made friends at school, and I didn’t talk to Jesus like I had. Although I sometimes missed it, I considered it childish, and put it behind me. Today I realize that what I experienced was “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, and it gave me hope that I could experience that relationship as an adult with God and with Joe.
Marriage spirituality is readily available to anyone who wishes to seek it in their marriage. It was on our Marriage Encounter that Joe and I realized that God had been present in our relationship from the very beginning of our marriage. We didn't see Him... or hear Him... or feel Him --- but we knew He was there!
With His loving patience, He simply waited for us to notice Him and we finally did. We began to experience His love moving within our marriage and, like Jesus at Cana, He changed the "water" of our relationship into a delicious wine.
My childhood wasn't totally non-religious. I was baptized, attended Sunday school regularly and, at my Mom's insistence, went to confirmation classes and was confirmed into the church.
But nowhere in that experience of growing up within a church community did I feel any kind of a "personal relationship with God." In fact, when I'd heard others talk of a personal relationship with Christ, I was jealous!
As I grew older, had a family, and confronted my own mortality, this personal spirituality, as well as our spirituality as a couple, became more and more important to me. Since we became involved with Marriage Encounter, I began my own personal (and couple) walk (or journey) in earnest.
Two years ago I went on a men's retreat which focused on developing a deeper spirituality to attempt to live out my spirituality on a daily basis. Through this, the Lord has led me deeper in that walk every day.
About two months ago, I became aware of how unhappy I was in my job situation. A lot of my work is very fulfilling, as I support foster parents who work with emotionally damaged children. I admire and love these people, who open their hearts and homes to children who may be angry, confused, or lonely. However, many factors in the working atmosphere of my office have been bothering me. Finally, I seriously considered seeking a transfer to another program.
I am not "a mover", (I don’t even like to move furniture) so this was a frightening step for me. Joe has been extremely busy with lots of demand on his time. This was not the best of times for a long discussion, or to be considering a major change in my career.
Whenever I talk to Joe about things like this, he immediately wants to help me "solve" it. I knew this was the last thing he needed right then. However, I needed to talk to him. I needed a shoulder to lean on. And so I trusted in Joe and in our relationship. And besides, I knew God was with us, too.
I asked God for the Grace of Courage and brought it all up. Joe listened to me as one gifted with the Graces of Understanding and Patience. God was present in this discussion. Joe didn't try to "solve" this new problem right away. As we drew together, we experienced God's loving presence, and we received the Grace of Confidence in our marriage. Our marriage spirituality grew to a deeper level.
I truly believe that spiritual growth is a process. It doesn't “just happen," but it builds with each positive experience of God's presence in our lives.
We see that our spiritual lives have solidified in our efforts to pray together. I found it uncomfortable to pray with Mary. She had a casual style that bothered me, especially when she laughed; it seemed a bit disrespectful. As we began to share openly about more aspects of our lives, it became natural to pray together. Praying together has helped us find healing in some painful situation.
For instance, there was the time I reluctantly shared with Mary how my business investment had turned sour and that impending and unavoidable financial loss was upon us. I was feeling angry, embarrassed, and my ego was deflated. I expected Mary to blow up, to blame me. Instead, she did neither. In love and with gentleness she listened to me and said we'd just have to work it out together. She assured me that it wasn't my fault -- for I certainly hadn't intended it to turn out badly.
We dialogued and prayed together. Often our prayers to God turned into dialogue with each other. When Mary stopped a prayer to share a thought that gave me exceptional comfort, I knew it was a message from God. The process and healing took time, as we continued to pray and dialogue. We knew we were experiencing what Fr. Calvo calls “A deep dialogue with the Lord.” Our dialogue was between the three of us. We were abundantly blessed with the Grace of Unity.
Together we made some tough decisions, to sell our house, and to cut expenses. With God’s help, we not only worked through this financially devastating time, but we became strengthened as a couple.
Developing a couple relationship with God is our marriage spirituality. The methods we use to build this relationship -- couple dialogue, prayer, worship, reading God's word, service -- themselves are not marriage spirituality, but are ways in which we become open to spiritual growth as a couple. God wants to bind Himself to us in spirit, like a 3-strand cord.
In Ecclesiastes 4:12, the Bible says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” When the "two" are husband and wife, with God being the third strand within the relationship, that relationship becomes stronger and more resilient. When we are faced with adversity, God's presence makes a difference.
Go in peace, and write with love.
After you finish your PR and CD, you will be going to the Breezeway. Jane and Jack will meet you there.
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