Emptying the Marriage Fridge

marriagefridge

 

The other day, while cleaning the inside of my fridge, I deliberately chose to stay focussed on one thing. I turned it into a prayer. “Lord, show me how cleaning out my fridge could actually be a metaphor for a life lesson.”

Now my fridge isn’t all that dirty. I usually keep it clean, wiping it down now and then, especially after spill, doing a monthly purge of expired items. As I emptied the freezer, to my surprise I realized I didn’t purge it often enough, there were items in the back of the freezer I had completely forgotten about. I worked my way through the fridge, emptying shelf by shelf, removing the glass shelves to give them a good wipe. I realized there was some spillage I had missed in my routine wipe downs. This clean up took a lot more time than I had anticipated, a little more elbow grease and more hot water to get all the pieces looking shiny and clean again.

Life Lesson

Having been married for 18 years to a devoted, faithful man, I can easily take him for granted. Over the years we have made our efforts to stay connected as a couple. We arrange care for our children and schedule in some couple time. We work in ministry together and we are a prayerful couple. Once in a while we butt heads and have a disagreement, but they don’t usually last long. On the surface this marriage appears to be healthy and stable.

There comes a time in every marriage, when some purging is necessary. As Christians we understand that we are called to actively pursue God in our daily lives. To respond to his call to grow in relationship with him, this growth is constant and it’s flowing. At some point, to move closer to God we need to detach ourselves from certain habits or baggage. Matthew Kelly, a Catholic evangelist once said, “Every journey towards something is a journey away from something else.”

A marriage, certainly a Christian marriage that looks secure on the surface may have some underlying problems that need to be dealt with before this couple can move forward in their relationship with God and with each other.

Emptying the Marriage Fridge

Sometimes the couple will not be aware of what is impeding their growth. They have become so comfortable and accustomed to the stain, they don’t see it anymore. A praying couple will hopefully allow room for the Holy Spirit to inspire them to start emptying their shelves. Giving them the grace to discard what needs to go and give what remains a good cleaning. It doesn’t mean this couple is living a façade, by putting on a show for others. In many cases they believe they have a firm marriage. A faithful couple could be oblivious, believing their monthly date night and making up quickly after a disagreement means they are doing well. Perhaps this is so. Maintenance is a big part of building a strong marriage, but is it enough?

 

Supernatural Grace

Cleaning out my fridge is done within an hour or so. The type of work required to complete the purging cycle in a marriage is likely to be much harder. I am not talking about the bad habit he has of forgetting to put the lid back on the toothpaste, or the toilet seat down. Obviously there are deeper issues directly affecting the physical and emotional intimacy, trust and communication within the couple.

To look deeply within ourselves, through the eyes of faith, and to do it together with our spouse, requires a great amount of humility. It also requires a huge dose of supernatural grace. Supernatural strength is necessary to take the time, to be sincere with ourselves, with God and with our spouse. To put in the consistent and constant effort to work at what needs to be worked at, to forgive the failings we see in our spouse and to seek forgiveness for the failings we see in ourselves. None of this is easy, but it is necessary. Routine maintenance is not enough, because it doesn’t allow for growth.

Blessings Abound

When I finished cleaning the fridge, my shelves were shiny and the fridge did look a little empty, but it had all the essentials. The expired items wouldn’t be missed, and stains were gone. Now this could also have been a lesson on how we waste too much. This is the usual thought I have in mind when I clean out my fridge, freezer, pantry, etc., since we obviously spent money on items we didn’t have much use for. However, God used this time to show me how blessed I am. That even after discarding, cleaning and scrubbing, I have a good working fridge that still has the essentials I need to feed my family.

When we are willing to do the work, God blesses us in abundance. He doesn’t just give what we need, he provides in abundance. Couples get a new, clean, fresh start, with enough grace, love, forgiveness, empowerment, protection, prayer, and intimacy to keep moving forward. Certainly, the opportunity for a major clean will come again at different stages in their married life. The pain will be different, the habits will vary each time, or maybe some old habit will have managed to creep in again.

Sometimes the couples need help from their community to get over some major stumbling blocks. A spiritual leader or a marriage counsellor who can see the situation objectively, this is not a sign of a bad marriage or of weakness. It takes great strength and humility to admit you need help from a third-party. It is precisely in our weakest, most humbling moments that God’s grace and blessing abounds.

Today I pray for all married couples, that they may seek the courage to clean out their marriage fridge and benefit from the supernatural grace and blessing that comes with the opportunity for a fresh start.

 

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How Miley’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ Ruined Intimacy

 

Intimacy

Some songs, I have no interest in giving a second listen too. Up until a few days ago, Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” was one of those songs. I agree with whoever said it first, her video certainly did ruin a perfectly good song. However, I should mention I have not and do not ever intend to watch this video. Hearing about it from others is enough for me.

After a brief discussion with my family I decided to give this song a good listen. I have to say I was surprised by what “Wrecking Ball” can teach us about physical and emotional intimacy in relationships.

I was reminded of what Christopher West has named some popular artists “Twisted Mystics” I agree with his point, that many artists speak truth in their work. Their longing for deeper meaning, love and truth about their own human dignity and their sexuality shows in their work. They may go about it all wrong.  I dare say, Miley Cyrus is a ‘twisted mystic’.

Without breaking down the song line by line, here is my take on the lessons we can draw from this song. You can read the lyrics here.

It’s a song about a girl who fell in love hard and fast. Which implies that she gave herself physically very early in the relationship and obviously outside of marriage, as the relationship developed she desperately and forcefully sought emotional intimacy. Her force only resulted in pushing him away and she is left burned and wrecked.

It’s a natural defence mechanism to build an invisible wall around ourselves. If someone attempts to break down that wall by force, we will frantically work to reinforce it. Hence begins a war of sorts.

The only situation in which another person will let us inside the wall is when they feel safe enough. The best way for another person to feel safe, is when we open up. By letting the other inside my wall, I am saying that I trust them. This will usually be reciprocated in time.  In any relationship, where there is to be intimacy, parents and children, siblings, friends, and husbands and wives, we have to show that our heart is a safe place for theirs. If we are forcing our way in, they will feel threatened.

Is that all that went wrong for the girl in the song? This is a tragic break up song. Not only do we see how we cannot force the other into emotional intimacy. We also see the damaging effect of starting the relationship with physical intimacy. There is a reason God’s plan for marriage includes physical intimacy once the emotional barriers have been removed. The emotional intimacy provides that safe place for physical intimacy to occur. Even those who are married today, who did give themselves to each other physically before marriage, face consequences for having gone about attaining intimacy contrary to God’s plan. After years of marriage, they are still trying to attain emotional intimacy that was not established concretely from the start. When we have already invested so much of ourselves into the other person, it is difficult to accept that they are not letting us into their side of the wall.

Contrary to the message in Lady Gaga’s song, when we attempt to give our bodies, without giving our heart we will end up wrecked. We cannot separate our physical body from our spirit, our emotions or our soul. I could write a separate post on how what we do with our bodies affects every aspect of our human being.

There is a powerful lesson in Miley’s song, not only about providing a safe place for our spouse, children, parents and friends to be emotionally intimate, but also for our youth to understand the benefits of practicing chastity.

Chastity is a virtue that strengthens every vocation. Giving yourself physically to another outside of marriage does nothing to strengthen marriage. Chastity isn’t about saying “no” to sex, it’s about saying “yes” to authentic love, truth and beauty.

There are many resources for those who do want to say “Yes” to authentic love. There are apostles who have dedicated their lives to spreading the message and beauty of chastity.

Here are a few resources:

Chastity.com

If You Really Loved Me

Fill These Hearts

Theology of the Body for Teens

Real Life Catholic

Building A Strong Marriage: EMPOWERMENT

Empowerment

The next word in our acronym, PEPP is Empowerment. In today’s fast paced world, it is easy for a day to go by where couples barely spend more than a few minutes talking to each other.  How can we continue to Empower our relationship?

In the early stages of Sophie and Larry’s marriage, doing kind actions for each other came easy. They worked on most of the chores together. They enjoyed quiet and calm conversations over dinner, where they caught up on their day. They might even take in a show or a movie on some evenings. On Monday nights, when Larry wanted to watch football, Sophie would give him this time. Doing the dinner clean up on her own and even make him a healthy snack he could enjoy while watching the game.

A few years later, after 3 children, dinners are no longer a quiet affair. Evenings are packed with homework, extracurricular activities and bedtime routines. By the time the kids are in bed, Sophie is exhausted. The dinner dishes are piled up in the sink and she still has to pack everyone’s lunches for tomorrow. Larry usually has some unfinished work he has brought home. There is no longer sanctioned couple time. Sophie is well aware of this and is saddened by it. As she recalls how things used to be, she is determined to make a change. One night, she places a note in Larry’s lunch bag that reads: I love you Larry and I respect your decision to bring work home, instead of staying late at the office and missing out on family dinner and the children’s activities.

Larry is moved by this little note and responds by calling their neighborhood florist and having flowers delivered to her work. There is no special occasion, just an opportunity to remind Sophie that he loves and appreciates all the work she does for him and the children. From that day on, he resolves to call her during his lunch hour so they can reconnect. During their lunch break conversations they plan a monthly date night. Sophie schedules it in and arranges for childcare. Larry arranges the evening, making reservations or buying tickets to a movie or show, as needed.

Marriage is sacred, and there are many things that can work against those of us who are trying to remain faithful and committed to our vows. We learned in primacy that we have to focus on our unity as a couple.

When we give this talk to engaged couples we ask them to create a short list of everyday things couples can do to Empower their relationship. Here are the top 10 suggestions we usually receive:

  1.       Fifteen minutes before turning in for the night, share the events of your day.
  2.       Send a text, e-mail or call your spouse just to say “I love you” or “I am thinking of you”
  3.       Wake up at the same time, and go to bed together, even if you don’t have to wake up as early as your spouse.
  4.       Always kiss each before leaving or as soon as you return from work or other outings.
  5.      Do something fun or try something new together.
  6.      Plan a dream vacation, even if you never actually make it a reality. Share your hopes and dreams with each other.
  7.      Write love notes to each other. Find creative ways to hide them, in lunch bag or wallet.
  8.      Meet your spouse at work and take them out for lunch.
  9.     Attend Mass together, and if you have children, try to sit next to each other.
  10.     Pray together.

What do you and your spouse do every day to empower your relationship? Share your ideas in the comments.

Next topic in our acronym is Protection.

Building a Strong Marriage

PEPP

Working in the Marriage Preparation Ministry for the last seven years has proven to be enlightening and sometimes challenging. It enables my husband and me to check some important aspects of our own marriage. While helping the engaged couples discern their readiness for marriage we are strengthened in our own commitment to continue building a stronger marriage.

My favorite presentation is the PEPP talk we give them early in the course. PEPP is an acronym to help us remember the four key elements to building a strong marriage. The acronym stands for: Primacy, Empowerment, Protection and Prayer. We explain to the couples that much of what we share is counter cultural. Building a strong marriage involves going against the current culture. Since it is a Catholic course we include elements of our faith and what we believe is God’s plan for married couples.

I am going to share this information with you over a four-part series on my blog. When speaking on this topic we usually cover a lot of information in a short time. In Primacy, we cover the importance of making the bond between you and your spouse your first priority. Empowerment involves practical tips on how to strengthen marriage in little ways which can make a huge impact on the marriage bond. Protection is one of the most extensive and important aspects of building a strong marriage. What are we protecting our marriages from? It can be summed up in a three-letter word. Sin. This leads us to the final letter in our acronym, Prayer. We need Prayer and the Sacraments to Build a Strong Marriage. Here I will share a bit of our own spiritual journey as a couple, and how prayer made a difference for us.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Primacy.

If We Could Only See

 

To lose sight of who we are

Is to forget from where we’ve come

Recall to mind our trials

And try to find the lessons there

 

If we could only see

The blessings we’ve been given

Failures would cease to be

And we could be forgiven

 

To find strength in His love

And find the freedom within

Turn to the One above

Lift your praises to Him

 

Written by: Tima Borges

December 31, 2007