So we’re at the final week of the Foundations of Our Marriage series. And this time, we are talking about the ultimate foundation of our marriage – the one that keeps us together when nothing else could: a shared faith.
I am in awe of couples who manage to make it through their married life without shared faith. Honestly, I don’t know how you do it. Because we simply could not. We may have thought we could early on when the romance was budding and feelings were flowing, but a couple of years and several big life events later, we absolutely know we couldn’t.
We are fortunate, we know that. We were both committed Catholics already when we met, both involved in the Catholic Charismatic movement and in ecumenism and youth work. God was already at the centre of our lives separately, so it made sense for us to continue to try to put Him first when we got married.
We have had no arguments about what faith to raise our children in, we agreed about saving sex for marriage and the use of NFP (Natural Family Planning) rather than contraception. We were both passionate about John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. We were both committed to regular reception of the Sacraments, and knew we would be at mass together every Sunday.
It took a lot of the pressure off, and helped us to know that we connected on a fundamental level, and that we shared the majority, if not all, of the same faith, morality and values. For both of us, our faith and our commitment to that faith was non-negotiable and would have been a ‘dealbreaker’ if this was something one of us could not accept and respect about the other.
Other than the hope and communion it brings to our marriage, our shared faith also increases our commitment (divorce is not an option for us), and enhances our connection through vulnerability.
Prayer means being vulnerable.
It’s why it is often so difficult to pray together as a couple, but it is also why it is so necessary. Because through confession, reconciliation, intercession, and the Sacraments, we have to share our weaknesses, our difficulties, our struggles. And in this constant openness, we grow ever closer. We forgive and forget, we place our trust in something bigger than ‘us’. Big decisions (and even some small ones) are not made without discerning God’s plan, and so we can know that we are almost always on the same page.
Prayer in our marriage increases our communication, our forgiveness, and our understanding of grace.
But more than this, it gives us hope. It gives us something to hold onto.
I remember someone once saying to me that in marriage, when things get tough – and they will – sometimes all you have left is your commitment to your commitment. The feelings, the shared interests, even the friendship, may wither and fade for a time. It may even feel like they might never return. But if you remain committed, for better or for worse, then chances are things will get good again.
And, for us at least, what helps us in those times, what gives us hope no matter what, is God.
See, we didn’t just marry because we were in love. We didn’t just marry because we were best friends. We didn’t just marry because we wanted to be together until death parts us.
We married for all those reasons, yes, but these were not enough for us to know for sure we could share our entire lives together.
Ultimately, we married because we knew that that was what God had called us to.
And when things get tough, that is what we hold onto.
Because the closer we get to God, the closer we get to each other. Without Him, we can be close. And sometimes that can seem like enough. But with Him, we are made one, and absolutely nothing compares to that.
Well, it involves:
We commit to daily prayer, individually and together. It’s tough, it doesn’t always happen, and we need a lot of forgiveness (from each other and God) for it. But it is completely necessary for our marriage, which is always better with it.
As Catholics, this is especially important to us. Regular reception of the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist are key to our spiritual life, and so to our married life. When we are right with God’s Family, we are right with each other. And the closeness it allows us with God brings us closer to each other, too. The Sacraments are a daily/weekly reminder of God’s amazing grace; they help remember that we are His, we are forgiven, and we are called by Him to our vocation to marriage.
Natural Family Planning
Again, NFP appears. It is so foundational to not only our marriage, but to our spirituality. It allows us to remain open to life, to allow God to be an active part of our fertility and sexuality, and helps us know that we are listening to God in this area of our lives, which spills over into other areas as a result.
Confession, Forgiveness & Grace
As well as making things right with God and His Family through the Sacraments, we make things right in our marriage through confession to each other, through the forgiveness that He has given us first so that we might offer it to each other, and through His grace that we can extend to others.
I wrote a post on this a while back. It is an incredibly important part of our marriage, and our spiritual life. And the rewards, the blessings God has lavished upon us as a result of it, are amazing.
Dreams, Vocations, Callings
Whatever you want to call them, our deepest, God-given desires propel us forward and keep us hoping in our lives. And, more than that, they keep us going in our marriage. Because as we discern together, we grow closer. We recognize time and time again that God’s callings on our lives are callings that we share. We discern together, because every calling we respond to since our wedding day is a calling that God has placed upon us both. As a result, we need to be open with each other and share regularly, as we both need to feel that something is from God before we make a big decision.
As Catholic spouses, we believe that our ultimate calling here on earth is to help get our spouse to Heaven. We are called to help each other be saints. This requires us to share everything, to be completely open with each other, even sharing the bad stuff, in order to help each other be better, and to remind each other of God’s great grace. God is the one who saves us, but He calls us to help each other remember that, and to have the courage to help our spouse be a better person.
Ultimately, as Christians, we are called to love. And, after God, the one we are called to love the most is our spouse. Before friends, before our work, even before our children (that’s a tough one!). On the days when this is most difficult (and trust me, this happens in every marriage without exception), our faith is what sustains us and gives us the strength and hope to persist, to choose love. Because, in the end, choosing to love when it is hard is what “true love” really is.
I hope you have enjoyed this series. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below! 🙂