Basketball and the Grace of Marriage, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Basketball and the Grace of Marriage


June 7, 2010

Joshua and I are both basketball players.  Among other things.  It may sound weird to say as 30-somthings, but it is a real part of each of our identities and it actually played a fairly significant role in our getting to know one another early in our relationship.

See, we were both high school basketball players on highly successful teams.  I hate to have to actually go here, but for the sake of completeness:  Josh’s high school team was state champion in South Dakota for years and years in a row.  My high school team played in the final four in Florida 2 out of my 4 years.  My junior year we played for the championship.

Now, here is the first insight into Joshua and me.  His team won the championship game and my team came in second.  Don’t think that EVER escapes mentioning in our household.  Also, of note, is that his team was first in SOUTH DAKOTA.  They only have one Congressional Representative!  Not a big pool of competition if you know what I mean.  My team came in second in the hugely populous state of Florida.  Not too shabby and I think those two facts together even the playing field, so to speak. 

We were both role players on teams that functioned as strong units.  I think that has all kind of impact on how we can be so different and still able to work so well together.  We get the concept of team.  We get what it means to work hard everyday so that we have what it takes in crunch time.

I mentioned this played a fairly significant role in getting to know each other.  Well, Joshua and I had two classes together our freshman year of college.  One huge chemistry class and one very intimate seminar.  We took advantage of the opportunity to “study together” for the chemistry class, but also started meeting to play basketball together early in the mornings before seminar.  1-on-1 at 8am. 

It is a complete testament to how interested in Joshua I was that I woke up that early, walked all the way across campus and played 1-on-1 of all things. 

I was basically a pretty shy girl when it came to basketball.  I loved the team aspect and giving it everything I had, but I was never a 1-on-1 kind of girl, much to my sweet father’s chagrin.  But for these morning outings, I dug deep and did my best.

Which makes me think back to the night before our wedding.  We had a priest say a vigil mass just for the two of us.  He mentioned in his homily that we should be on the look out for special graces that come to us through the Sacrament of Marriage.  Special gifts that God gives us along with the gift of grace and one another.

I have thought of that from time to time over the years, and it is only in the last several months that I realize what one of the graces of my marriage has been for me as an individual.  I think it started back on those mornings we were playing 1-on-1.  My grace is confidence.

I have become a much more confident person through my relationship with Joshua.  I project an image of confidence that did not exist in me prior to our relationship.  I would NOT have stepped on a court to play head to head with someone before I met him, and certainly not against a boy.  But with Joshua, and for Joshua, I did.

Reader Comments (2)

  • Hi guys! I am engaged so I’ve been checking out this website, and I was so surprised to see you on it! I am a second year JV in Missoula and I heard you speak at orientation this past year. I’m engaged to one of my housemates that I met during my first year of JVC in Spokane. We’re getting married this summer. I was encouraged to hear that you had a non-traditional marriage timeline. I’ve heard plenty of “I can’t believe you are getting married right after JVC!” I’m curious if you thinking being JVs together impacted your marriage.
    Jackie

    jedeve
    • Hi Jackie,
      Congratulations on your engagement! Joshua and I DID find our time with JVC particularly formative as a couple. Generally speaking, post-graduate service is some of the only “lay formation” available outside a degree program. For us specifically, being from completely different types of families and completely different regions of the country, our JV experience helped us to be shaped in the same values and share an intensely formative experience. Our shared life in community made the experience of starting our own household pretty easy and very “intentional” as you can imagine :-)

      Stacey

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My Core Sin

My Core Sin

My main New Year’s resolution this year was to figure out and name my weaknesses.

I started with simply taking a good hard look at what I think I have heard most often as the challenging sides of my personality, whether in work performance reviews or personal relationships. Joshua, of course, was very useful in confirming or nuancing those insights (and adding a few of his own). Then I turned to those friends nearest and dearest to me.

I have had to proceed carefully to get some substantive feedback. The problem, of course, is that folks are generally far too kind and thus struggle to be completely honest in naming another person’s shortcomings.

Almost everything I have learned—almost every insight I have received—points back, more or less, to one core foible: control. The vast majority of my weaknesses, at least as those who know me best experience them, stem from some element of control.

In April, David Brooks wrote an article called “The Moral Bucket List” in the New York Times. He names the characteristics of those people he experiences as “radiating an inner light” or who are “deeply good.” He noticed that such people have been profoundly honest about their own weaknesses and can identify their “core sin.” He names a core sin as a consistent weakness that makes them feel ashamed. The act of naming this sin, according to Brooks, helps them achieve “a profound humility, which has best been defined as an intense self-awareness from a position of other-centeredness.”

I found the article affirming since, by the time of my reading it, I could confidently name my “core sin” as control. I also thought it put some helpful language on why it is a worthwhile endeavor to identify our central downfall.

First, from our Catholic point of view, we understand “sin” to be fundamentally a break from God. When we sin, we separate ourselves from the fullness of communion with God. When I attempt to impose disproportionate amounts of control on my environment—or worse, on the people around me—I am most often exerting my will over and against others. At worst this can be damaging. At best it is severely lacking in humility.

Second, using the next helpful element of Brooks’ article: when we are able to name and own our core sin, it frees us for a “profound humility.” We see and acknowledge our most broken parts, which, in turn, allows us to recognize how that brokenness impacts others.

I realized when I read Brooks’ statement about “self-awareness from a position of other-centeredness” that possibly our core sins may simply be the shadow side to some of our greatest natural strengths. I think that, left unchecked (or perhaps inappropriately oriented), our most unique God-given talents have the capacity to become our most glaring weaknesses.

That is to say, control is my core sin, but it is also the shadow side of my greatest gift at home and work: clear-sighted, comprehensive order. When I humbly put that gift at the service of our family and those I work with and train, it IS a gift. When I wield it unchecked by consultation and in single-minded isolation it separates me from others and from God by breaking down relationships instead of building them up.

Josh shared with me that his core sin is intemperance. There are obvious ways that intemperance can be destructive and unhelpful. But in its most helpful and healthy iteration, it leads Josh (and those lucky enough to be with him) to experience joy fully and unabashedly, to have an unreserved sense of curiosity and wonder, and an utter willingness to give new and unknown experiences a try.

In an interesting twist, you might notice that my core sin, control, and Josh’s core sin of intemperance are pretty much exact opposites. This is likely no shock to anyone who has ever met both of us or heard us give a presentation together. Although they seem utterly at odds, I think our very opposite dispositions allow us to call one another to very specific areas of growth. You could even go so far as to say where we are weakest the other is strongest. In that way, we get to incarnate grace for each other, to call each other to be the best version of ourselves.

After all, isn’t it part of our job as spouses to help one another shed light on our shadow sides? Without that light, how can we hope to grow?


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