I didn’t blow up the house, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

I didn’t blow up the house


November 17, 2011

I fixed our gas fireplace without incinerating our home.

In my eyes, this was a major accomplishment—worthy of a celebratory end-zone dance in the living room.

The decorative fireplace has a wall switch that ignites the flame. For some still-unknown reason, two weeks ago it ceased to ignite. This caused much worry as I imagined natural gas building up in the glass-enclosure and then suddenly blowing a hole in our home that a Schwan’s truck could drive through.

I called some maintenance and repair companies and we were looking at $150, at least, just for someone to step foot in our house. And they were booked through November.

So, I cracked open our owner’s manual and did some reading. It took several efforts, but after a few hours I had the wiring figured out and I had removed the glass and fake logs and was inspecting the ignition module (“part that starts the fire” in layman’s terms). I was doing what service technicians call “troubleshooting” and, let me tell you, I shot trouble to tarnation.

You are not incorrect if you detect a touch of triumph in my tone. I called Stacey, and, like a good wife, she was impressed. I relished her adulation.

It is curious what a “high” I get from fixing things around the house. Stacey and I typically don’t fall into strict gender roles—I clean and cook and Stacey washes the car, for example—but I really, really, really like to fix things.

It is gratifying to be able to make something work that was not working, to put it very plainly. A gas fireplace that doesn’t work is a waste of space, at best, and an incendiary bomb at worst. I turned that into something that entices my kids to get out of bed on winter mornings and serenely snuggle as they await breakfast. Who wouldn’t gloat at that accomplishment?

I reflected on my playful gloating this week, and it led me to wonder about the power we have to fundamentally shape our lives. In family life with small children, it is easy for me to think that I have very little power to shape my life. Nearly all of my available free time and energy is absorbed into caring for these three young people. Something as simple as getting out for a beer with friends takes an amazing amount of planning.

Yet, when I step back and see the big picture, I realize that I am profoundly free. What an amazing gift to be able to create and shape a life for our family, and Stacey and I get to do that in big ways and small. We get to define how our children ask for a glass of milk, and we get to choose where and how we live. We wield enormous power, and it is terrifying to think of what we’ve missed or the mistakes we’ve made.

The catechism describes how God unites a man and a woman in marriage and enables us to “cooperate in a unique way in the Creator’s work.” This refers to our capacity to participate in the creation of new life, which is a mind-boggling capacity: we have the ability to help bring a new person into the world.

Cooperating with the Creator means participating in this mystery of new life, but in a smaller way, it also means that my work and labor means something, even when I work though a household “to-do” list. Applying my intelligence and energy to a task is also a cooperation with the Creator—it acknowledges and honors the gifts I was created with, and it shapes the world to suit human needs, like snuggling before breakfast.

Reader Comments (1)

  • Very nice reflection. That’s a great way to look at a to do list.

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Marriage and the New Evangelization

Marriage and the New Evangelization

Do you ever wonder what this “New Evangelization” is really all about?  I am certainly no expert, but I would say that it is about focusing ourselves more fully on the fact that our faith is fundamentally about a relationship with a person: Jesus. When we have a personal relationship with Jesus, it invites us to something and has implications for our lives. This is what we mean by a life of discipleship.

So, do you think you could describe that relationship to someone in three minutes?

This spring my students and I have been focusing on discipleship as our theme for the semester (using Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell). One of our most challenging activities to break open the book was what we called the “elevator pitch.”

Each student had to craft how they might describe the essential saving work of Jesus and how they see it operative in their own lives in three minutes, and make it sound natural for them. Granted, there may not be anything “natural” about this, especially for Catholics. We often shy away from even using the name “Jesus” conversationally, opting more comfortably for “Christ,” if we use any name at all.

But the idea of the exercise is that we should each, as intentional disciples, be ready and able to describe our relationship with Jesus.  There will be times, like in an airport or at a large family gathering or at a neighborhood barbeque or, yes, in an elevator, when we will be put on the spot. A window of opportunity will be presented to us, and it might be a very short, small window.  With that in mind we need to have a clear articulation of our faith at the ready.

Now, I feel strongly that I cannot ask my students to do something that I, myself, would not do.  So during the week that they prepared pitches, I spent a lot of time thinking of how I would do the same.

For me the hardest part was introducing into polite conversation the “Great Story” of Jesus. One of my students actually had a really lovely, gentle opening (which I will likely steal ever after). Here is the rough sketch of my elevator pitch:

I believe God is a God of love. And that is what is meant by the Kingdom of God—it is a place where love prevails. God sent us Jesus, his Son, to be the face of that kingdom and to show us what love looks like. Jesus did this in word and in deed during his life. Because of sin this was seen as such a threatening possibility, such a potentially revolutionary position, so damaging to the status quo, that he was targeted and ultimately put to death for it.  But that was not the end of the story, because thanks to Jesus, death does not triumph over life.  He rose from the dead.  His example of love in the face of persecution, and ultimate self-sacrifice was met with new and abundant life.  And I see this same pattern in my life as well, which has implications for how I feel called to live my life. When I struggle or experience challenges with others and can find a way to be loving or self-sacrificing, that sacrifice is always met with new and abundant life.

From there I can cite any number of examples from marriage and family life.  For instance, when Joshua and I are disagreeing about something and I completely see his side of it but don’t feel like he is seeing mine, I could remain obstinate. But if I am self-sacrificing enough to acknowledge that I see his side and can name what I understand his perspective to be, often he will thank me and work even harder to understand where I am coming from.  This is the Paschal Mystery: sacrifice met with new and abundant life.

We live the Paschal Mystery everyday in marriage.  Not only is there Good News to share in this, we are passionate about it.  We see that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection sets a pattern for our lives – a pattern we adopted at our Baptism. This is the deepest rhythm to our lives, and we experience it every single day in marriage and family life.  Sharing a life together is a continual invitation to live unselfishly, to die to ourselves in love, and to experience the joy of new energy and life.

As Christians, it is not enough to simply understand how our lives conform to Jesus’ Great Story. We participate in this story, and it is such great news that it must be shared. You won’t find me voluntarily striking up conversations in Starbucks with an agenda in mind, but I certainly feel a responsibility to be able to respond when the Spirit is moving and an opportunity presents itself.

 

 

 

 

 

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