Times of Joy, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Times of Joy


August 26, 2010

We have had a “helluva” summer.  What was supposed to be three and a half months of down time at home and at the office – kicked off with a fun vacation at the beach – turned into multiple funerals and cross country trips by car and by plane. And it probably goes without saying that trips of that magnitude didn’t result in a lot of downtime at the office.  We seemed to be endlessly returning from a trip or getting everything in order to leave for a trip. 

I actually remember a moment back in early June, sitting on our front porch on a heavenly Saturday afternoon.  I mean it was completely idyllic.  Kids playing in the yard.  Flowers we planted blooming.  Perfect 70-degree weather, sunshine and not a cloud in sight.  It was just one of those moments when you are completely…complete.  At peace with yourself and your life; fully conscious and aware of what a precious gift you are experiencing and thankful to God for it.  I remember that moment, because it was the last time I remember feeling that way for the last two and a half months.

Until last weekend.

A friend and co-worker offered us her timeshare at a beach condo out of nowhere.  She had it booked and ended up not being able to use it and figured we could use a getaway. She just gave it to us.  Free.  A completely gratuitous gift.  So we packed up the family, sand toys, rubber boots and jackets (this is Oregon, not Florida) and headed to the coast for some family time–something we just haven’t had in a couple months. 

After driving for a few hours, we arrived in the mid-afternoon, and settled in quickly.  Then we headed straight for the beach.  Now, I had never been to this beach.  And, I come from a land (Florida) of magnificent beaches.  But I had simply never seen anything like the beach at Newport, Oregon.  After parking on a bluff, descending several sea stairs, and climbing over an enormous dune, you are faced with a landscape of 3-4 feet high mini-dunes rolling (is that the right verb to describe dunes?) down to the Pacific.  It looked like a half or quarter scale Tatooine desert (Star Wars reference for those who have no 30-50 year-old men or Lego-addicted little boys around).

We plodded through the warm sand over the ridges of one dune after another until we chose our spot in the middle of nowhere.  We were surrounded by nothing but sand and water. (Seriously, there were so few people, it was amazing to feel so alone on a public beach!) The children were as completely fascinated with the landscape as we were.  Oscar started exploring, Simon was discovering how to slide and jump down little dunes, and little Lucy treated them like rock walls she wanted to climb. 

Which left us with very little to do besides Joshua laying his head in my lap as I sat on our blanket.  There we were: watching our children, marveling at the beautiful late afternoon light, the piercingly clear day, the soft warmth of the sand through our toes, the relentless waves of the Pacific, the complete and utterly gratuitous gift of it all. 

It was one of those moments: at peace with yourself and your life; fully conscious and aware of what a precious gift you are experiencing and thankful to God for it.  In the face of such an abundance of grace, could a person want anything more?  Then I realized, in addition to all the blessings of nature, a healthy happy family, a surprise getaway, and remarkable weather in Oregon…I get to share it all with Joshua, the love of my life.

Some people search and search for love, for someone with whom they can share life.  I was given Joshua at a relatively early age and we share so much that it is almost easy to take it for granted. But not in a moment like this. I can sigh in contented wonder at this utter gift of a moment, and he can touch my leg to let me know he knows.  Without a word from him, I am no longer a solitary being in my reverie, but part of an indwelling community of love.  I am known.  And the only response to that is gratitude.

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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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