It has been a very busy and fulfilling last few weeks for my wife Bethany and I. After many late nights of preparation, we were blessed with the opportunity to be a presenting couple at a marriage retreat last weekend. As we presented our material and discussed it with some of the couples making the retreat, I realized that some of our words should be shared here at Engaged Marriage as well.
I chose this retreat topic as the first of several that I’ll share here because it gives some insight into why I care so darn much about marriage. In a very real way, it was the love I witnessed in Marriage that fueled my call to become a Christian and join the Catholic Church in my college years.
And now, as I look back, it is clear that this was the start of a powerful call that God has put on my life to help others achieve something very special in their own relationships.
I am truly grateful for the positive impact that the Church has had on my life and our marriage. And this is really saying something coming from me and my past. To say that I was not raised with any religious background would be quite an understatement!
During my childhood, it’s fair to say that I did not have a healthy model for marriage or relationships in general. I witnessed a great deal of brokenness and abuse in an environment that lacked any sense of respect and peace. I spent my younger years wondering why my Mom would stay with such an abusive bastard as my Dad.
In a way, I think I resented marriage because it seemed to leave her beholden to his abuse. They eventually divorced and remarried under much different circumstances, but that’s a story for another day. 🙂
I was so blessed to have witnessed the power of the Sacrament of Marriage through the example of Bethany’s parents. When Bethany and I started dating back in high school, I was warmly welcomed into her home, and I could immediately feel the impact of her parent’s strong, God-centered marriage in their household. Peace, Hope, Love and Joy were evident in their relationship, and their sacramental love was the lifeblood of their family.
From my background, this was particularly profound and life changing. In hindsight, I can see that their example helped bring me to the Church and follow the call to Jesus in my own life. It was their positive interactions and family life that helped me form my new-found respect for the positive impact that Christianity could have in our world. Their marriage was a powerful symbol of Christ’s love to me, even if I didn’t understand it fully at that time.
As we continued dating, it was Bethany who first introduced me to the Catholic Church in high school. In our college years, and before we were married, Bethany was my sponsor in RCIA, which is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults through which adults enter the Church through a long process of study and preparation. At the end of that process, she shared Holy Saturday with me when I was baptized, confirmed and received the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
We later confirmed our vocation and got married in the Church. In the past several years, we’ve raised our children there and shared in the Sacrament of Baptism with each of them.
Through our involvement with the Church, the Holy Spirit has blessed and enhanced our own marriage in ways we that couldn’t have understood or imagined only a few years ago. The Church is a steady reminder of Christ’s example, and being part of the Church community makes us aware that others look to us to reveal and make manifest Christ’s love. This realization has made us less selfish and more forgiving to each other and all of those in our lives.
Our work with the Church in recent years has greatly deepened the meaning and passion that we share in our marriage. For the past four years, Bethany and I have been presenters in the Pre-Cana program helping engaged couples prepare for marriage. When we take the time to prepare our talks, we are inevitably reminded of our own vows and the very real role that Jesus plays in our lives. And the opportunity to spend a day hearing other married couples give their witness to the enthusiastic young couples in attendance is renewing and energizing to our own marriage.
And as we share our story with those making a marriage retreat in an effort to take their relationship from “good to great”, we know that God is sending His spirit to help us be a sign of His love. It seems the more we help others better understand and enjoy the Sacrament of Matrimony, the more we appreciate its impact on our own lives.
To give truly is to receive.Photo by Gnist’d
Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.