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.
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Not Such a Fan of Marriage in My Early Years
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. 🙂
Finding Christ Through My In-Laws?
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.
I Follow the Call
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.
Bringing the Good News to Others
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
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Great article Dustin. My Mom’s side of the family is catholic, but I did not grow up in the church. I have a deep respect for the church, and I love your positive outlook on marriage. I got engaged this past Christmas, and I hope to take some of your positive outlook on marriage with me. Even though I am not very religious myself, I really enjoy your outlook on God and marriage! Very inspiring article! Thanks for sharing!
It’s my pleasure, Matt! I get a lot of friends and readers asking me why I bother spending so much of my free time with this site, marriage preparation presentations, marriage retreats, etc. I hope this post and others in the future help shed some light on all that marriage means to me.
By the way, cool site you guys have there! I am adding it to my blogroll!
Cool story, Dustin! I had no idea your wife brought you to the Church. That is really awesome. Thanks for sharing a bit more about your life and background. I would love to hear more about how you felt about marriage as a young person and what you expected out of your life, and how your in-laws made you rethink all of those earlier perspectives.
.-= Kathleen Quiring´s last blog ..Marriage Often Follows the Unplanned Route =-.
Thanks, Kathleen! I definitely intend to sprinkle in some of my personal story among the posts here. I think it helps give a better idea of my perspective, and I’m betting a lot of folks can relate to some of my experiences.
Fantastic article. This is exactly what marriage is supposed to be about. It’s an amazing picture of the Gospel when it’s at its best.
.-= Dan´s last blog ..Unitasking: Why It Will Make You Better =-.
Thanks so much, Dan! I will share some more theological posts over time, but suffice it to say that I definitely agree with you about marriage being a representation of the Gospel.
Great post…thank you for sharing more about your personal story with all of us!
Thanks for your encouragement, Jen! I don’t want to bore people with my personal background too much, but I am happy to share it when it could be beneficial to others. 🙂
Thanks for the great post and for sharing your background. Interestingly, the last few posts on my own blog were all about exploring the past and present influences on your paradigm for marriage. The point of the discussion, and really the point of my blog, is to examine the ways in which the picture of us as the bride of Christ can teach us about the marriage relationship.
.-= Scott´s last blog ..Perfection and Paradigms =-.
Thanks for the kind words, Scott. I mostly focus on the more “practical” aspects of how to have a great marriage here, but it’s refreshing to periodically dive into a deeper spiritual discussion and even share some of our personal journey in the adventures of marriage!
Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.
It’s my pleasure, KT. Thank YOU for reading!
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Congratulations on your marriage. I’ve been married 5 years and have felt my faith increase as a result. Much of it has to do with overcoming the inevitable bumps that any married couple often face i.e. issues with money, in-laws, children, intimacy etc. But throughout this time, God has always shown Himself faithful in providing wisdom and strength. I pray you will continue receiving wonderful blessings as well.
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