Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Valentine's Day and Marriage

On Valentine's Day weekend this year Brian and I went to Steubenville for a visit with friends and family. It was a last minute decision prompted by the fact that it was Brian's last free weekend for several months to come. The only thing my parents had planned for that weekend was a Valentine's party for married couples. Although we would be the youngest couple there by 20 years or more, we decided to stick around for the festivities. This party however,  had a greater purpose than merely just a social gathering. It was also to be a marriage builder as well. Not only was every couple asked to bring a snack to share, but also a favorite poem, song, scripture, quote or Church teaching that they found meaningful in their marriage.

After a lot of socializing, we circled around in the family room. There were a total of eight couples there, and Brian and I felt like we were walking with giants. Out of the eight couples, 235 years of marriage and 52 children were represented. These couples I had looked up to since I was a child. Not only were they the friends of my parents, they were also the parents of my friends. That night I saw them in a whole new light. I felt as if I were a fly on the wall, still in disbelief that a baby couple such as us would be welcomed by such a group.  Goosebumps went over me as these couples began to share. Behind every song, every scripture verse, every quote, there was a story of a lesson learned, an obstacle overcome, or a love renewed. As the stories unfolded, the beauty of love's strength against the snares of the world, shone out. These couples weren't still together because they had never struggled, but rather because they continually fought for their marriage.

We see it everywhere; marriage is under attack, and even in a conservative Catholic community, there is no immunity. Over the past few years, I have seen more and more marriages, both old and young, crumble to ruin. I will admit, as a newly wed, this was extremely disheartening and distressing. It shook me to the core. Everyone in that room had seen it happen dozens of times. Everyone in that room had been affected in some way by these breakups. We all felt compelled to do something-but what could we do to prevent any more? When our turn came to share, we realized that the solution to this problem was exactly what we were doing then and there-building one another up, encouraging one another to press on. Something very precious was being passed from one couple to another: hope. We looked to these husbands and wives surrounding us as an  anchor, because of their commitment and perseverance, we felt stronger and more confident in our commitment to each other. They in turn looked to us, as hope for the future, not because we were by any means perfect, but because we were realistic about the dangers that lurk and are actively working to protect ourselves from them.

None of this is enough however without the power of Christ. How beautiful it was to bow our heads together and call upon the Lord to strengthen and defend our marriages. Christ said "when two or more are gathered, there am I, in their midst". We felt His presence that night.

When Valentine's Day did come around a few days later, we didn't go out for a fancy dinner, or even exchange gifts-all of that would have seemed shallow after what we had received from the couples present at that party. We were so grateful to simply still be together, still be in love and still be helping one another on the road to our eternal home. 

So when you wonder what difference you can make in saving marriages, remember the biggest impact you will have on others is by keeping the love alive in yours.

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