Being together when you’re apart

Matt and Mindy Dalton

This is a common scenario we see in our marriage coaching: the husband travels each week for his job while the wife is responsible for working her part-time job and being the taxi shuttle for their children all week alone, making that extra effort to organize the schedule for the week. The wife with the “extra duties” may start feeling resentful for the extra-busy week while her husband gets to enjoy a week out of town.

Let’s focus on how much effort the husband makes in providing for his family. He realizes it is difficult for his wife while he is gone but also wants to get ahead in his company. He could strictly focus on his job for the week, but instead makes an effort to have a date night planned when he gets back. He calls to pray with his wife at the end of each evening and took some time to leave little notes around the house for her before he left on the business trip.

The wife could quickly become self-absorbed, only taking a look at all she has to accomplish the week her husband is away. Imagine if she were to focus completely on her husband with periodic text messages and phone calls at night to thank him for working so hard for their family, to ask him how his week is going and if there is anything he needs while he is away.

If her week is spent complaining to him, telling him how exhausted she is due to the extra work, he may not look as forward to walking in Friday evening when he arrives back in town.  On the other hand, if he has received numerous (daily) positive, encouraging, loving and supportive communication all week, he is longing to be home with his wife and kids. And if he has made that extra effort “to be” with his wife while he was out of town, she will find her week wasn’t too bad after all.

If our marriages are to be a sign to the world of God’s eternal exchange of life and love, and there is an enemy who wants to bring division and wants nothing more than to see our children ripped apart from their parents, then where is the enemy going to attack?  He is going to attack our families. We need to know who we are fighting. With wounded hearts, disappointments, lack of charity in our words, rolling of our eyes and the silent treatment, we begin to see our spouse as our enemy.

Prayer is the answer to fighting the battle in our homes, the battle in our marriages, and the battle in our families! We need to keep in mind that it is not our spouse that is the enemy, the one we should be fighting against. We should be armed and prepared to battle the enemy who wants to destroy.

Let’s commit to carving out time each and every day—15 minutes to 30 minutes, alone—in silence with God to converse with him about our lives, about our spouse, about our families. Beg for His grace and mercy to love as He loves.

When was the last time you asked yourself, and were honest with yourself, about how often you truly pray for your spouse?  But not prayers like “Please, God, change my husband,” or “Lord, make my wife see her shortcomings.”  Rather prayer lifting up your spouse such as, “Heavenly Father, I ask for you to bless my spouse today and help me to be a courageous witness of your love. Help me to be a servant spouse and to focus on my spouse’s gifts. I want to serve as you serve, Lord.”

 

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.