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: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.