Guiding Married Couples to the Divine Physician

Matt and Mindy Dalton

We agonize, we hunger and we thirst for every couple that comes to us for marriage coaching.  Spouses call with trepidation, send emails crying out for help, share that their spouse may not come.  Pursued by the Holy Spirit, the “hound from heaven,” they end up walking through the doors of our simple office, sitting at our table and sharing their lives.  Their stories are similar although their journeys can vary.  They come wounded, broken and tired; there seems to be a universal thread with this commentary, Jesus is not the central part of their unions.

Oh, how we know this scenario, as we too were busy, in the first five years of our marriage, being distracted by the things of this world.  It was our careers, spending hours on planning and then remodeling our house to meet our desires.  If we weren’t still playing sports, we were either immersed in our kids’ athletic success or imprisoned to our favorite college/professional team.  Sadly, looking back on our early years in marriage, if we really think about it, our married relationship was based on selfishness.  Once the “honeymoon” was over or the sentimentality of “falling in love” dulled, we didn’t experience joy.  We had fun, individually, at the expense of our marital and familial joy.  Fun is momentary, joy points to the eternal.

Experiencing joy in our marriage occurred when I decided to give God some of my time.  I remember hearing a layman talk at the end of Mass about the fruits in his life of visiting our Lord Jesus regularly in the adoration chapel.  One thing rang in my ears, He said, “If you have the courage to sign up to be a regular adorer and pray in the chapel, pick a sacrificial time.”  That comment blazed a hole right in the center of my heart and I knew my time, 2 PM on Sundays.  That is when the Broncos game comes on.  Secondly, it had been several years that I had gone away from the sacrament of reconciliation.  Upon my reluctant return to confession, I became aware that God longed for me.

19 years ago, for the first time in my life, I experienced intimacy with Jesus.  In all of my brokenness and sin and its ugliness, the Divine Healer – Jesus – touched my heart.  I understood, in a profound way, why Holy Mother Church calls this the sacrament of healing.   From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC 1456), “for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.”  When I heard the words of absolution through the priest, “I absolve you from all your sins,” I knew that it was Jesus, through our Holy Mother, that was making me new again. As my love for Jesus and Our Lady continues to grow, so does my burning desire to share this with my bride, Mindy; as we now approach 25 years married.

Allowing the stories of sacred scripture to come alive in our own lives, we get the answers to why Jesus is in such agony in the garden and why He thirsts from His venerable cross.  It is for each one of us.  In our marriage coaching, we are like physician assistants, helping other married couples open their hearts to God.  The fruit of inviting God into every part of our lives is gaining the eyes to see, our spouse is not our foe.  With grace, we stop fighting for our own rights, align with our helpmate and drink from the only source that will bring everlasting joy – Jesus Christ, the bridegroom of our souls, the Divine Physician.

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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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.