When our idea of ‘getting ahead’ changed

Matt and Mindy Dalton

During the first five years of our marriage, our relationship could be described as utilitarian; what’s in it for me? And that is the opposite of love. We both worked fulltime. Matt was in sales, 100 percent commission. Thoughts of meeting his quota and counting the days of the month consumed him. Mindy was a court reporter, always under deadline stress and constantly hearing the heart- wrenching pain of other people’s lives in depositions.

Our desire was filled with thoughts of “getting ahead”. Ahead of what, was the question that often plagued our discussions? There was not much peace in our lives. We both had good jobs, but we rarely turned to God in our times of stress or in gratitude for all he had blessed us with. We were on the treadmill; careers to pursue, house to remodel, friends to hang out with and yes, children to be had … maybe.

Looking back, at the heart of having a utilitarian mindset was that we convinced ourselves that we knew better than Holy Mother Church. And we were afraid. Could we love each other and could we love the children that God would give us? Could we provide for these children? Could we pay for college? When we allowed fear to dominate, we turned to the world’s way of consumerism and materialism. Our house was not a home. Our real foundation needed to be in Jesus Christ.

“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). Authentic freedom entered our union when we chose to invite his truth into every aspect of our marriage. The truth is not something, but someone: Jesus. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). Over time, through returning to the sacramentallity of the Church, confession, Mass more frequently than on Sundays, committing to making regular visits to the adoration chapel to spend time with Our Blessed Lord in prayer, we began to experience an overwhelming closeness in our communication, which lead to wonderful intimacy, not only physically, but spiritually. Our respect for each other deepened as never before. We even completely invited God into our sexuality and allowed him to be in control of our fertility, and we’ve been blessed with seven children.

In 2010, Mindy was at the grocery store with all seven children jostling around the shopping cart. An elderly woman asked if all the children were Mindy’s, then asked, “How are you going to get them all through college?” In the early days of our marriage, with God on the sidelines, that question would have consumed our thoughts and worried us for weeks after the encounter. Mindy’s response was not her own but only by the grace of God. “I am more concerned with getting them back to heaven than I am getting them through college.” The woman smiled and said, “I’ve never thought of that.” The joy and peace in her response let us know that God was near.

Now living as best we can in this peace, joy and truth, we have the desire to shout from the mountain tops—“freedom”—and to share with as many who will listen, that there is a better way, Jesus Christ.

Two terrific resources that might launch you in a new direction: “Men, Women and the Mystery of Love” by Dr. Edward Sri, and “Theology of the Body for Beginners” by Christopher West.

Matt and Mindy Dalton can be reached at matt@marriagemissionaries.org, 303-578-8287 or at www.marriagemissionaries.org.

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.