The thought that changed my marriage

This past weekend, we celebrated our anniversary and on the road trip home I was reflecting on our journey. We have only been married for 5 years, we had an 11 month engagement and were engaged after 4 months of dating. In those short 5 years, we’ve also both had several job changes and two children; needless to say, it’s been a quick, wild ride and really a mere drop in the bucket of the lifetime we will share together. However, when I was mulling over some of the changes in our lives I was thinking about what has changed most and for me I can think back to one “epiphany” that has completely changed how I view my role as a wife.

A few years ago, I honestly can’t remember the exact moment or time that I finally reflected on the gravity of the sacrament of marriage it was more gradual than a dramatic light bulb moment, but it dawned on me that this commitment to one another is truly a vocation. That is, our marriage is a divine calling from God to be united together for our lives and not just for mere camaraderie, but to get each other to Heaven.

I remember this thought flitting through my mind for a period of time, but what I most remember is the moment I said it out loud to my husband. “It is my job to make sure I get you to Heaven.” Just like that, it was as if another vow had been professed and the thought has never “flitted” again – it’s been there to stay as a headline to each of our days together.

“And now we must get each other to Heaven.”

– Charles of Austria

Yes, I knew this before we married, I knew it from books and classes and marriage prep, but for some reason it finally occurred to me that what I am doing in marriage is of the utmost importance. The gravity of this life as a means to get to the next, and the idea that I desperately want all those I love most to be with me Heaven kind of slapped me in the face. I think this thought can also be overwhelming if I don’t frame it with the correct context that God ultimately is the one that leads us down this path – I have to follow his promptings, not rely on my own will (However, that is much easier said than done for someone who likes to try and ‘control’ life).

While it’s a daunting task, this business of leading each other to sainthood, this idea has also brought so much more joy and meaning to my marriage. It has transformed the small insignificant parts of each day into little tiny acts of love and sacrifice that will hopefully lead us closer to our heavenly homes together. Making a cup of coffee before my own becomes a small sacrifice and act of love I can offer up for him and when we have our disagreements as all couples do, it reframes those interactions to what is best for our souls, not our selfish personal desires.

Now I don’t want to paint a picture of perfection or to claim that I am so great at marriage. I, in fact, am learning daily how I need to change. In fact, I heard one of my favorite authors, Scott Hahn, say during a speech that your spouse is God’s hand chiseling away at all your rough edges making you the beautiful sculpture you were meant to be. I desperately  need to be chiseled at – every day. Ever since I heard this analogy I have felt somewhat grateful (although not always in the moment) each time my rough edges are sanded down. The realization that I have flaws, I need redirecting, I need my spouse to help point out my weaknesses and my selfishness and sins, so I can grow stronger is so so very necessary. Quite frankly, we’re not fulfilling our obligation to each other to become saints if we don’t help each other with our struggles.

One of my favorite examples of this is Saint Monica, patron saint of wives, who prayed her entire life for her pagan husband (and son, St. Augustine) who finally converted at the end of his life. Her story is one of quiet, consistent dedication to her vocation. Her life is not flashy or showy, just straight up constant prayer in the trenches of life and prayer for those she loved dearly. I’m guessing that sometimes she wondered if it was doing any good. Saint Monica’s life as a true prayer warrior for her family is one that I think is particularly suited to the feminine soul and speaks to me personally. Her example gives me hope and a goal (even if it’s a lofty one) for which to strive – sainthood for myself and my spouse.

Saint Monica, pray for us!