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Everything Falls Apart – Forgetting our Divine Roots

April 6, 2011

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When This Pilgrim’s Progress launched just over a year ago, I shared a post entitled “Who is this Person Living in My House: Reconnecting with your Spouse.” The crux of the post was this: we all live busy lives and, as a result, our most personal relationship – the one we share with our spouse – often gets taken for granted as our attention shifts to other things. In that post, I expressed my own fear that, in the course of work, raising three kids, being active in church and other activities, Michelle and I might wake up one day and not really know each other anymore.

If I asked those of you reading, “do you love your spouse?,” I’d be shocked if any of you answered no. If I asked, “do you plan to still love your spouse five years from now?,” I am reasonably confident that your answer would be yes. I don’t honestly believe any one ever intends, deliberately, to stop loving their spouse. However, I’ll bet almost all of us have heard someone say something like:

“I just don’t love him/her anymore.”

“We just grew apart.”

“He/She just doesn’t see me anymore.”

“The fire went out.”

“We’re moving in different directions.”

“Marriage shouldn’t be this hard.”

So, the question is quite clear, if we all start out with the best of intentions, standing in front of our family and friends and vowing to share our lives together, where does the train come off the tracks? If we all agree that marriage is a dedication of our whole lives to another, then why do half of them fail?

I can’t help but feel like it’s because married couples so often don’t make the effort to stay connected to one another, to continue getting to know the person they married – and to engage in relationship in a way that helps them remember just what it was they liked about their spouse to begin with.

There are five basic reasons that, I believe, relationships fall apart. Over the next five weeks we’ll look at each one and I’ll offer discussion questions to help you confront those issues in your own relationship. The five reasons we’ll explore are:

1. We forget our divine roots

2. We expect life to be a 50/50 partnership

3. We allow distractions to dominate our life

4. We have lost sight of who we are and what we bring to our spousal relationship

5. Our love life is out of balance

Before going on, I’d like to note that all of these ideas and questions were developed in partnership with my wonderful and loving wife, Michelle. While my head is often in the clouds thinking about nuances of the theology of marriage, she is incredible at getting right to the heart of the issue and shining a light on the mystery of marriage.

Without further ado… let’s explore the first reason.

Forgetting Our Divine Roots

If I asked you the question, “who are you?,” how would you answer?

You would probably start by saying something like, “I am married and have two kids,” before you began listing a lot of things that you spend your time doing. This, by in large, is how we think about ourselves, right? For most of us, our identity is the sum of our activity and we can think of no better way to describe ourselves than by focusing on all of the ways we spend our time.

Unfortunately, the real focus of “who we are” is far more rooted in those few, cursory words that come at the beginning of our introduction, the ones that describe our central relationships.

We have talked often about Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body on This Pilgrim’s Progress. In casting a theological vision of just who we are as human beings, JP II points out, as one of his basic premises, that Genesis 1:26 has the creator uttering the words, “let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” The profundity of this statement is found, not just in the realization that God created us in His image, but that his image itself is rooted in plurality. What I mean, simply, is that God doesn’t say, “let me create man in my image,” he uses plural pronouns, pointing to the reality of the trinity that we now take for granted in the Church.

Pope John Paul II points to this reality to illustrate that God is not just a person or entity, He is, by nature, a collection of persons or a communion of persons. God is not just God. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one. He is relationship.

Thus, the claim that we are created “in his image” is a reminder that, at the very core of our being, we, too, exist for relationship. While these relationships find all kinds of expressions in the course of our normal lives, in community of school, church, friends, etc., there is no higher expression of this relationship than in marriage in which the “two become one,” just as the three persons of the Trinity are one.

John Paul II reminds us of what God has told us from “the beginning,” that our lives are not about action, they are about living out relationships and being intricately involved in the lives of others.

What Happens in Marriage When Divine Roots are Forgotten?

We all have expectations for our lives. We think about all of the things we’d like to do or see and goals we’d like to accomplish in making a name for ourselves. As a result, we fill our lives with obligations that keep us from pursuing and enjoying relationships. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ll probably admit that it’s the marital relationship that gets neglected most often.

I don’t believe that it’s our intent to neglect our spouses. It’s just that he/she is “there” and we fall into the trap of confusing proximity with intimacy. After a day of working or running kids to various obligations, isn’t it true that our spouses often get whatever is left over? Don’t they often and unintentionally take a back seat to our goals and ambitions?

While this inattention to relationships in order to focus on goals is not, inherently, evil, it’s long term effect can be nothing short of devastating, often leaving no semblance of real relationships in tact. We, as men and women committed to living in relationship through the Church and in the sacrament of marriage, must fight the temptation to lose sight of our divine roots and just go about our lives in constant pursuit of activity and accomplishments.

Where do we start? Take some time to sit down and discuss the answer to these questions with your husband/wife:

Discussion Questions

How is desire for accomplishments taking you away from your marriage relationship?

How are your obligations keeping you from enjoying relationships (with your spouse, but also friends, kids, etc.)?

What are your goals? Are they goals that you’ve decided on together, or as individuals?

What unnecessary goals, obligations and activities can be cut out of your life?

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