“Man finds himself when he makes himself a sincere gift.” These are the words of wisdom given to us by Saint Pope John Paul II and reiterated by Leah Darrow in this promotional video for Beloved: Finding Happiness in Marriage. What is the best gift you can give your husband or wife? The gift of self.
Beloved is a DVD series put out by the Augustine Institute, designed to prepare engaged couples for marriage as well as to revitalize all Catholic marriages. The amount of insight in this five-minute clip builds excitement for the impact the entire Beloved series will have on this generation. The Augustine Institute has taken the beautiful truths of our faith regarding the Sacrament of Marriage and presented them in a way that will engage and enlighten many couples.
Practically speaking, how can our marriages begin to grow in self-giving holiness from what we have learned in this video?
Here are 5 ways to make of yourself a sincere gift to your spouse.
1. Prayer – At the heart of every good marriage is a relationship not only with one another, but with God. In order to be able to give fully of ourselves, we must come to the Lord and ask to be filled with the ability to give. If we try to do this on our own accord, we will quickly become overwhelmed and fail. We can’t give what we do not have. Give the gift of yourself to your spouse by making time to pray each and every day for your marriage.
2. Intimacy – Enjoying times of intimacy with your spouse is an essential component of a strong marriage. It may sound strange to newlyweds, but over time the busyness of life gets in the way of time together as a couple. Be intentional about keeping the romance alive – in more than just a physical way. Create time in your schedules for date nights, meaningful conversations and having fun together. Make sure your marriage bed is a place where God’s free, total, faithful and fruitful love is expressed to your spouse. (For a more in-depth look at what this means, visit www.theologyofthebody.net) We cannot give ourselves more fully to our spouse in any other way than to practice holiness in the gift of intimacy, the gift God has given us through the Sacrament of Marriage.
3. Be considerate – Every morning when you wake up, think to yourself, “What is one thing I can do for my spouse today?” Of course, you can do more than one thing, but really think about what you can do to make his or her day more enjoyable. It could be saving him the last piece of chocolate cake, doing a chore that is normally his responsibility, complimenting her in some way, or giving her an extra long goodnight kiss. It is helpful to know what your spouse’s love language is so that you can serve him (or her) in the way he (or she) will most palpably feel the love behind it. Pope Francis also encourages us to be considerate in our marriages by frequently using these phrases: May I?, Thank you, and I’m sorry.
4. Don’t expect things in return – This is a difficult one. Leah Darrow mentions in the Beloved video that she loves her husband for who he is, not for what he does for her. Sometimes when we start to make the effort to be selfless towards our spouse we wait in expectation for them to return the favor. To truly make a sincere gift of self, we must give for the sake of pleasing God and not desire our spouse to reciprocate. Turn your labors of spousal love into a prayer to God. Seeing your actions as a prayer will help to avoid feelings of resentment or bitterness if your spouse does not return the favor.
5. Submission and Sacrifice – This last idea is really two, but they go hand in hand. Both words cause us to be a little uncomfortable in today’s culture. However, they are necessities for every marriage. We must learn to subdue our own desires and to sacrifice our wants for the good of our spouse. Put the other’s needs above our own. It takes a significant amount of trust in God and in your spouse to be able to do this. In Ephesians 5:21-26, wives are instructed to submit to their husbands, but also note that husbands are called to lay their lives down for their wives just as Christ did for the Church. When we start to embrace this concept, we realize it is a drastically different definition than “50 Shades of Grey” would lead us to believe. A Christ-like type of submission is done out of pure love, with the intention of leading our spouse to heaven. We sacrifice and submit for the good of the other. How do we do this in everyday life? Decide that instead of putting up a fight over issues, you will yield and take it to prayer. Try to be the person who does not have to always get the last word in. Let go of minor things (not putting the cap back on the toothpaste!) and give them to God.
Marriage is a gift. It takes work, but produces great joy. The road to marriage molds our hearts and prepares us for heaven. Our weaknesses are revealed and many times it can be painful to see how much we need to grow in selfless holiness. Yet, at the same time, God grants us the ability to foretaste the joy of heaven here on earth through the love of our spouse. Apply these tips and begin to see the fruits of giving the gift of your whole self in your marriage. Perhaps God is also calling you to a deeper study of the Sacrament of Marriage by taking part in the Beloved DVD series.
Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to look for any reward, save that of knowing that I do your holy will. – St. Ignatius