Marriage Triage: Choose Christ, Choose Your Marriage!
Strife happens in marriage for one reason: sin. Sin happens for one reason: fear that the serpent was right.
Bad News First
You, alone, can’t save your marriage. Even if both of you fight tooth, claw, and nail to save your marriage, the two of you alone can not save your marriage.
Choose Christ, Choose your marriage! Your marriage can be saved. More than saved, it can become a thriving bounty of vibrant world-changing love! For it to be saved both of you have to choose Jesus our Christ. Choosing Jesus our Christ requires humble obedience.
At the bottom of this post for concrete steps you and your Beloved can start taking right now to choose Christ, choose your marriage.
Kneel and Pray. Now.
You can control one thing and one thing only. Your choices. Only through humble obedience to Jesus our Christ can our choices become the best possible choices. Kneel (together if possible, on your own if not) before Christ on the Cross and pray:
Lord Jesus my Christ, grant me the grace of humble obedience to you and my Beloved, that I may love and serve my Groom as Holy Mary loves and serves as handmaid of the Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus my Christ, grant me the grace of humble obedience to you, that I may love and serve my Bride as you love and serve our Church, your Bride. Amen.
Marriage as your path to holiness
Saint Paul gives us a simple, powerful way to not only save a troubled marriage by choosing Jesus our Christ, but also to deepen and thrive and run hand in hand together toward Jesus. Saint Paul calls all who believe in Jesus to:
“…be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1)
How do we imitate God? God is Love and God is Mercy. We imitate God by loving and forgiving. Yes, your spouse has wronged you. So what? You have also wronged them. You are in a Sacramental Marriage — your path toward holiness is with your spouse. Love them. Forgive them. Together figure out how to run toward Jesus. Simple. Yes. Simple. Simple is hard. Very hard.
Saint Paul knows this and knows we fall. “Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.” The discord and strife we experience in the challenges of marriage are just a foretaste of the “wrath of God … coming upon the disobedient.”
What is required of a disobedient child? Humble obedience. What is hardest to choose for a disobedient child? Humble obedience. Saint Paul continues, explaining how, through faith, we can choose humble obedience because in Jesus we are no longer of darkness (sin) but are new men and women in Jesus our Christ. It is in this context of how to choose humble obedience rather than being obstinate children that Saint Paul gets specific to married people: wives and husbands.
Isn’t requiring the wife to be obedient to Christ sexist and wrong? Yes, it is sexist, but only in identifying differences between genders that are real. No, it is not wrong, and in fact it is required to help restore right relationship.
To save your marriage, the wife is going to have to choose to trust Jesus our Christ over the lies of the serpent. She has to choose as Holy Mary chose — to be handmaid (servant) of the Lord. Otherwise she repeats the sin of Eve, who trusted the serpent over God.
To save your marriage, the husband is going to have to choose to trust Jesus our Christ over the lies of the serpent and simultaneously live up to being head of the house just as Jesus our Christ is head of our Church. Otherwise, he repeats the sin of Adam, who fecklessly chose to follow his wife into sin rather than stand strong and help her choose God instead of death.
“But our marriage is falling apart because he is sinning! I’m supposed to just obey him?” In a word: No. If he is leading you into sin, you obey everything you can and humbly stay obedient to Jesus our Christ instead of following him into sin. Let’s start by examining what “head of house means.
Head of House
Being head of house requires genuine masculinity, not the false and sinful masculinity of masochism or fecklessness. Being a real man requires humble obedience to Jesus our Christ. Choose Jesus, choose your marriage. Men: macho masochism is a cover, wolf in sheep’s clothing, for the pee-your-pants- fear you aren’t man enough. Without Jesus our Christ, that fear is right, you aren’t man enough.
At the same time, being feckless (the “modern, sensitive male”) acquiesces to sin and repeats Adam’s shrugging “go along to get along” participation in Eve’s sin. Choose Jesus our Christ, choose your marriage.
First, you are always to listen to and obey Christ in your Beloved wife. In Ephesians 5, Saint Paul says: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Real men are servant leaders. “For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the Church, he himself the savior of the body.” (Ephesians 5:23)
Husbands are called to lead their wives as Christ leads the Church. Jesus our Christ leads as humble servant to God the Father, obedient even unto death for love of His bride. Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles at the Last Supper. Jesus listened, responded, always with concern for holiness of His followers as foundational to His loving, challenging response. Jesus shared authority, giving to Simon Peter the power of the keys: the authority to punish and forgive.
Jesus never diminished his Apostles, though he did call them out for their sins. Again to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” He invited and challenged them to become who God created them to be (hardly surprising since Jesus is God!)
Unlike Jesus, however, all other men are fallen into sin. All other men are thus deaf, blind, dumb, and stupid — in ways they are too deaf, blind, dumb, and stupid to see. Wives are helpmates. They see things husband do not. Let this then be a cornerstone of how you serve as head of house: presume Jesus our Christ is present in your Beloved’s words and actions until proven otherwise. She sees where you are deaf, blind, dumb, and stupid and you serve her most lovingly by listening and taking to heart the truth she offers you.
Head of house, then is not ever misogynistic or self serving or fearful or cowering or timid.. Head of house is sacrificial servant leadership, with love of God and of Beloved as the husband’s sole motivation. Men, root out as sin everything less than Christ in how you serve your Beloved and your children.
Your Beloved’s sinner either has her being a tyrannical queen (in which case yours most likely has you being a feckless victim) or an oppressed victim (in which case yours most likely has you as overlord). These generalizations are very broad and have a vastly varied way of revealing themselves in the world. But the archetypes of oppressive or oppressed Sinner hold true, however they are expressed. Either way, love her as Jesus our Christ would, by lovingly helping her get to know her inner breath of God. Either way, you are called to help her choose humble obedience: either by getting smaller so she realizes how much greater is God’s plan for her than her own, in the case of the tyrant, or getting larger to live up to breathing her Breath of God into the world, in the case of the victim.
Choose Christ, Choose Your Marriage
A concrete plan to help you each (you have to each choose this) choose to save your marriage the only way it can be saved: by choosing Jesus our Christ. That takes humble obedience, and these steps require humble obedience to take. Hold each other accountable (and most especially hold yourself accountable) to:
- Attend Mass together at least weekly
- Keep holy the Sabbath
- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation monthly.
- Kneel before the Crucifix at least fifteen minutes a day and pray. The simple Rosary is a powerful way to do this (and the crucifix is always with you!). Include the wife’s and husband’s prayer here (see above).
- When temptation strikes, never entertain it! Combat it with the Trinity Sword Prayer.