Monday, July 1, 2013

Marriage as Spiritual Discipline

On July 1, 1982, my husband Paul and I were married, together with 2074 other couples.  Throughout the years we have encountered many challenges and many blessings.  Since we didn’t have an individual wedding ceremony we often celebrated our anniversary with other local members of our blessing ceremony.  One year we participated in a boat trip, other times we just went out to dinner to a special restaurant.

This year we made plans just for ourselves to have some personal and romantic time together.  That gave me the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of marriage in general.

Just recently I came across a book by Gary Thomas, called “Sacred Marriage.”   Mr. Thomas is a pastor and a counselor, even though this book is not to give marriage advise.  Rather, it looks at marriage as a path of spiritual discipline for two people together to get to know God better, to trust him more fully, and love him more deeply.  He looks at marriage as a sacred covenant between husband and wife.

“But what if God's primary intent for your marriage isn't to make you happy. . . but holy? And what if your relationship isn't as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?”
~ Gary Thomas
The reason these words resonated with me was that they reminded me so much of the advice and guidance Rev. Sun Myung Moon gave us before our blessing ceremony. He said, that if were really committed to each other, God could help us to make any relationship work.  I believe that there are three aspects of marriage which are unique in the relationship between a man and a woman.

1)    Marriage grows our Character.

Before I got married I had often thought about life in a monastery/convent.  It wasn’t because I sought the religious life; it was rather that I couldn’t figure out human relationships.  I also didn’t have much hope for future generations, and therefore, didn’t want children.

When I met the Unification Church and heard their teachings on human relationship and how men and women are created equal in value but with different purpose, I could find a new understanding in growing myself.

 As Gary Thomas writes: Because whether it is delightful or difficult, your marriage can become a doorway to a closer walk with God, and to a spiritual integrity that, like salt, seasons the world around you with the savor of Christ.

While marriage may not be the only tool that can help people draw closer to God, it is a powerful one. It reveals our character--who we really are--and trains us to become who we want to be. The marital relationship offers a context for lasting and significant spiritual growth; it provides fertile ground for cultivating humility, perseverance, charity, forgiveness, confession, prayer, non-judgmentalism, and more. Sacred Marriage is not about marriage-transformation, or spouse-transformation, but about self-transformation. It is not about loving one's mate better, although that will be an inevitable outcome. Rather, this book is written to help the reader love God more and reflect the character of his Son at an ever-deepening level--not because any marriage is ever perfect, but because it helps husbands and wives discover and revel in their relationship with God.

I like the aspect of sacred marriage being for self-transformation.  In order to learn to love the other we have to also learn to love ourselves.  That takes an enormous leap of emotional cleansing and letting go of our old self.  But with the love and support of a spouse this process is not impossible.

2)    Marriage brings out the best and the worst in relationship.

In marriage we become each other’s mirrors.  We often wish to change the other person while what we don’t like in the other, is what we have to change ourselves.

Practicing the spiritual discipline of marriage means that I put my relationship with God first.  Our marriage can be a testimony to the rest of society.

Marriage is the only place where we can face our own immorality such as selfishness, anger, control-mongering, impatience and even hatred because it takes an intimate relationship to face up to these challenges.
He (Jesus) answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
~ Matthew 19:4-6

3)    Marriage’s intimacy creates the best environment to raise children.
Man and woman complement each other, not only in the physical aspects, but also on the spiritual, mental and emotional levels.  The differences in our make-ups create a dynamic which is found nowhere else.  These challenges also give us the greatest opportunity for growth and to resemble the Almighty who is both male and female.  It has been proven that the quality of marriage affects our country’s economy, moral development, benefits of health, and our overall happiness.  

“Why then do we get married? Very simply, we marry in order to resemble God. God exists as a being of dual characteristics. In God, the dual characteristics are completely harmonized as One. When God's dual characteristics manifest in our world, they do so as man and woman. Accordingly, at the proper time, a man and a woman are like a seed. They unite to become one. Thus, husband and wife return to God. Together, we are a reflection of His original nature.”
~ Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon – wife of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon (from Blessed Marriage and Eternal Life -4/-16-1996

As I mentioned before, this year, my husband and I went on a romantic trip for our anniversary.  I found this special couple getaway in the mountains of South-Eastern Ohio called Big Rock Cabins.  We spend two unique days there, surrounded by nature and complete quietness.  Having our meals out on the deck, watching the birds; soaking in the hot tub and just sharing some deep thoughts and feelings brought us closer together.  It also reminded me that our lives together are not just "til death do us part,” but rather for eternity.  That’s something we have to work on continuously.



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