The Couple Checkup: Strengthening Your Marriage

David H. Olson, Amy Olson-Sigg and Peter J. Larson who develop  the Prepare/Enrich materials to help prepare couples for marriage and to help strengthen marital relations wrote an article,  Find Your Relationship Strengths: The Couple Checkup.  An excerpt from that article appears below.

 “… what we have in America are unrealistic and unhelpful attitudes and relationship norms. We choose our mates based on initial feels of love, assuming love alone will sustain the life of a relationship. We are not committed to making marriages work, evident by the fact that most divorce occurs not because of intense or recurrent problems such as violence or infidelity, but because the relationship is no longer satisfying. Forgetting that relationships are living, growing entities, we make the mistake of assuming that a great relationship will remain great forever. When it doesn’t we forget that we can play an active and assertive role in the outcome. Sometimes we move onto a new relationship, which is often just leaving one set of problems for a set of different ones.  …

Relationships are analogous to bridges, in that they are built to sustain the climate and needs of a couple at a set point in time, but time changes…families grow, transform, evolve. With bridges, weather elements cause erosion and require periodic checks and repair. If relationships are not continually maintained, they, too, erode with the passage of time and internal and external demands on the relationship.

We need to plan for relationships in an intentional and deliberate manner. A life partnership certainly requires more planning than a wedding ceremony. Couples need to commit to marriage, with eyes wide open, knowing there may be moments when it feels as though their commitment is all they have. Couples must conceptualize their relationship as the dynamic, living, growing, changing entity that it is. Hence, they must care for it knowing it is subtly changing and shifting with time.

Prepare/Enrich has developed some new materials to help strengthen couples:  The Couple Checkup.   Any parishioner who would like to strengthen their marital bond can ask Fr. Ted about using these materials.   Fr. Ted has been trained by Prepare/Enrich for use of their materials.

Bearing with the Failings of the Weak

Sermon Notes for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost   July 21, 1996

“We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.  For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”    ….    May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Romans 15:1-7)

In Sigrid Undset’s wonderful trilogy THE MASTER OF HESTVIKEN (VOL 1 THE AXE), Olav had committed himself to marry Ingunn but found she came along with a lot of old baggage and problems, including health problems, some mental health frailties and an illegitimate son. Olav thought his happiness and his love were all that mattered, but he came to a spiritual realization, that the love and happiness which he felt with Ingunn were not the real or even the most important issues; what really mattered was that his commitment to her meant he was going to have to bear with her problems, and to help carry her through them.  Undset wrote in the story:

“Now it was revealed to him that what had happened when he had taken her in his arms, plucked her flower, and breathed its sweetness and its scent, was only something that had chanced by the way.   But what really mattered, when it came to the point, was that she had been placed in his arms in order that he might carry her through everything, take the burden from her and defend her.  That was to be his happiness, the other was no more than passing joys.”

The Transfiguration: Man Fulfilling His Mission

“According to St. Maximus, man’s primary mission was to unite Paradise with the rest of the earth, and thereby to enable all other created beings to participate in the conditions of ParadiseThus Adam was to enable all other creatures to participate in the order, harmony and peace of which his own nature benefitted because of its union with God, and this included the incorruptibility and immortality he received.  But once Adam turned away from God, nature was no longer subject to him.  Following Adam’s sin, disorder established itself between the beings of creation as it did within man himself.”   (Jean-Claude Larchet, THE THEOLOGY OF ILLNESS)   This thinking is most interesting because it suggests that the earth itself was outside the boundary of Paradise and did not originally share in the blessed life of God’s Garden of Delight.  God gave humans the task of transfiguring and transforming the earth so that it too could participate in the conditions of Paradise once humanity had so transformed the earth.  Thus sin, the human fall, did not take Paradise away from the earth as it did for Adam and Eve, but rather it prevented the earth from becoming what God intended it to be because humanity had forsaken its role to connect earth to paradise and to garden the earth to transform it into paradise.  God apparently intended the humans to have the power to transform earth into paradise – He shared His creative power with the humans.  Humanity however rebelled against this role, and in rejecting God’s Lordship also lost the power to transfigure and transform the earth.  The earth remained un-transfigured and the humans powerless to transfigure it until the Word became flesh and Christ re-instituted the transfiguration of the world which God intended for humans to accomplish from the beginning. Christ came into the world to unite paradise to earth and earth to heaven.    “What is it, we ask, that links Paradise in the past (Genesis 1-2) with Paradise in the future (Revelation 21-22)?  There is but one answer: the Cross.  Without cross-bearing, there can be no cosmic transfiguration.”    (Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia)   Christ in the incarnation, by uniting creation to divinity, and by restoring the union of God with human nature, once again makes it possible for humans to transfigure the world.  Christ restores to humanity the very role and power God intended us to have from the beginning.   The Feast of the Transfiguration is the Feast celebrating not only God transfiguring the world, but God restoring to humans the power to transfigure the world.  Christ reveals not just God’s humble power, but how God had exalted humans from the beginning.

See also my blog:  Tablets of Stone: Do not Petrify the Word of God