My husband and I got caught in a moment the other day, and I hope that and many moments like it stay with my daughter.
It all started with me walking into my closet to grab a sweater as the house was chilly in the morning. Our closet is connected to the laundry room, but the door was shut. As I walked into the closet my husband was grabbing a sweater also. He pulled me into a hug, raised his eyebrows and turned off the lights to give me a smooch.
Of course, at that same moment, my daughter opens the door and feigns trauma at the sight (Gasp!) of her parents kissing in their closet. As she runs out muttering, “All I wanted was a pair of socks,” we chuckle, grab our sweaters and head back out for our morning coffee.
Solomon 2:16: “My beloved is mine and I am his.”
My husband refers to me as his beloved, his bright eyes, his beautiful bride. I often refer to him as my boyfriend to my children. I point out how handsome he is. I speak his goodness out loud to them always. These names of endearment are written on Christmas tags and love notes, and our children will on occasion say, “Dad, do you want me to get your beloved for you?”
It’s cute, yes, but also has deeper roots. I cannot remember a firm decision early on to live out our marriage vows so visibly, and yet there has always been a recognition of the value of the gift we have been given.
Early on, my heart would smile at the thought of him. His face would light up when I came through the door. Twenty-five years later, it is an easy gift to remind myself to look up and smile when he enters, not out of force, but to treasure that moment, to not let it grow old. The same goes for dancing in the kitchen or snuggling on the couch.
Love lived out visibly and intentionally within a marriage puts physical intimacy in the right context. My teenage children sometimes groan when their father kisses me with a passion that makes me blush. He smiles, raises an eyebrow and holds up our hands with our wedding rings. There is eye rolling, but I know they hold this truth deep in their hearts. They are growing up in a family where love is spoken, love is shown and love is celebrated.
Physical intimacy is important in a marriage – necessary actually. However, a love lived out in service and prayer for the other is the physical demonstration beyond the intimate of how we sacrifice for each other out of love for the other.
We do the dishes because we love the person who will use them next. (Thank you, Mother Teresa). We make little sacrifices to train ourselves to make bigger ones later.
For instance, I make two omelets. I plate one on a green plate and one on an orange plate. My favorite color is green. I put the nice fork on the green plate and the cheaper fork from college days with the orange one. I bring the green plate to my husband. He doesn’t care which plate. He doesn’t even notice, and that’s OK. The Lord does.
We do small things with great love, and they form us to do bigger things with just a little love, because there are times that it is hard to feel loving, and big challenges hit hard against the fortress of a marriage. Marriages and families are fortified by these many little offerings.
Venerable Father Patrick Peyton says, “The family that prays together stays together.” We pray together as a family, but more important our children see my husband and I pray for and with each other. We have made the choice to have this time be visible for our children. This is our foundation, and they need to see the beams that hold up the house as much as the kisses, hand holding and dancing that make the house look beautiful.
They are welcome to grab a cup of tea and join us as we pray together, and, sometimes, they do, but mostly they nod, smile and carry on. But these seeds of how to love your spouse are planted. Living the Gospel in such a way that the Father’s love is made visible for our children is our calling as parents.
It is intriguing to me that my children who are away from the Church right now bring their friends here for meals or to share conversations. They smile sheepishly, but I see their pride that there is love in this home, and you can feel it. That love is Jesus made visible.
In the same way, I imagine Jesus’ eyes lighting up when we enter His kingdom. May our words and actions within our marriage illuminate God’s love to all those whom we encounter.
This article first appeared at the Catholic Times.
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