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The passion, death, and resurrection of marriage

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Every marriage has elements of passion, death, and resurrection. These seasons of growth, disillusionment and revitalisation are entirely normal, and to be expected.

The problem is there’s often a delay before the resurrection manifests. That “waiting in the tomb” is profoundly challenging; in our case it’s never just three days!

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Here are three thoughts about marriage and the cycle of transformation.

Passion memories—Ever noticed how we tend to obsess about the negatives when given feedback? Even if 90 per cent is positive, our brains fixate on that one, small criticism as if it cancelled out everything else.

The same thing happens in our marriage. When we’re hurt or discouraged, we tend to focus on the problems. All our attention is given to the difficulty of the present situation, and we forget our deep history of love and joy.

Such selective amnesia perpetuates our misery and entrenches our helplessness. It hardens our heart and steals our hope. This mindset helps no one.

The antidote is proactive, positive memory recall. By consciously recalling and dwelling on our relationship at its best and most passionate, we redirect our focus from disappointment to appreciation.

It’s like mining our own history for precious gems—our shared joys, adventures, and accomplishments.

Passion memories help balance our perspective. They address our tendency to overplay the bad times while downplaying the good.

Dying to self—Humans have a natural tendency to selfishness. Part of growing up is learning how to delay the gratification of our desires and to think more about the needs of others.

A child’s inability to do this, is one of the reasons that caring for them can be so exhausting. On the other hand, that’s also part of their gift: they help us, as parents and carers, to grow in selflessness and other virtues.

Friction in marriage is unpleasant and painful but it also is an opportunity to grow; to grow in virtue, in self-knowledge and in love. That’s why the church calls the family “the first school of love.”

Most of us, if confronted with an armed robbery or a housefire, wouldn’t hesitate to risk our lives for our loved ones. As impressive as that is, it’s much harder to do the small acts of daily self-denial required of us in marriage.

The idea of dying to self in the gospels was never meant to only be a once-and-done grand gesture. It’s a call to a lifestyle of self-sacrifice for others, hour by hour.

In marriage, that might be expressed as restraint from criticism or nagging, returning rudeness with kindness, or forgiving for the 77th time! None of these are easy, especially when in seasons of prolonged distress.

A New Creation—When Christ emerged from the tomb, he was not the same as he was the week before. His body had been transfigured, glorified. While still the same body with the scars and wounds of his passion and death, it was a new creation.

Sometimes marriages are meant to die. They are meant to die to their present existence so that they can be recreated into something new.

Our marriage has died and been recreated many times during our 35+ years together. The transitions are always miserable!

Each time there’s been painful self-growth, the loneliness of disconnection, and the anxiety of uncertain timelines.

Yet we know and believe that everything is blessing if we allow God to transform it.

Christ’s death appeared to be a triumph of evil, but God transfigured it to glorious victory. Our loving Father can do the same for our marriages when we trust in him and seek his blessing in our mess.

Francine & Byron Pirola are the cofounders of SmartLoving. www.smartloving.org

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