When my wife and I began marriage preparation classes almost 10 years ago one of the first questions we were asked was, “Do you think you’ll be more or less ‘in love’ after 10 years of marriage?”
I’ll save you from wondering and tell you, right away, that I answered wrong.
“Well of course we’ll be at least a little bit less in love,” I said, far too quickly.
I assumed, back then, that those heady early days of marriage would be full of romance, passion (sorry Mom), and mutual feelings of unending love. We were forging new territory, breaking new ground—exploring a brand new country called ‘marriage’ and surely that feeling wouldn’t last forever.
Surely those strong feelings would fade.
Yeah, so… I answered wrong.
What, I think, any decent marriage counselor will tell you is what he told us next.
Your love should grow deeper. (Couples in great marriages know this is true.)
See, those romantic, honeymoon feelings might change but your marriage should become a relationship of mutual admiration, of respect, of deeply-seated love that only grows as you get to know your spouse better. As you exist in the same physical space, with the same physical person, on a day-to-day basis you begin to learn what makes them the happiest (and they learn this about you), you begin to appreciate and understand their hurts and hang-ups, you grow to know them deeper and deeper to the point of not knowing, really, how you’d do life in any other way.
This is why Christ calls marriage the joining of “one flesh,” and why of all the pictures of what God is like, marriage is the one which he has chosen to highlight from the beginning (Adam and Even in Genesis) to the end (the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation).
It’s also an apt picture of our faith life.
I can say, without reservation, that I love being Catholic.
In the physical Catholic faith, in the sacraments and the theology, in the rich spiritual traditions and practices I have found something which I can hardly put into words. It’s stunningly beautiful.
A worldview with such depth and clarity and scope that it enriches every aspect of my life that it touches (and it touches every aspect).
I love being Catholic, but I don’t always like it.
Here, we can compare our faith to marriage.
On a day-to-day basis I won’t always like my wife.
(I should say, I give her more cause not to like me, not the other way around.)
This is reasonable, this is human because two people can’t always get along 100% of the time. It’s life. We’ll get into an argument, say, or not agree on how something will be done and I’ll get frustrated and mope. That’s usually how it goes at least.
We don’t swear, we don’t (hardly) yell, we’ve put a lot of effort into communicating appropriately and effectively but like every other couple in the world we don’t always agree and although we try very hard, all the time, to live a Christ-like marriage we don’t always succeed and in that unsuccess we sometimes don’t like each other.
But our love is so much stronger.
See love is a committment not simply a feeling, and therein lies the extremely important distinction: I may not always like the things my wife says or does but I will always commit to loving her because that’s a commitment we made. And even when I may not feel like liking her our love is so much more deeply-seated than that.
Same for faith.
Now it’s not like I’m never allowed to stop loving my faith anymore than I’m not allowed to stop loving my spouse. If my wife or my priest or a radical sect of Spanish Inquisitors held me down and forced me to love my wife that would be no more true loving than if I were told I must be a Catholic or I’d be killed at the stake.
I commit because I want to—both to love and faith. But make no mistake, it’s a commitment and it takes recommiting every day.
As a Catholic, some things bug me a lot. Some Catholics with ideologies bent towards a certain direction rub me the wrong way. Some Catholics with no ideology at all rub me the wrong way. And one time Trent Horn lambasted an article that I wrote on a radio show and I think his analogy was totally wrong (anyway, he’s a great guy).
But I still love being Catholic.
Do I always like the practice of my faith, the Catholic blogosphere, and the sacrifices I sometimes have to make? Heck, no.
I don’t want to eat fish ever.
But my love for Catholicism is deeper than these surface-level likes. And the roots of the Catholic faith go much deeper, too. Much deeper than the current Pope, our college of cardinals, and our local bishops. Like them or not. Much deeper than the current crop of Catholic authors, apologists, and theologians. Much deeper, thank God, than the current vanguard of bloggers like myself.
In the end I think it’s obvious why God, in his wisdom, chose marriage as the ultimate example of our faith. And, like any good marriage, it sometimes takes work (go figure). And on the days, hopefully few and far between, when we sometimes don’t feel like liking our spouse or our marriage or our faith it is possible, if we choose, to commit anyway.
After all, there is an ancient tradition in the Catholic faith called the “dark night of the soul” and its reality stretches back all the way to Job. That bad things might happen. That sometimes we might not like God. That we may find ourselves walking in “the dark” for days, weeks, or years on end is a reality of living the Christian faith.
And the reality is, we may not always like what we ought to love—but we can love nonetheless.
Photo courtesy of michellehurwitz (flickr).