Some time back, I blogged on marriage and forgiveness. The post struck a chord with readers - thousands of readers, actually. So, I developed it into a Daily Lift. (The Daily Lift is a 2 minute free podcast, sharing inspiration and practical spirituality.) After hearing the Lift, an editor contacted me and asked if I would develop the marriage subject into a full length article for the Christian Science Sentinel.
Hey, don't get me wrong. I am no marriage expert. But a few years of marriage and a whole lot of prayer have probably taught me a thing or two that could help smooth the path for someone else. So, if you are interested in my two cents on marriage, here you go!
Passion. Whether it is for a special person, a valued project or a life goal – who doesn’t adore that feeling of heightened purpose and breathless, eager anticipation that we call passion? I am not talking about a mere physical reaction or emotional bond. Passion, in its spiritual sense, is the fire of inspiration and pure love for its subject.
Many go to great lengths to find something to be truly passionate about. When they do, they hope to sustain the feeling as long as possible. But when the initial fire dies down into embers, does this mean that the love and inspiration is coming to an end? Is there something we can do to fan the flame and rekindle the ardor of inspired commitment to that something or someone we love?
In a long relationship between individuals, in a career or with organizations, duty or responsibilty can tend to take the place of joy and spontaneity; and inspired thinking and acting can suffocate under the daily grind. In this case, what we may have once fiercely loved can tend to become a trial of patience and a test of endurance. The Bible offers some insight into what happens when fresh thought fades into habitual patterns of thinking and acting. The apostle John delivered a message from the Revelator - from Jesus Christ - to a church in Ephesus, Greece that had fallen victim to daily routine. He warned: “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and thou hast… borne and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Revelation 2:2-4)
The way I see it, the Revelator commends the fact that they are hanging in there and plugging along. But what happened to the passion of their first love, the fervor for their purpose in laboring, working together? Kindly, John doesn’t leave them to flounder under this diagnosis. He also delivers some sage advice. He says, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works.” (Revelation 2:5)
Here, passion is linked to vision, a spiritual vision involving inspiration. When we recapture the inspiration that initiated or spurred on a good idea or relationship, we have reconnected with the flame – the first love that restores joy and purpose.
When actions spring from renewed vision, they act like a fan drawing on a spark until the full blaze is restored. Find inspiration and you find a reason for being. Express the inspiration by doing the “first works” - approaching the relationship with a virgin attitude ("Fresh; new; unused; as virgin soil" - Webster's 1828 Revised Unabridged Dictionary) and the fire tends to spread to those around you.
During the first decade of marriage, my husband and I fell comfortably and naturally into the routine of work and family responsibilities. We had a sweet, loving relationship with mostly ups and very few downs. However, as steady and generally smooth as things were, we were still two people evolving at our own pace, with interests and activities that sometimes converged and often diverged. To a certain extent, we had let our relationship become a bit dusty. Nearing our tenth anniversary, I was longing to rediscover the fire of purpose in the relationship.
This wasn’t something I felt I could discuss with my husband. I didn’t know if he was feeling as out of sorts as I was. I certainly didn’t want to hurt him or frighten him by exposing my thoughts too soon. So before I brought anything to his attention, I decided to pray about my marriage – and to pray for my marriage. I had always felt our relationship was a gift from God, so it seemed perfectly normal to take my questions up in prayer.
Ours was a marriage formed in prayer. I had been praying daily to see the qualities of God expressed in a life-companion. When I met my husband, I recognized his divine qualities right away. After the marriage and over time, regular, consistent prayer for the marriage dropped off and was replaced by the general day-to-day business of the family. And the vision? The inspiration? The fire and passion? That, too, had slowly faded out as the relationship was more and more deprived of that element of prayer so essential to its formation.
So the Revalator's advice to that Ephesus church was on the mark for me. I rediscovered my “first love” through doing the “first works” – practicing again the consistent prayer that had brought us together in the beginning.
One of my issues with the marriage concerned the subject of spirituality. This was clearly a big part of my life. For him? Not so much. I was the church goer, he worked on Sundays. I was spiritually hungry - a genuine seeker. He seemed to have no spiritual curiosity whatsoever. So I asked God in prayer, “After ten years together, are we really on completely different life paths? Is there anything that we can do to bring these two different tracks together?”
As I did some spiritual study on the subject of marriage, I came across a statement that provoked me to wake-up. It is in Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures – a book that really brings the Bible’s message to life. On page 90, she writes, “The admission to one's self that man is God's own likeness sets man free to master the infinite idea.”
I had been thinking that if only my husband would change, or admit to himself that he was spiritual, we could rediscover our bond. Now I realized it didn’t depend on him at all. He wasn’t the one thinking he wasn’t very spiritual. That was my issue. I saw that if I admitted to myself that my husband was God’s own likeness, this would set us both free to master the infinite possibilities of our marriage.
I took up daily prayer to watch for, and be a witness to, my husband’s spirituality, and I began to notice so many of his spiritual qualities. Marriage, to me, became a full-on commitment to witnessing to the best in each another. My sense of marriage was reborn. I discovered that the passion I had been seeking was present in direct proportion to my prayers and spiritual witnessing. Our life together was once again full of joy and inspiration. I never said a word to him about this prayer and spiritual renewal, because my struggles on the subject were between me and God. But he noted that the marriage was better than ever, and he was right.
Prayer isn’t just last minute emergency life-support. Prayer can be a permanent life-link to a passionate expression of Life, God. If you are looking for more passion in your life, for renewal of commitment, and fresh joy in your familly, your work, your church, I highly recommend a regimen of prayer that opens you to see more of the divine expressed in and around you. The admission to yourself that you and those in your midst are God’s own likeness, can set you free to live a truly inspired life – aflame with divine Love.
This post first appeared on this blog under the title "Aflame with Divine Love" on November 2, 2011. It has been revised and new links have been added.
If you find this post interesting or helpful, please share it!
Also, it is quite easy to subscribe to the blog if you would enjoy receiving updates.
Simply put your email address in the box provided in the righthand column and click "Subscribe me!"
You may also wish to:
VISIT MY WEBSITE HOME PAGE
FIND A LIST OF MY OTHER PUBLISHED CONTENT
I have wondered if Jesus was thinking of marriage when he answered Peter's question, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus said, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven!"
I have been married twice, to two lovely men. And the need to forgive seems to be a recurring theme.
It isn't easy living in such close quarters in the workshop for spiritual growth called marriage. Someone is always watching. From important life decisions and family relations, to personal habits and attitudes, each one bears witness to their partner's progress as well as to the lessons they have yet to learn. Patience is helpful. Forgiveness is essential.
A comment that appeared recently on the Radical Act of Jesus to Forgive 70 times 7 really helped me. Nancy wrote: "Someone told me once that the phrase "no condemnation" includes the meaning of nothing incurable. One day, as I was praying with the thought of radical love and forgiveness, it came to me that there was nothing that couldn’t be healed, because there was nothing that couldn’t be forgiven."
Honestly, sometimes that is all it takes. To remember that nothing is incurable. No habit, no attitude, no behavior, no condition, no disease, no sin, is without an antidote in God's love. I think the pain of anger, at least for me, often stems from the frustration that I will have to put up with a problem forever. That it is incurable.
Now I can't be sure of the source of Nancy's "no condemnation" reference, but I will take a shot that it comes from Romans 8, where Paul says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."
Forgiveness is never really between two people anyway. The forgiver is ultimately making a pact with himself to release the hurt, the anger, the angst, over another's learning and growing curve. This release is empowering. It isn't dependent on anyone else.
Maybe he/she messed up. Perhaps you did. It helps to know that nothing is incurable. The Spirit of life that we know as God assures that everyone will ultimately know and express their true nature as sons and daughters of God. No one will be allowed to miss the boat. And if it takes a little forgiveness every two minutes to help each other along the spiritual path to discover of who we really are, can't we do that for ourselves and for those we love?
Some days, bloggers just wake up and think, “How about taking on a subject that may kick up some dust?”
This is a Finding your Prayer MOJO post. This means you can expect to find a tip or two in here to give more confidence, to support progress and to help power up your prayers.
Last week, the subject was anger. Christ Jesus gave tips on cleaning anger out of our path. This week, the subject is lust. The Sermon on the Mount has a thing or two to say to us to pave the way to better health and to being an effective healer. And it all starts with thought.
Matthew 5:27-30 speaks of adultery as a mental crime. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
It isn’t enough to just watch our behavior. Our thoughts need to be clean and pure, too.
Mary Baker Eddy explains in the chapter "Marriage" of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Infidelity to the marriage covenant is the social scourge of all races, 'the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the destruction that wasteth at noonday.'" (56)
Why such strong words? Because infidelity relates to instability and the inability to keep our word. If we can’t keep a promise to one, how can we keep a promise to anyone, especially God?
She speaks also of chastity as “the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society; and without it one cannot attain the Science of Life.” (ibid 57)
Again, infidelity relates to instability and chastity to stability. That is no small thing.
Chastity involves keeping a pure perspective of yourself and others. Chastity involves a commitment to oneself and to others to see everyone as spiritual. If our sense of self and of others rests on a material basis, if we see and treat others as primarily physical, sensual, sexual beings, we are on rocky, unsettled ground and unhappiness follows.
To Christ Jesus, spirituality wasn’t simply a theory or a theological viewpoint, it was also a way of life. Jesus’ teachings give the opportunity to think of ourselves as more than physical. Spiritual qualities, not material, physical, sensual characteristics, comprise true identity. These spiritual qualities include, but aren’t limited to, joy, peace, tenderness, love, compassion, affection. The list goes on forever. We would do well to add to the list daily fresh insights into the spiritual nature of God’s man.
Getting back to Jesus’ instructions, it is as important to guard against sexual feelings and activities outside the marriage covenant, as it is to guard your home against marauding intruders, because lustful thoughts are predatory. They raid purity, pirate spiritual intuition, and loot spiritual sense by reinforcing a one-dimensional, limited material sense of God’s creation.
Often the desire to find a companion gets mixed up with physical attraction. But there is a simple way to think about sex: as part of the conversation between a husband and wife. Seen in this context, the desire for sex really points to the desire for the permanent relationship of a marriage.
So when thoughts of sex come, we can be clear in determining what to do with them. Are these thoughts pointing to a desire for the commitment of a marriage, to be a lifelong witness to the spiritual growth of another? Or are they sneaky, hedonistic, aggressive intruders chipping away at inspiration, productivity and restricting your worldview to materiality and sensuality? Those are the ones Jesus condemned as detrimental to wellbeing.
A mere attraction to a physical body is pretty useless. It doesn’t better prepare one for a happy marriage. It can induce one to underestimate the good they have to bring to a relationship. The safest context for a couple to work out sex and sensuality questions from a spiritual basis is within the context of a marriage engagement, because they have already agreed to see each other in larger terms than simply a physical relationship.
Even within a marriage, a spiritual perspective of one’s mate is essential to progress and spiritual practice. A pure and open look at a spouse from a spiritual perspective can do much towards nurturing the wellbeing of the couple, leading to the tender sharing of good in daily activities, including, but not limited to, sex..
Marriage, whether sex is or is not a part of the relationship, is a workshop in earth’s preparatory school. It isn’t an essential workshop. Not everyone needs to marry or to have sex. It is just one of many workshops available to us.
Jesus equated lust with adultery, indicating that they are fatal to Christian healing and to Christian healers. He also gave an effective antidote to lustful thoughts: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
No, dismemberment is NOT the Christian antidote to lust. In Scripture, eye is symbolic of discernment and hand relates to power. To me, Jesus is saying that if a material view of people dominates your thought, it will affect your behavior. Go after the material view and correct it. It is better to catch the problem while it is still a thought, than it is to let it be a further detriment to your life and productivity.
And if a physical or sensual sense is pulling on you to think or act in a fashion detrimental to your healing potential, cut it off with your spiritual sense – that is, give consent to the power of the purity and goodness reflected from God at the base of your spiritual identity.
Prayer MOJO is never tough to obtain. It is often the little thought adjustments that bring out the greatest confidence (or prayer MOJO) when we pray.
If you like what you see in this blog, please share the link with your friends, fans and followers!
A full-text version of the blog can be delivered to your email inbox.
Please subscribe in the sidebar.
You may also wish to:
VISIT MY WEBSITE HOME PAGE
READ MORE BLOG POSTINGS
FIND A LIST OF MY OTHER PUBLISHED CONTENT
I was a mother by choice. I knew my husband had been diagnosed as infertile when I married him. And up until the wedding ring was placed on my finger, I had always been OK with not ever having children. But shortly after the wedding, the day came when I wasn't fine with it anymore.
Science and Health explains, "Marriage is the legal and moral provision for generation among humankind." (p. 56)
Now, I have never read the word generation in the narrow "production of babies" sense that would cast men and women in the role of personal creators. To me, as it is used in this quote, the spiritual sense of generation speaks to the production of good in individuals, in families and in society, when a moral and legal promise is made, and a commitment fulfilled, to be a lifelong witness to spiritual growth in another person.
As a Christian Scientist, I am sometimes asked questions like, "What did Jesus really mean when he said..." Those who love the Bible know that there can be as many different interpretations of Biblical meaning as there can be readers of scripture! And I wouldn't presume to know Jesus thoughts or the full depth and breadth of his meaning. But I can - and often do - share what his words mean to me according to my current inspiration.
One question that has come up, and not infrequently, is "What did Jesus mean in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 32, when he said :"But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery"? And I understand the concern. It could sound accusatory and condemning to women. But read in its historical context - I think this verse speaks to an important issue that deserves a deeper look - the subject of women's rights...
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no