Luke 18:18 – 23 – An official asked him this question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.’” And he replied, “All of these I have observed from my youth.” When Jesus heard this he said to him, “There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when he heard this he became quite sad, for he was very rich.
Jim and Sue sat in my office with arms folded, frustrated due to a seemingly difficult impasse in their relationship growth. They had been coming to see me for a while and things seemed to be getting better. However, this session revealed an area of their relationship that was a huge sticking point. Sue admitted that Jim was working on improving their relationship connection and she was very hopeful about things getting better between them. She was also very happy that Jim was even talking to her more about his feelings and needs. However, her biggest area of concern had not yet been addressed. She stated that she needed Jim to stop drinking alcohol altogether since he had, many times in their relationship, become very verbally abusive toward her which always corresponded with him drinking heavily. Jim stated that he was working to keep his drinking to a minimum but didn’t want to give it up completely. He stated that he found it to be a source relaxation after a long, hard day. He did not see…..he did not want to admit that it was the one thing that kept their relationship from becoming stronger. Sue needed this one thing from him because she knew that it was a source of division between them and it was the one thing that was keeping Jim from being the husband she believed he could be.
How often do we hold on to the patterns in our life that we have grown accustom to, even when we know they are not necessarily the best for us: drinking too much, over eating, staying up too late partying, yelling at each other, playing video game excessively, working unnecessarily long hours at our job, not helping out with kid’s needs, etc.? We married another person and promised to be a helpmate to them and to “take up our daily cross” in order to serve them and our family. We committed to a vocation in life which demands not only fidelity to each other but also sacrifice and charity. Christ, in the scripture passage above, sought to help the rich gentleman become a better and more fulfilled person. Out of love, Christ knew that there was one thing that was holding this man back from truly becoming detached from the world so that he would be able to find a deeper sense of love and enrichment in his journey toward God. Christ knew that this man’s riches kept him bound to this earthly life and truly not at peace. The man was looking to be a better person, as was indicated in his confirmation of following the 10 Commandments from his youth. But when the next step in the process demanded a full detachment from his worldly wealth, he was unable, or felt unable, to finish the race he had started. And thus, he truly was quite sad.
Our marriage calls us to detach from our personal habits or patterns which cause division in our relationship with our spouse. We are called to become better together and to always seek to not only improve upon our strengths but also to reduce or even eliminate our weaknesses. In order to do this, we have to bury our pride and be willing to do what it takes to make these changes. In order to make these changes, we need to see the problem as a problem. We need to have a desire to change the behavior out of love for our beloved. We also need to get new information, at times, from those who love us, regarding the ways we can make things better. Just as Christ was trying to lovingly help the man see that his riches were keeping him bound and not truly happy, so too did Sue try to help Jim through her attempt to discuss his damaging drinking behavior.
Every day we are called to decide what kind of life we want together with our beloved: One in which we serve and care for each other, or one in which we are individually bound to our own selfish wants and desires. It’s hard at times to be sacrificial. But when, as a couple, we consistently seek to give to each other and show appreciation towards each other, we most likely will find that we are being fulfilled in such a way that those selfish desires slowly don’t mean as much to us as they did in the past. Only deep, sacrificial, and grateful love is truly fulfilling!