Husband & Wife Articles


 

Love Is a Choice

Feelings come and go, but love must endure

By Michele Chronister

The week before we got married, my future husband and I went on a daylong retreat. We visited the grounds of a beautiful convent nearby, and spent the time in prayer together.

Since it was just the two of us, we reached out to various friends and mentors and asked them to send us e-mails of encouragement and marriage advice. One of the most memorable ones came from a friend of mine who had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary. One of her main points was how incredible the ordinariness of marriage was – how wonderful it was to just share the everyday tasks of life together, and how this sharing of time manifested God’s love for her and her husband.

Michele and Andrew Chronister are shown with their two daughters.

Six years later, I understand her words in a way I couldn’t have then. There is such beauty to life lived together, day in and day out. But there is another kernel of wisdom here – the love that makes up a marriage is found in little things.

In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Thèrése of Lisieux writes, “When I act and think with charity, I feel it is Jesus who works within me. The closer I am united with Him, the more I love the other dwellers in Carmel” (The Story of a Soul, Image Books, 2001, p. 123).

St. Thèrése is most famous for her “Little Way”; her belief that it matters not how great our deeds are, but rather that even the smallest of deed is done with great love. These loving, little actions manifest the love of God to others. Although Therese shares this wisdom in light of her experience in a monastery, it is wise marriage advice, as well.

We are most aware of the shortcomings of those with whom we live. In fact, their shortcomings stare us in the face each day, and can easily lead to increasing annoyance. It could be argued that this is a very normal, natural response. However, a sacramental marriage is something more. As a manifestation of God’s love at work in the world, marriage is endowed with grace. Should the couple remain open to that grace, even the most frustrating annoyances can be taken in stride.

Here is where we stand at the crossroads with St. Thèrése. It is easy enough to ignore annoying little habits as newlyweds. There is still a glowing, loving feeling, and that feeling for one another covers a multitude of sins. But what about after the honeymoon period has passed? Can we still choose to love, even when it doesn’t come naturally?

The love that St. Thèrése and the Gospels propose is a love that is not reliant on feelings. This kind of love is a choice. The word choice is tossed around carelessly these days, but ultimate free choice lies in this – the freedom to choose the good. The ultimate good is choosing to love as Christ did, in a way that is sacrificial and often painful.

Yet, when the everyday actions of our marriage are infused with that kind of love – the kind of love only possible with God’s grace – it transforms our relationship. Choosing to act in love, even when difficult, makes the ordinary moments stepping stones to sainthood. Doing the dishes, folding the laundry, vacuuming the floors – all of those things, if done in love, can have infinite meaning. They can transform the world, by infusing it with the love of God at work in a marriage.

The challenge is to give God our “yes.” The challenge is to choose to love.

Michele Chronister is a freelance writer, book author and founder of My Domestic Monastery, which offers insights into a household’s life of work, prayer, play and rest. She is married, with two young daughters.