The Two Become One Fry
When the going gets tough, the tough start giving
By Jason Shanks
In my position with the Diocese of Toledo, I get to instruct people on the joys of Catholic marriage:
The two become one flesh. Marriage is gift of self. My path to holiness is through my spouse. Marriage is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. As Christ died on the cross for his bride the Church, we husbands need to give our life for our wife.
As a married man of eight years, I know these wonderful teachings are easier said than done!
After all these years, I can still remember, what is known in my house as – “The Incident.” Newly married, full of ideas and able to articulate the sacramentality of marriage, something happened that would forever change my life, and it all happened at the drive thru.
“Honey, I am starving, I am going to swing through and get something to eat. Would you like anything?”
“No, I am okay,” my wife responded.
So I ordered my meal and knowing she didn’t want anything I went with the small fries. I paid for the meal and drove off. And then it happened! As we were driving down the road, she said those five words that no man wants to hear, “May I have a fry?”
This self-sacrificing, Christ modeling, loving husband, responded, “I don’t understand. When we went through the drive thru, I asked you if you wanted anything. You said no. Had I known you were going to want some of my fries, I would have gotten you your own!”
I learned quickly that this was the WRONG thing to say!
Becoming like Christ does not mean “shared” sacrifice. It means sacrifice. It is about loving your wife like Christ loved the Church. However, this heroic love happens in the small, everyday things. I congratulate myself to think I would most certainly lay my life down for my wife, but sharing a fry, now that is another story!
The Little Way of St. Thérése of Lisieux could be a real inspiration to us as husbands: “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
In my marriage, I have come to realize that it is very difficult for the “two to become one.” It means me having to die to self, and put her needs first. As I strive towards holiness, my vocation of marriage is working to get me out of my own selfishness, and working to conform me more and more to the person of Christ.
Further, as our family expanded by having children, I learned that even the love we shared just as man and wife became insular and selfish, needing and wanting to be shared with others. As a married man we each progress from being a selfish individual to learning to give, sometimes reluctantly, to our beloved. Then as a couple, we go a step further, sacrificing more and more out of love for our children. It is here where we become receptive to God’s love. And, the sacrifice is not really sacrifice at all, it is pure joy.
As we become one, it is not me losing myself, it is me becoming more and more who I am called to be. I become more myself, not less. It means loving her in the small, everyday moments of life. It means sharing a fry even when I am starving!
Now when I go to the drive thru, I say, “I would like one order of fries.” And having learned the hard way the meaning of marital self-giving, I say, “Let’s make it a biggie!”
Jason Shanks is the Cabinet Secretary of Evangelization and Parish Life for the Diocese of Toledo, which oversees the Office of Marriage and Family Life. He also serves as a pastoral advisor to Image Trinity: Family Become What You Are. He has been married for eight years to his wife, Melissa, and is the proud father of three. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out more of his writings.