Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Meaning of Life

At a team building conference, my husband picked out of a hat the question: What is the best advice you have ever been given. With out hesitation he answered: At the age of eleven or so my father told me, the most important decision you will ever make in your life is the choice of your bride.

The answer seemed to have made an impact on at least a few people. One woman asked during the conference if he really meant it as if it seemed a bit of silly advice in the world of a corporate litigator. Another remembered it and told it as a character statement months later when introducing my husband to a client.

My husband was astonished by the first response. He mused, that even if you had made a bad choice, the enormity of that choice should be fairly clear in your level of happiness.

I don't remember ever being given similar advice. I knew inherently that the choice of my husband would be momentous. As a teenager, it helped to keep me chaste. I had very romantic notions about marriage and a high level of self esteem (even if unwarranted). I did not think anyone was worthy of my gift of self. A bit egotistical, I admit, but even at that young age, I somehow knew it was a total gift of self worth saving.

As a high school teacher at an all girls' school, I was asked to give a talk on chastity. As I thought about what I would say, I realized how much chastity had formed my own character. I recalled my first year in college when my high school boyfriend would drive eight hundred miles to visit me. He joked that his friends thought he was nuts for driving all that way "to get nothing in return." We both loved being together and enjoyed the times when he would visit. Neither of us felt that some sort of payment was required on either side.

It made me think about the girlfriends of his friends. When they were taken to a movie or out to dinner did they get a message from these boys that payment was due? Did they think the gift of spending time together with someone you enjoyed required physical payment? My physical relationships that distinguished a friend from a date were representations of how I felt differently about that person in my life in comparison to others. It had never crossed my mind to feel I owed anyone anything (probably my egotism again.) But in part, I think it was the message I got from the boys I dated. They seemed honored to be with me, and I in turn felt secure being with them.

Not sure if it was the chicken or the egg. Did they feel my self confidence and respond or did I feel their chivalry and respond? Or was it that my dad was incredibly imposing and no one wanted to cross paths with him for fear he would send them to jail with one look? Who knows? I just know that my virginity and self esteem, my confidence and relationships were all intertwined in some dramatic way and played an enormous part in creating the person I would be.

Similarly, I have found my husband's choice of his bride (and my acceptance of his offer of love) to be the single most important factor to my happiness. I was told that marriage is work, and of course I understand what this means, but really, I feel daily that to NOT be married to this man would require far more work.

And it is not just in those things "Marriagey". My confidence and self esteem that in the past hinged on previous relationships is now completely centered in him. I am who I am because of him and without him, I would not be the same person. It is love that allows me to be a mother and a friend. Even relationships I had before, like that of a sister and daughter, are impacted by his love for me. He is the glue that holds me together whether he is present or not.

I have contemplated sex, marriage and love many times over the years. I knew as a young girl, young wife, young mother and happily married middle aged (ooh ugh) woman that sex was more than sex and that marriage was more than marriage and have always believed the meaning of life was found in our ability to love God and others. However, I have just read the most amazing book that explains all this. It is Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West.

West has taken the late John Paul II's momentous work and made it accessible to the layman. I implore you to read it. The radically new and different approach of Pope John Paul II to the mystery and meaning of the human body and the meaning of life is too beautiful for words.

We all know how the Sexual Revolution of the 1960's has impacted nearly every aspect of modern culture. We all know the enormous power that sex can have in our own lives. But do we know why?

Theology of the Body is not a work to rehabilitate bad marriage or define the good. It is not a how to for those in the dating scene or for those who have chosen a celibate life. It is a book for every human, in any vocation, at any stage of life. It is a book about what it means to be a human being with a body and a soul. It is about the mystery of love and the meaning of life.

Thank you God for the mind and heart of our late great Pope. Thank you Christopher West for making this accesible to everyone. May your life be transformed by this 'Basic Introduction to John Paul II's Sexual Revolution.'

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Sheila! Love it. Have you read The Good News About Sex & Marriage by West. Love that book too.