Advice for the Married: Don’t Forget the Gifts in Strange Packages

In his book Humility Rules (which I think should be read as Humility Rules!), Fr. J. Augustine Wetta, O.S.B. offers some insight into the humility of patience, forgiveness, and mercy.

Fr. Wetta recalls a situation in which he was asked to preach at the wedding of his best friend. As a monk, he was not accustomed to in preaching in parish settings and so sought the advice of an older monk:

I went looking for Fr. Luke. He is the founder of our community and has seen pretty much everything a monk can see. I found him asleep in a chair in the calefactory [a warmed sitting room in a monastery]. “Wake up, Father,” I said, “I need something wise to say at my buddy’s wedding.”

Fr. Luke opened his eyes, look around the room for a moment, and then said, “Tell them that there will come a day when he will want the window open and she will want the window closed.” Then he went back to sleep.

Fr. Wetta observes,

So, true love is more about endurance than it is about chocolates and teddy bears. We prove our love at precisely those moments when the people we love test our patience, put a strain on our kindness, and tempt us to anger. Love is truly love—and not just infatuation—when it proves itself in the crucible of suffering (Humility Rules, pp. 59-60).

Humility Rules is a wonderful book, well worth reading for its humor, wisdom, and whimsical art. The advice offered is not all that different from what I offer to pre-Cana couples, but Fr. Wetta presents it with more humor.

Patience, magnanimity, and mercy are essential for any relationship, let alone marriage.

Married couples give each other many gifts. Some of them come wrapped in obvious packages such as companionship, intimacy, and completion. Others come in strange packages.

Indeed, a spouse can give his/her partner many opportunities to know what it means to forgive. This is a gift, however strange its package, because Jesus teaches that if we forgive we will be forgiven but if we do not then we may go to Hell.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours (Matt 6:14-15).

Without forgiveness, it is pretty hard to enter glory; with it we stand a good chance.

It is the same with mercy. Jesus says,

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Mat 5:7).

James warns,

Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful (James 2:13).

As anyone who has been married for any length of time knows, spouses give each other ample opportunities to practice mercy. Indeed, the debate about the window that Fr. Luke described above may well occur in the limousine ride from the church to the reception hall! This, too, is a gift in strange package. If I show mercy then I will be shown mercy on judgment day—and we’re all going to need mercy then, lots of it!

Even the difficult parts of marriage, the gifts in strange packages, help to sanctify the husband and wife. St. Paul reminds us, And we know that, for those who love God, all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).

Indeed they do. Don’t forget the gifts in strange packages.

3 Replies to “Advice for the Married: Don’t Forget the Gifts in Strange Packages”

  1. I can vouge for the window story. Having been married 36 years and raised three children, and grandchildren, with the onset of menopause and a dozen medications for multiple health conditions wich raises her core tempeture, my wife keeps our residence cold year round. Everyone in our family knows to dress warm when they come over to visit. Even our dog wears clothes and sweaters.

  2. I’m not married but, patience is in the topical moniker.
    When I get impatient I refer myself to Psalm 90:4
    That’s one of those things that seems to be more effective when the more I use it, when applicable.

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