Monday, May 16, 2011

Date Night and the Prayer of St. Francis

            “I don’t know why you’re taking so long,” I said to Michelle, and walked out the door. It was a vigorously windy night and the moon beckoned me to gaze at it until I needed to put a jacket on, then sit in the van thinking until she finally emerged from the house.
            We don’t have date nights nearly as often as I had originally wanted. Before having kids, I figured we should get out once a week. Now, with two kids and the realization that it’s $50 to $120 when you factor in the babysitter, I’m thrilled if we get out once a month.
            We drove downtown, but didn’t get out of the car for well over an hour. We had so much “stuff” to deal with – three days of child-rearing erosion – I was asking for more empathy and she was asking for more understanding.
            Ironically, it was just last week I was sharing with Michelle the Prayer of St. Francis, one of my all-time favorites. The key line I’d highlighted was in the second half, where he prays that he may be able “to love more than be loved, and to understand more than be understood.” If every relationship in the world took on that motto, the world would be a better place.
            One of the deepest desires we all hold is to be loved and understood. Yet, if we go into a relationship with that as our goal, we set ourselves up for failure. We become self-focused instead of reaching out and striving to understand the other first. These types of relationships develop routines and monotony, strangling the human spirit. Slowly, over time, the relationship will build a mine field of quiet frustrations, disconnection, and boredom.
            It is absolutely critical to love and understand the other first, before ourselves. This will lead to fruitful, long-lasting relationships, where desire to learn more about the other always uncovers new mysteries and adventures in life. Plus, it helps when the other person isn’t in a great place, and needs some extra support.
            It turned out, on that windy night sitting in the mini-van hashing out our feelings, that neither of us felt understood. We both felt burdened and tired (no surprise there), and needed some time to know the other cared.
            Thankfully, we had just enough time to listen to each other, meet up with friends, and dance for a few songs before we got the call from the babysitter with a shrieking baby in her arms, and hurtled back to the house.
            Date nights are important. I’ve always believed that. But what lies behind date nights is even more important – our marriage relationship. If Michelle and I aren’t doing well, nobody in the family will do well. It’s absolutely critical that we guard and protect our marriage, and care for the other deeply.
            When all is going well in life, this can already be a challenge. When two kids and life’s messiness wear at the system, it can sometimes seem impossible.
            But it’s not.
            It’s always possible.
            It just takes that little extra effort, especially when I’m feeling tired and ready to relax, to keep my mind and energy guarded and remember that my goal is to love Michelle first.
            To ask her how she’s doing.
            To sometimes kick her out of the house so she can simply get out.
            Away from the kids.
            Get some perspective.
            And come back refreshed and ready to tackle all cries and messes with vigor.
            And hopefully, maybe, if I’m doing it well, she might do the same for me too.

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