A timely Lenten goal has an unexpected benefit, and longest-married couples can teach the same lesson
By Marian Christiana
Happy Easter season! I hope you all had a very fulfilling Lenten season and are rejoicing in the Risen Lord. I have to admit that my Lenten journey was a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. I was trying to give up my favorite pastime of procrastinating. Conventional wisdom says that it takes 40 days to create a habit, so I thought Lent would be a great opportunity to try and change a lifelong habit of putting things off (as stated above, procrastinating!) and offering up the effort it was going to take to make this change for a special intention. I figured it could be a win-win situation for me. To help me be successful in this effort I decided to try and figure out why I was like that in the first place.
As I have mentioned in the past, my mother passed away when I was young, and my oldest sister, Diane, stepped into the role of Chief Cook and Bottle Washer, as my father used to say. Diane ran a tight ship. She liked things neat and organized and wanted them done in a timely manner. Being the fifth of six children, I unfortunately learned at an early age that if I put off things long enough Diane would become frustrated and do my chores for me in order to meet her deadlines and time schedule. I believe that is what’s called baby-itis. Eventually I did start to do my own chores, but the “dragging my feet before doing them” has stayed with me. Don’t get me wrong. I am as organized as the next person. I just really like my sitting around time!
My husband, Ralph, on the other hand is strictly an “A Type” personality. You know what I mean: highly organized and highly proficient at time-management. Ralph comes from a long line of “A Type” personalities, and then he married me. I don’t think he ever considered that not only would he be living his life with a wife who is a serious procrastinator, but also we would raise three children who have followed in their mother’s footsteps.
Our adult children still talk about going to the movies with their dad and rushing to get there a half-hour before the previews even started, or starting a vacation by sitting at the airport gate waiting for a plane two hours before takeoff. If they were with me, we would blow into a movie during the previews with a few minutes to spare. I have also been seen running through the airport with three children in tow. To say that living with a family of procrastinators has been frustrating for him would be putting it mildly. When I told Ralph that I was going to give up procrastinating for Lent, he was my biggest cheerleader.
While it might be true that it takes 40 days to create a habit, it also takes patience. Patience on the part of the person trying to establish the habit, as well as patience on the part of anyone who happens to be living with someone trying to establish a new habit (especially if that person is his or her spouse). Ralph was so patient with me when I fell back to my old ways. He helped me get back on track every time in a kind and loving manner. Ralph never showed me the frustration that he was no doubt feeling, since I was doing a good job expressing my frustration with myself in front of both of us. Patience is definitely an underrated virtue in a marriage. This Lent I was blessed to be reminded of the virtue of patience and the positive impact it can have on a relationship.
Interestingly, I was also reminded of how important patience is in a relationship when the Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment staff spoke with all of the couples who were honored for their long-term marriages this past February. As I mentioned in my February article, the Diocese of Knoxville continues to participate in the World-Wide Marriage Encounter (WWME) contest to find the longest-married couple in the state and nation. The contest is held in conjunction with the annual World Marriage Day, and this is our third year participating in the event. Our diocese submits the name and information of a couple whose long-term marriage has been nominated for this honor by their family, friends, or parish.
I am happy to announce that our diocese has won state honors for the third year in a row. John and Grace Gridley from St. Stephen Parish in Chattanooga celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Jan. 31 and won the longest-married-couple honor in the state of Tennessee. As part of this effort, we also honor runner-up couples whose names were submitted to our office for the contest. This year we spoke with each couple and asked them which virtue played the strongest role in their long-term marriage. Most of them laughed and then said, “Patience.”
The need for patience only becomes more necessary as we age. Unfortunately we don’t age at the same rate. Some wives are healthier than their husbands, and vice versa. Some are in better physical shape. Some spouses have better memories. Some are procrastinators. I am sure that you can add your own reasons to my list of why we need more patience in our marriages. I appreciate this year’s long-term married couple honorees reminding me of the importance of practicing patience in our marriages.
Their reminders reinforced the takeaway lesson from my Lenten attempt to give up procrastinating. As it turned out, Lent was a win-win for me, just not the win-win that I was expecting. I am always amazed when I realize that God has a better plan for me than I do. I didn’t anticipate using my Lenten journey as a marriage enrichment opportunity, but that is what happened. Ralph and I are both filled with a stronger sense of gratitude for the gift of each other. I am still working on not procrastinating, and Ralph appreciates my effort to change my behavior. I appreciate the reminder that Ralph’s ability to be patient with me is a true act of love. Someday we hope to follow in the footsteps of our long-term married couples and win the WWME honor of being the longest married couple in Tennessee. I think that focusing on being patient with each other will definitely add many more years to our married life!
Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.