Sunday, May 24, 2015

How to Sustain Love in Every Stage of Life

I remember learning in my BYU Marriage Preparation class that the Law of Chastity is NOT a race to the finish line of marriage. I did not understand then what they were trying to teach me because in the hormonal mind of a teenager or young adult it certainly feels like a race. It took me a couple years of marriage and difficult trials in my marriage to even begin to comprehend that living the Law of Chastity is a way of life and love that applies to every stage of a person's life. It is so much more than a restriction of sex before marriage.

It is about learning to live in Christlike love, rather than selfish lust. And that is a lesson that even married couples must continue to learn again and again. In fact, I would postulate that marriage requires an even greater amount of self control and bridling of passions than any other stage of life. To restrain ourselves from unhealthy obsession over our passions even when they are technically allowed their full expression requires an even greater selflessness, control, and consideration of another person's feelings and desires. And when children come along the ability to sacrifice selfish desires and bridle passions must become even more honed to ensure the success of the family.

The problem with seeing the Law of Chastity as a race to finish or a fence holding us back is that is does not foster healthy and whole sexuality within marriage. This flawed concept of chastity leads to fear and reservation - that something so carefully preserved will become broken, dirty, or lost. But when that gift is selflessly shared with a partner to whom you are married and have committed yourself to in love it can only bless and strengthen. It is only when it is used as a tool for selfish gratification, rather than a way to grow in Christlike love together, that the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of the relationship and individuals begin to erode. This can happen both within and outside of marriage. Hence, the inspired admonishment from Alma: "See that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love" (Alma 38:12).  

I did not finally begin to grasp this crucial concept until I read this inspired counsel in one of my favorite books in a time of marital crisis: "Even for the married there is a time and place to think about sexuality and a time not to think about it. Ancient words of wisdom say, 'To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven ... a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing' [Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5]" (He Restoreth My Soul, 136). I'm embarrassed to admit that it was like a light bulb went off in my mind as I realized that too much of my marriage had been focused on the physical, and the spiritual and emotional had been allowed to suffer as a result. This realization allowed me to set healthy boundaries and healthy habits that would reserve sexuality for an appropriate time and place and foster the emotional and spiritual in both myself and our marriage.

When we learned to put God first in our marriage, every area of our relationship - emotional, spiritual, and physical - grew more than we had ever thought possible. To try to go through this process of growing in these three key areas without a willing, cooperative spouse is in fact possible but very difficult. When a spouse is unresponsive, mired in addiction, suffering from mental or physical illness, or absent I believe that the Savior will make up the difference if we faithfully come to Him as humble, willing individuals. Even one person or spouse drawing nearer to God by setting healthy boundaries and habits will strengthen that person and thereby their marriage. In Young Women's I learned that eternal marriage is not merely a union between two people, but a triangle between God, a man, and a woman. Even if only two are invested it can still grow and be saved. My goal in my marriage is to stay in it so long as God is still in it with me because I covenanted with Him, not just my husband.

Nothing but good can come by drawing closer to the Spirit and I know that even in times of crisis it can work miracles within and around us. But the way to be worthy of the Spirit is to bridle all our passions. When we are worthy of the Spirit we will be filled with the love of God for ourselves and others - a love that I have never known an equal too. It is a love that fills me with complete peace, hope, happiness, and a desire to share it. To bridle my passions seems such a small token of sacrifice to feel that supernal love and usher it into my relationships for eternity.

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