Obedience, Given Gladly

This week, we focus on marriage in anticipation of National Marriage Week and, of course, Valentine’s Day. We invite you to consider our author’s insights and comment with your own.

By: Carla Galdo, Guest Contributor

Obedience has been front and center in my mind in the last few weeks. Perhaps this is because my children, ages 9 and below, are still in the painful throes of learning how to make obedience a habit. Every day my husband and I struggle to teach them to make quick, positive responses to simple requests like everyday chores and schoolwork. It is often so difficult that I find myself wracking my brain for the slightest hint as to why. Why can’t my children realize the energy-saving efficiency of just doing something without complaining? Why do they grimace and groan, question and cajole, when asked to do a task? Why — and how — have I led them astray? Has it been my own example that has led them to believe that their argumentative, feet-dragging, pout-faced responses are acceptable?

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To my chagrin, I have to say that yes, it’s probably been a whole lot of me, responding in less than virtuous ways to life’s various situations. I pondered this as I recently read through the ancient Rule of Saint Benedict — the monastic rule that continues to guide the life of many religious communities even today. Obedience was a key virtue for St. Benedict — quick, cheerful, ready obedience to the abbot and other superiors in the community; and it seemed one of the keystones to maintaining peace and order. Knowing that even as adults, monks had to cultivate their ability to obey “almost at the same moment the master gives the instruction” (RSB 5.9), I considered how I could also cultivate this ability within my own vocation.

While life with my husband is clearly distinct from life in a monastery, we are called to make obedience a central feature in our relationship, in the spirit of Ephesians 5:21, which encourages both wives and husbands to “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” If we can live obedience in an attractive, cheerful way, our children will have a living example of virtue to encourage them in their attempts. How to live obedience is not always clear, however, even when it’s in the context of a healthy, Christ-centered marriage relationship, which harbors charity and good-will at its core. Here are a few suggestions on how to creatively live and model obedience in our marriages — suggestions which in many cases are applicable to both husbands and wives.

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Give way 
You know all those relatively insignificant decisions that come up every day? Where to stop for lunch on a road trip; who will keep the 2-year-old busy for the next hour; which chore to tackle first on an ambitious Saturday clean-up? So often, our instinct is to protect our own interests and our own ideas at all costs — yet a spirit of obedience leads us to accept cheerfully our spouse’s suggestions. Life, after all, is mostly made up of such small moments, and our response to them sets the tone for our lives.

Encourage
Your spouse has many God-given tasks, interests, dreams and schemes. Respect for these is, in a way, obedience to the person God has made them to be. At times, it’s hard to turn from our own plans and pursuits for the sake of our spouse’s; a joyfully obedient spirit will encourage them to flourish, and send them off with a smile, rather than a “sure-you-can-go-as-long-as-you-know-how-miserable-I’ll-be” grimace.

Stick to it
Obey the rhythm you have planned for your day – this honors your spouse’s time as well as your own. Did you plan to wake early to exercise or pray before breakfast? Go to bed on time and wake up when the alarm goes off. Did you and your spouse plan to spend the evening together after the kids were in bed? Shut down Facebook and turn off your phone.

Take up your cross
Sometimes the decisions are bigger, the stakes are higher and the sacrifices are harder, yet we are still called to a willing obedience in such moments — granted, again, good-will and charity on both sides of the issue in question.

Carla Galdo, a graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, is a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Church, in Purcellville. 

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