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I always knew I would have a traditional Catholic wedding. It was what we did. My parents got married in the Catholic Church. My sisters got married in the Catholic Church. I, a cradle Catholic, would obviously get married in, yup...you guessed it... the Catholic Church. And so we attended pre-Cana, chose the readings, brought the family-friend priest in from out of town, and an incredible Catholic ceremony happened on a beautiful fall day on the Upper East side of Manhattan. And just like that, we became husband and wife.

We were so in love.

And yet, we had no idea what true love was.

Why? I think it's because I always held tight to this one moment in the courtship stage of our relationship. When I surprised him at the hotel where he worked on my way home from my job, his face would light up, giving birth to a smile that stretched deep and wide; I swear, in that instant, I had never felt more wanted for being just who I was.  Surely, this was true love. This being seen and joyfully embraced for doing nothing other than just showing up, it was all so easy that it must have been love.

But beware of falling into the trap of believing that love is a feeling.

Be sure to ground yourself in something greater than how someone makes you feel.

It took being anchored to nothing and drifting away to wake up to truth; that love is not a feeling but an intentional action, a choice. That love is not about how much I can gain, but how much can I give. It is not about how much you fill me, but how empty can I be. And because I have chosen to love you in all times, then I will also choose to die to myself and invite Jesus into this relationship without delay, because a marriage without Jesus in the middle is just as good as bringing your boat to dock and never dropping the anchor.

It will drift away.

As did mine.

But because God loves nothing more than stepping into our brokenness, if we let Him. He rescued me from my “quit and stay” attitude towards my marriage. And He didn't lead me down a  path of rose petals lined with scented candles. He didn't gently place me down on a soft lounge chair, beachfront, with a tropical drink in my hand. But He took my hand and He walked me to the foot of the cross. He led me to the wood that my own hands nailed Him to, the thorns that pierced His head, and He showed me that…. THIS. THIS is love. The betrayal, the scourging, the beating, the heavy carrying, the nails, the unfairness, all that He endured for me, was endured out of love. And He reminded me that while none of that felt good, while not a moment of it was easy, all of it, every single bit of it, was fueled by love. A love so deep, so life giving, that not even death could not destroy it.

I am still learning about this love. And it has not been through romantic dinners, or exotic getaways that my husband and I have come to know love. It has been by the cross we have been chosen to carry. The necessary hardships we have been entrusted with. The long suffering placed upon us. And it has been by His grace upon grace, that we receive it as a gift; a way to minister and intercede to and for those who walk the same path, who yearn for relief, who have been burdened by a similar cross. And in this sharing and uniting, we get a glimpse of the sorrowful heart of Jesus; the indescribable love that is let loose and takes over; the very thing that by its beating and breaking, miraculously holds us together.

You know, I hear my young girls talk about love. The world is trying to redefine it for them. Music lyrics write love off as an emotion, something you can throw away, a gift that's totally dependent on your looks and body. Social media wants them to believe that without a boyfriend, they are undesirable, alone, never complete. And they chase after this secular love…this lie...and they believe that love is something that will only make them happy, feel wonderful, and will free them of any pain, anxiety, worry, or problems. It is all so wrong and upside down and couldn't be a more inaccurate definition of what true love is.

You see, real love is messy, painful, hard, and risky. I pray that my children, in witnessing how their parents have lived through hard times and yet held tight to Jesus, recognize that the glue in this relationship has nothing to do with the occasional bouquet of roses or heart shaped box of chocolates, but everything to do with the cross.  Feeling in love is great, for sure. But if you want to feel great, go and eat a piece of cheesecake or watch Nacho Libre. But if you are seeking true love, run to the foot of the cross. Point your children, who are dying to be seen, known and loved, in that direction as well. Offer Him everything you are and have and invite Him into your heart. Hand Him your loved ones. Trust Him with your very life. Anchor yourself to Him, who is love; to Him, who joyfully embraces you for doing nothing other than just showing up.

 

With all my love,

Laura

Get your copy of Harmony, Part I of the Keeping in Balance Young Adult Series, here!

Laura Phelps author bio

I have tremendous hope for tomorrow. My hope lies in the power and faithfulness of God, the indestructibility of truth, and the youth I witnessed at SEEK 2019.

A year ago, Walking with Purpose hosted a booth at the FOCUS Student Leadership Summit (SLS 18). This was a high energy gathering of 9,000 young adult, Catholic leaders. I had the privilege of giving the closing keynote and we sold thousands of our new young adult Bible studies. We were scattering seeds and praying that they would take root. Our greatest desire was to pass on a passion for God's Word to the next generation.

January 3-7, Walking with Purpose hosted another booth at a national FOCUS event, this time at SEEK 2019. SEEK drew 18,000 Catholic college students to Indianapolis, IN, and we were excited to launch our newest young adult Bible studies series- Harmony, Perspective and Exhale. We experienced hundreds of conversations with young women who were back for more, because the seeds that were planted a year ago had taken firm root. These young women had been delving into our Bible studies, using them for personal growth and also leading small groups of other students all over the country.

The Holy Spirit is on the move on our college campuses. I know that depressing statistics abound, telling us that this next generation is walking away from the Church. And I don't deny that many are. But what I witnessed at SEEK was thousands of young people determined to chart a path to holiness, service, and intimacy with Jesus. I have never been more inspired and encouraged in ministry. What a mountaintop experience.

While having incredible heart-to-heart conversations with young people was the highlight of my week, it was also an enormous joy to give a talk titled “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.” I shared that after the decision regarding whether or not to follow Christ, the next most important decision we will ever make is who we marry. I challenged everyone to start thinking about their future marriages with their eyes wide open, and to pay attention to the ways in which our culture has lied to them about marriage.

We explored the following five lies and debunked them with truth:

~Getting Married will fix what's broken in my heart.

~It doesn't matter if he/she shares my faith if he/she is a good person.

~My porn use won't damage my marriage.

~Tinder and other dating apps are a good way to find a life-partner.

~Living together before getting married is a good way to see how compatible you are.

The lies make sense, but each one represents a pitfall that moves people farther away from a successful, happy marriage. It's my prayer that the openness I saw in the students is an indicator that they will grasp hold of truth and stay on the path to good and healthy future marriages.

As I came to the end of my talk, I acknowledged how hard it is to navigate the current “dating world”. But my belief in the strength and conviction within these students gives me great hope that they are going to make great choices, some better than the ones those of us in our generation have made.

What do I see within them?

I see an inner-strength, power, and desire to have a healthy, good life.

In a world that longs for comfort and often settles for superficiality, I see their hunger for truth, justice and holiness. It sets them apart.

I wish that their desire to grow closer to God meant that the enemy would just give up and leave them alone. But I know that nothing scares him more than young men and women who know their true identity as beloved children of God, and he is terrified of the ones who take their faith seriously. The more committed to God they get, the more the enemy will tempt them to settle for mediocrity.

Because of that reality…

I pray that we all would exhale any sense of powerlessness- the feeling that nothing will ever change. May we inhale the spirit of hope.

May we exhale any sense of complacency that wants to settle where it's comfortable. I pray we would inhale passion for holiness and a willingness to take risks and pursue greatness.

May we exhale any religiosity which might tempt us to equate outward religious appearance with inward conversion. May we inhale God's grace.

I pray most of all that God would have our hearts- that most precious part within. May He meet us in that hidden place, bringing balance, rest, and peace.

With you on the journey,

Lisa

Watch Lisa's talk at SEEK 2019 and share it with a young adult!

Lisa Brenninkmeyer

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