For Worse? A Mindful Christian Approach to Marriage in Quarantine

My husband retired in January. Things have not been like I expected. First, my mother’s funeral was the day after he retired. Then came coronavirus. So far we have cancelled two vacations, losing money on both. At the same time, my engineer husband is closely observing the way I have managed our home. And he has suggestions. Many suggestions.

Our love languages also create a problem that we have to be mindful about. My husband’s primary love language is quality time … which is currently all the time. Out of the five love languages, that’s at the bottom for me. Even more challenging, my love language … gifts … is at his bottom.

So I order him gifts online, and he follows me around the house. Did I mention he is also making suggestions?

I looked for some support for this and found a good article in the New York Times: “Welcome to Marriage During the Coronavirus.” Author Jennifer Senior interviewed therapist Esther Perel who said some stylistic differences may be relevant to how well we are getting along with our spouses:

  • How we get information in a crisis: On a continuum, are you a news junkie/binger or do you say, “enough is enough” and turn off the source, be it TV or internet.
  • How consumed we get by the situation: Are you preoccupied with risk or focused on maintaining a normal life?
  • How you are handling your time: Are you structured and proactive in dealing with your days or are you passive and fatalistic?

Happily, my husband and I only differ on getting info. As a former journalist, I love input. (It’s my top strength in the Strength Finder.) But I am going his way and being very intentional about getting information only at set times.

Time magazine also got a list from couples’ therapists for getting along. Click here to read it. And here are my new ideas:

  • Pray together and do Bible study. Take the time to build your relationship with God. If you are listening, God will help to strengthen your marriage rather than tearing it down.
  • Stop criticizing each other. Viewing each other with compassion is truly a giant step. The late great Cokie Roberts once wrote: “You can tell the quality of your marriage by the number of teeth marks in your tongue.”
  • Spend some time apart every day.
  • Ramp up your own contemplative practice and mindfulness. It will help you stay calm enough to not be reactive.
  • Laugh. If you haven’t laughed hard by 7 p.m., watch, read or listen to something funny.

Mary’s Courageous “Yes”

When I get a chance to have a conversation with the Virgin Mary … imagine the line in heaven … I would like to ask her how she had the courage to say yes to Gabriel’s invitation to become the mother of Jesus.

She trusted God beyond any measure. She believed that she could have God’s baby. And she believed that it would be worth any pain that she would have to endure. After the baby was born, she was told that the pain would be like a sword going through her soul.

I would love to know how she grew up and how she learned about God. What experiences did she have that allowed her to love that deeply, to trust that fully?

After nearly 60 years of faith, I still struggle with understanding what God wants me to do and having the trust to do it. Mary is our example, and I love her for it.

Hope in a Time of Pandemic

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 8:25 NIV

Lately I feel a bit like the Lloyd Bridges character in “Airplane” who picked a bad day to give up all his addictions. I picked hope as my word for Lent, long before I knew I would be cloistered in my home. (Not quarantined, folks. Cloistered. It’s a choice.)

When you hope for what you do not see (i.e. the end of this pandemic), we have to wait. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and we can ask for more of it.

In “Jesus Today,” Sarah Young suggests that we practice hoping for things we don’t see … even during good times. That includes things in this life and the next.

She also suggests that we ask Jesus to guide us into hopes and dreams in line with His will. Then we focus our eyes on Him as we wait for opportunities to do what He wants, praying for His will to be done.

Let’s do this together, no matter what scary thing happens next.

The Man God Depended On

In 1985, I had a baby at the same time that my then-husband developed a severe psychosis. I had a feeling that I would be raising my son alone. (I was right.) So I named him after the man I trusted could help me: Joseph.

Today we celebrate Joseph of Nazareth, the man God depended on to help raise Jesus. The Bible tells us that Joseph was “just.” This doesn’t only mean that he was fair. He was aligned with doing God’s will, no matter what. Even when devastated by what he thought was Mary’s betrayal, he wanted to do the right thing.

And he did. He married Mary. He named Jesus. He woke up in the night and took his family to Egypt based on a dream. He brought them back to Nazareth. He lived with Jesus for an unknown number of years. He taught Him, and he learned from Him.

When the neighbors were astounded at Jesus’ teaching, they asked, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Yes, he was. And I think there was a resemblance.

Be Cloistered Inside God’s Love

Mindful Christianity is abiding in Jesus moment by moment. The best description I’ve heard of this comes from Carl McColman:

“God is love. God loves all of us and wants us to experience abundant life. This means abiding in love — love of God and love of neighbors as ourselves. Through prayer and worship, meditation and silence, we can commune with God, experience His presence, have our consciousness transformed by His spirit, participate in His loving nature, and be healed and renewed in that love. This new life (what the New Testament calls ‘the mind of Christ’) will not only bring us joy and happiness (even when we suffer), but will also empower us to be ambassadors for God, to bring God’s love, joy and happiness to others.”

Carl McColman, “The Big Book of Christian Mysticism”

The call to envelop ourselves in God’s love does come at a price: the suffering Jesus paid in His crucifixion AND our need to relinquish “control.”

In these days of coronavirus, we can all see how little control we actually have over our lives. Perhaps this is the best possible time to live in God’s love and be God’s love to our families.

Praying Inside God’s Will

Quite a few of us are praying about COVID-19. I have a long list of people, groups, causes and places I love, which I pray for every day. The Lord has recently been prompting me to find a quieter way to pray inside His will.

Instead of having a long list of what I think SHOULD happen, I am just lifting up the individuals and the groups to God for His will to be done. I am no longer Mrs. God, handing the Lord his honey-do list.

After all, as Psalm 139:4 says, “Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, Oh Lord.”

God knows what we need. The purpose of prayer is to help us grow closer to God and to understanding His will. Just lifting up a person or a cause before the Lord and asking that His will be done is enough.

Get Hygge With This Very Long Sabbath

How many times have we whined that we were too busy? Well, nature just took care of that. When we are isolated / socially distanced at home, our attitude makes all the difference.

I’m challenging myself to see this period as an extended Sabbath that I can brighten with hygge elements, like candles, a fire, plenty of reading, and snuggling with my husband and cats.

During this Sabbath, I can spend more time in prayer, which is needed, and study. My husband is teaching himself to bake. I am finally going to read a foot-high pile of magazines. (I’m glad I didn’t listen to you about this, Marie Kondo.).

While I am an introvert who owns the book, “Sorry I’m Late. I Didn’t Want to Come,” I think reframing the concept of social distancing into something wonderful like a Sabbath will work even for extroverts.

This is the time to calm down and get caught up. Enjoy as best you can.

Give Intentional Compliments

With everyone hunkered down, it’s a good time to become intentional about giving at least one sincere compliment a day to family, friends or people who have inspired you.

My inbox is packed with emails about cancellations, closings and concern from everyone I have ever done business with, including museums I’ve visited once and shoe companies. So I imagine yours is, too.

It’s a perfect time to send a complimentary email. And those folks that are stuck with us at home deserve to know that we appreciate them. The more specific the compliment is, the better.

Resource: “Sacred Rhythms”

One of the essential books for Christian mindfulness is Ruth Haley Barton‘s “Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.” I’ve recently finished reading it for the third time as part of Lenten practice.

Ruth Haley Barton

Barton, who is a spiritual director and founder/CEO of the Transforming Center, walks chapter by chapter through the spiritual disciplines that help one lead an intentional life in the presence of Jesus.

She writes about solitude, Scripture, prayer, honoring the body, self-examination, discernment and Sabbath. Each chapter ends with ideas for how to move the content into your own life. Finally she instructs readers how to prepare a rule for life so we can live closer to God in any life season.

Barton also co-hosts an excellent podcast, “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership.” The current season is covering Lent. She’s a wonder! I hope you look her up.