Beth: Marriage has a way of drawing out the best and the worst of us—and that’s all a part of the beautiful process of what God wants to do in us through this sacrament. It reminds me of bone broth.

Each December, we buy from some Benedictine sisters here in Colorado half a cow’s worth of beef to freeze for the year for our large family. Each year, the sisters ask if we want the soup bones, and I enthusiastically say, “Yes! We can use them to make bone broth!”

Bone broth is amazing. It contains many important vitamins and minerals, and it’s so good for you, especially when you are sick. But it takes a long time to make. You have to soak the bones in vinegar for a while and then put them in a pot with seasoning and water and let it simmer for twenty-four hours. The slow simmer gradually pulls all the good nutrients out of the bones and they become part of the broth. But the simmer also pulls out the bad stuff: over time, all the nasty impurities—the scum—from the bones rise to the surface, and you have to scrape it off to have the healthy bone broth to serve.

This is exactly what marriage is. Marriage is the slow simmer of God drawing out of us all that is good. But in the process, the bad stuff in us also has to come out—our sins, weaknesses, bad habits, hurts from the past, dysfunctional ways of interacting with others—all that has to be brought to the surface and scraped off.

Over the course of many years—through the daily joys and difficulties, kindnesses and hurts, disappointments and unexpected acts of service, acts of sacrifice, acts of love—God is slowly drawing out all the good in my husband and all the good in me. The Lord is also pulling out all that is bad in him and all that is bad in me, so that we can be purified together.

“The Little Way of Marriage”

But we do not always see this beautiful process of purification and healing in the midst of the daily struggles of marriage and family life, when we feel exhausted and stretched like never before. So, if you ever happen to face a “Dark Night” in your marriage, do not panic. Be assured that almost all devout Catholic couples have certain low moments when they wonder, “Why is this happening?” “How did we get here?” “Why is this so hard?”

 In those moments, realize that you are exactly where you need to be. This is not an accident, some big mistake. Jesus knew when you said “I do” that this dark night of suffering would come. He knew he wanted to step into your marriage in a more profound way at this point. He wants to meet you in this moment and draw more good out of you. And he may also want to bring to the surface some things in you that need to be purified—some scum that needs to be scraped away so you can be transformed and healed. Are you willing to meet Jesus in this way in your marriage?

When we feel completely stretched in marriage and family life, when we experience our poverty in a very real, profound way and we come to know deep in our hearts the truth that we don’t have what it takes to live this vocation—when we reach a low point and feel empty and have nothing left to give—it is then that Jesus can do his most amazing work in us, transforming us and our marriages in the most profound way. We call this “the Little Way of Marriage.” When we cry out to the Lord in our emptiness, he can’t help but come down and fill that spot, fill that.

The key is admitting we’re broken, confused, and hurt and giving the Lord permission to step more deeply into our individual souls and our relationship together as a couple. Jesus can’t hold back when we cry out to him. He meets us in our weaknesses and helps make up for what we lack.

This book is about this journey of transformation God wants to take us on in our marriages as we step-by-step learn to take on the heart of Christ. For that is what marriage is about. God did not bring us together as husband and wife so that he can make me feel good about myself, make me feel not alone, fulfill me, or make me happy.

This is not what a vocation is. A vocation is not about what someone does for me. It’s about giving myself away in love and finding a deeper purpose, meaning, healing, happiness, and holiness precisely through the thousand daily little acts of service and sacrifice that real love demands. Again, it’s all about the bone broth. A truly simmering marriage isn’t about rekindling romantic feelings and passions. It is about humbly allowing Jesus to draw all the good out of us through the challenges of the spousal relationship and allowing him to bring to the surface the weaknesses, wounds, and sins he wants to heal in us. It is all about that process of deepening and purifying our love.

This article is based on Edward and Beth Sri’s book, The Good, the Messy and the Beautiful: The Joys and Struggles of Real Married Life (Ascension Press).