Learning From the Giraffes (Part 1)

At the end of the summer, our family attended the Wichita Bar Association Family Night at the Zoo. Each of our kids received a zoo key. The zoo key could be inserted into a number of different stations to hear additional information about a variety of animals. As a marriage and family therapist, I was fascinated to learn about the giraffes.

Giraffes have community feeding patterns. For efficiency, harmony, and to maximize the food resources available, the males and females eat differently. The males strain their necks and extend their tongues to eat the leaves at their highest point. The females, on the other hand, curl their necks and feed from the lowest branches possible.

During our almost 20 years of marriage, my husband and I have given a number of marriage therapists a run for their money. Standing at the zoo exhibit, in my imagination, I was visualizing how my husband and I would have looked like as giraffes at different stages of our marriage. There were times when we both were jostling for the upper leaves at the same time, pushing each other in the process. Or there were other occasions when our necks get tangled and battered while going after the low-hanging fruit in an uncoordinated fashion. It seemed for many years we weren’t working together.

Not to imply that we’ve arrived; however, with time, a lot of work, perseverance, and commitment, things have gotten smoother. We’re learning to operate more in sync with God’s plan for our union. Our marriage started doing for us what God has intended: give us a venue to grow in holiness.

And there is a plan, an incredibly awesome plan. The Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage—whether they be found in sacred scripture, papal encyclicals, or the Catechism of the Catholic—are incredibly dead-on. I would put them against any secular and/ or academic study on marriage and family life that exists. Often Catholic teachings are misunderstood and distorted.

As married persons, our vocation is to discover our path to sanctification or holiness. When we understand and do God’s will with our spouses and families, we become more and more the women God intends us to be.

(In my next blog, I will discuss one of the most common teachings that never fail to arouse discussions and debates among women: being submissive to our husbands. Believe it or not, there are still many things we can learn from the giraffe on this one, so stay tuned.)

Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships tip: Don’t look at struggles in your marriage as an excuse for a pity party. Look at how you can be better and discern what response you can make to help the situation.