My dear friends Kevin and Holly have been married for nearly a week now.
On the surface, it seems a fairly normal thing to me. People get married. They have children and become families. They pay mortgages, eat together, and occasionally have fights. That sort of thing.
And just a bit below this surface, the thought of people that I’ve known for some time now, the thought of them beginning this kind of life, is beyond my comprehension. Because they are entering into a stage of life that is reserved for grown-ups.
Then I remember that I myself am getting older. We are all getting older.
When you’re a Christian, in America, you don’t really start seriously talking about sex until you begin to hear the wedding bells go off. Or, at least until they go off for your friends. A few of my friends have been egging Kevin on, laughing, making promises to provoke him in the coming months about the sex we’re not getting.
And this is good. This is funny. Friends are not only there for you to be serious with, but also to laugh with, too.
Yet, I wonder if this also scratches at the surface of something that we as Christians, or perhaps, even as human beings in general, overlook. It’s probably just a eighteen to twenty-two year old thing. Or maybe even a eighteen to thirty year old thing. But spoken or unspoken, the way that young people tend to view marriage is,
walking down the altar = sex
We have names for this joke at my school. We call it “ring before spring”. My friend Katie the Violinist calls her school “Moody Bridal Institute”. She, like many of my friends who will be seniors this fall, talk about marriage bitterly. With not-so-subtle hints of jealousy.
And I join in, too. Because being single isn’t all that bad. Except in how it absolutely is.
My friends and I are really great at following this unwritten, universal process of grieving over singledom. We go from general talk of marriage, to jealousy, to questioning the motives of our married friends, to self-pity. And repeat.
I spend a great deal of time rationalizing and planning how I will never marry. How I will throw away marriage, how it doesn’t work for other people and how it will not work for me. I list my quirks. I think about how I sleep through multiple alarms. I think about my love handles. I think about my absent-mindedness. I picture my life as a bachelor, with a few flings here and there. Maybe a one-night stand or two. Or three.
Which, this sounds great to selfish people like myself. And then I do things like go to weddings, where I am slapped in the face with reality. With grown-up things. With responsibility.
After spending all this time thinking about me and how my life will be if I do X, Y, Z, I sit down in a church pew and discover that weddings really have nothing to do with you. Everything in marriage is about what is not you.
Rather, we are privileged spectators of beauty. And we are stewards to our spouses, but only to a point; we are merely pieces in a greater puzzle, characters in a greater story.
Once upon a time, nearly all Christians called themselves Catholics. And once upon a time, they viewed marriage as something transcendent. As an act of worship. And I’ve been wondering if perhaps more of us should view marriage in this light.
In watching Kevin and Holly looking longingly into each others eyes as they repeated the minister’s words, I think I saw a little bit of what must have been God.
And in that moment, my thoughts of me-ness dissipated. I forgot my woes and silly complaints and remembered that, there some things in this world are indeed beautiful. Sacred. Not that the life of a bachelor is necessarily above forgiveness, but that there is something about married life that is to be respected; to be revered.
As for marriage and myself, I can’t really say. What I can say; what I have been learning recently, is that it is indeed a big deal. Which is, probably fairly obvious to most.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m thankful for marriage. I’m thankful for the celebration that comes with the joining of dear friends. I’m thankful for what a reminder it is that some things in this world are still sacred. Because all too often, I tend to forget this.
What are you thankful for today?