Weddings are kind of amazing. This has not always been true, of course. There was a time, not so long ago, when "big weddings" were events for rich people. Now, it seems that everyone must have a big wedding. Even people marrying for the third or fourth time want the whole thing done "right."
I wonder about how we got here. Until the middle of the last century (the 1900's, for those who have forgotten), weddings were simple affairs for almost everyone. The bride would wear her nicest dress, the groom would wear his suit, and the family and friends would all gather. The minister officiated in the church attended by one of the two parties (usually the bride). Very simple.
Rich people, of course, had very different weddings. They had expensive gowns and catered receptions. But they were rich. They did not have these things to impress anyone, but just because that was what they did.
Now, almost everyone wants a big wedding. More accurately, women seem to want big weddings. It is "their day," we are endlessly told. To this end, their fathers are expected to spend thousands of dollars, proving how they "love" their little girl. It is really rather sad.
After all, the services are all pretty much alike. The cliches are the same. People light the "unity candle," which is kind of cute but not very meaningful on any real level. Often, they will have "communion" with just the married couple, which is really odd given that it is called "communion" because it is supposed to be of all believers, but I digress.
The key is that the wedding itself does not really mean anything. The wedding I attended this weekend was, without question, the finest ceremony of any kind I have ever attended. The church was beautiful, the dresses were beautiful, the reception was as perfect as anything can be. The couple looked beautiful. Everything was perfect.
Yet, I wondered. They are married now and, once the ceremony is over, they are just as married (and no more married) than any other couple. Everyone had fun and the economy was nicely stimulated, but, at the end, it is still a young man and a young woman beginning an immense task.
I hope someone told them about all this. I hope that someone, at some time, said to them that they should think very seriously about the whole situation, not just love the wedding. They have good parents and good ministers and I am pretty sure someone talked to them. They seemed to take it all very well.
I hope they know how important this all is. I hope that all the cliches of the service actually meant something to them. I hope they understand that all the noise and bands and crowds will do them no good when they hit their first difficult situation.
I am always thankful for my own wedding. My bride did it all. We had a small wedding, in her small church, with family and friends. Our reception was a pot-luck brought by her family and friends. Our "honeymoon" was moving into our new place. Our photographer was her uncle (we never even look at the pictures). Everything in our wedding said "we are starting a normal life together." I am glad of all that.
A beautiful wedding is a lot of fun. I enjoyed this weekend's wedding as much as any I have attended, except for two. First, my own wedding. Second, the one wedding I performed. In that wedding, the bride and groom decided to forego the usual cliches and have a church celebration of their marriage, and it was beautiful of them to do so.
I love a nice wedding. I hope it will be the start of a wonderful relationship.
Last night, my wife and I attended a wedding rehearsal dinner for the daughter of a close friend. At some point, of course, people got up to give toasts and tell stories. I did not say anything because I am not a close friend of the young people. But if I had, I think I would have said something like this:
Our God is an amazing God. All that He does is beyond our full understanding. We see the complexities and beauties of His creation everywhere we look. From the mountains, to the oceans, to the trees, to the leaves on the trees, each thing is complex, subtle, beautifully arranged. Even in small things, His hand always leaves marks of His love for us. As we peel an orange, we find segments and segments within segments, all there by His grace.
He does the same thing in the marriages He has given us. Those of us here, who have been married many years, can tell you this. He has created each of you, filled with your own thoughts and your own ideas, your own wants and your own needs. And, now, He brings the two of you together in a married couple.
You think, sitting here, that you know what this marriage will bring. You believe that you know the one you love so well that nothing will surprise you. But God always surprises you. For a Creator who lavished such care on oranges and leaves, imagine the care He has lavished on each of you.
Tomorrow evening, at your wedding, His creative powers will be shown again in you. You will learn so much more than you know now about each other. In years to come, it will seem, looking back, that you knew nothing on your wedding day. The depths of who you are, and Who He is, will amaze you.
In 30 years, and I speak from experience, you will be amazed at what God has wrought.
In the book "The Magician's Nephew," CS Lewis tells of a boy and girl who observe the creation of the world of Narnia. It is a beautiful story, filled with amazement and even fear, as life comes from nothing.
Tonight, we, your friends, are like that boy and girl. We stand and watch as God creates a new thing, a living, breathing, relationship like nothing that ever existed before. To Him, therefore, and to you, we raise a toast. To new life and to new lives. May God bless you as you begin yours.
For a lot of us, marriage represented a kind of "fixed state" into which we were entering. We knew our parent's marriages, or so we thought, and they seemed pretty stable. Whether good or bad, they looked stable to us. We did not think of ourselves as changing and we certainly did not think our new spouse was going to change, so everything would be "just like today."
We learned, within a few weeks at least, that this was not true. Your suddenly sexual relationship alone made a big difference, if you were celibate until marriage, but everything changed. You suddenly lived together and saw each other all the time. You saw your spouse not just when they were ready to be seen, but all the time. Things change.
Getting used to that change is sort of the center part of being married. You come to realize that all the "stable" marriages you saw when you were young only looked stable. They were actually dynamic relationships, changing all the time. The people who had you as a baby (when they were 25 or so) were very different from the people who raised you (in their 30's) and the people who hold your children as their grandchildren (in their 50's).
That is kind of what it is all about. I realized, the other day, that I actually do not even remember the details of my marriage relationship from 20 years ago. I cannot remember the tones of voice that seemed so important at the time. I don't remember how much we laughed, or cried, or just sat silent. I remember some events, but the day to day experience of the marriage is not something easy to remember. (What I do remember, I do not trust. I know how memory clouds things.)
So, lots of things change. Everything, in fact, changes. You change. He changes. Your situations change. Everything changes.
Yet, still, there is something that must be said. I remember more than you might think. I do not remember all the little things of my life, but I remember my wife. I remember how she looked when I married her. I remember how she looked on our first night together. I remember how much I loved her then, knowing her only a very little compared to now. Sometimes, when I look at her now, I see the girl I married, as she was when I married her. I cannot look at myself and see myself as a young man, but I can look at her and remember her as a young wife.
Everything changes and we deal with those changes. We grow and our love grows and we have hard times. Sometimes, it seems that the changes may overwhelm us.
But, if we stay together, we build something worth having. Through all the changes, if we hold to each other, we end up with something that cannot be broken.
Right now, my life is going pretty well (except for money, but why be depressing now). I am enjoying my life. One of the things I do when I enjoy something is I smile. I also laugh. I enjoy things, I smile, and I laugh.
This drives my wife crazy. To her, laughing is what you do when something is funny. When she hears a laugh (even when she sees a smile), she assumes that I am "laughing at" something. If I am laughing because of how much I love her, she assumes I am "laughing at" her and is offended.
Is that about as good an example of human relationships as you can find? I laugh because I am happy and in love with her. My wife remains a beautiful woman and I am happy to be married ot her. I sometimes see her and just smile at the pleasure of her presence. She interprets this as being unloving. AARGH!
How often this is how our lives go. Everyone is doing something logical and reasonable and kind, but it is not perceived that way by everyone. I was raised in a happy family where smiling and laughing were how we related. She was raised in an unhappy family where negative attitudes and judgment were frequent. Her response to my laughing is as automatic as my laughing is. She is being reasonable, I am being reasonable.
Going forward in your life, be very careful about how you interpret what your husband does. Remember that his life was not like yours before you were married. No matter how long you have been married, he is not exactly like you. He may not mean what you think he means.
So, how am I supposed to deal with this? I don't know. I enjoy my life and I love my wife and would not know how to stop smiling and laughing. The trouble is that I really do love her and am happy to be with her.
Smiling and laughing is pretty much a natural response. :)
One of the great struggles for all of us is dealing with hard days. We are surrounded, each of us, by sinful people. We know that we are to love them, which, biblically, means we are to seek their good, not our good, in our relationships with them. We are to be patient with them, kind to them, gentle with them. The same thing is true in our marriage. We are to be kind, loving, gentle, forgiving, patient, and all the other things that the preacher said at our wedding. We are not to seek our own. We are not to be whiners and complainers.
But, no matter who we are, there are days. There are times when you feel as if you have been just as kind, patient, and gentle as you could possibly be. There are times when you just cannot take another whine from someone else. There are days where you just have to close a door and spend a moment in quiet or you are going to explode.
This is where love gets its greatest test. At that point where you reach the breaking point. Where you feel that someone else needs to be patient, that someone else needs to be gentle, that someone else needs to listen to what you want to say to them. People whine and complain endlessly. People devour your time in nonsensical things. People never repay the kindnesses you have given to them. There is a point where you just want to give up and blow up and let it all out.
The tendency of people to decide that they have been "patient enough" is merely one more sin. What makes you think that there is such a point? I am not told "be patient enough" but "be patient." I am not told "be gentle enough" but "be gentle." The measure is never outside of myself. It is about who I am.
We talk about someone being "more patient" than we are, but that is really a false concept. We are either patient or we are not patient. We either are gentle or we are not. Being gentle for a few days is not being gentle. Being patient for a few hours is not being patient.
Hard Days arise for us. Days where the people in our lives seem worse than usual. Days where something goes wrong and sets us off. Days where we snap a little, where we bark a little, where we are not patient with someone. Days where, after we have sinned, we excuse it by remembering how patient we were before we were not patient anymore.
Hard Days come. Being patient is about always being patient. The fruit of the Spirit is not gentleness "up to a point" but gentleness itself. The fruit of the Spirit is not reasonable patience, but patience itself.
Do not let the Hard Days beat you. The defeat in such cases is not just for a moment or even for the Hard Day. It is a defeat of everything you want to be, everything God is making you to be.
Hard Days are the test. Do not fail it.