Friday, June 17, 2005

The subject of marriage

My friend Mindi is feeling the stress about marriage. A young man who used to be in my youth group just got married. I just realized that I will be traveling next year on my 24th wedding anniversary. Seems like marriage has been a recurring thought of late. So maybe it's time for me to talk it out.

First my former youth getting married - I've known John since he was about 6 and he was a handful and a half. One year on retreat when he was middle school age he got into a huge row with the kid he was rooming with that blew up into a confrontation with me and the other adults. John never had any of the "big" problems but he sometimes seemed to have a full portion of the "small" problems of growing up. And there he stood, in white tuxedo, so emotional about marrying the woman he loves that tears were streaming down his face. John really has grown up into a helluva nice guy, one that I'm proud to say is now a friend. Watching "my kids" grow and get married makes me feel old. But it also makes me fall in love with marriage all over again.

Mindi is feeling the cultural heat, I think, of a woman past a certain age that hasn't been married yet. Like somehow she's not a complete person. What a crock. As much as I love being married I've watched too many folks I know get married for the wrong reasons. (The list of "wrong reasons" to get married could fill a good sized book so I won't go into them here. I bet you can come up with a fairly complete list on your own) Putting pressure on ourselves and our loved ones (but do we really love someone that we inflict these kinds of ridiculous expectations on?) to get married just....well, stupid, hurtful to the people involved and disrespectful to the institution of marriage. I hope and pray that the right person for Mindi comes along and they sweep each other mutually off their feet for a lifetime of crazed happiness.

Let me take a minute to talk about the disrespect for marriage. It starts with a glorification of weddings. This needs to be clear - a wedding is a one day event, marriage is intended to be the rest of your life. The current ongoing and growing rage for creating "fairy tale" weddings that are ever more grandiose and expensive is, in my opinion, an incredibly bad idea and disrespectful to marriage. When your wedding is "perfect" (spare me)and glorious and wonderful, how do you survive the day to day mundane rest of your life? How can it not suffer? Why would you not look at that other person shuffling out of bed in the morning with pillow head, puffy eyes and scruffy clothes and not find them seriously lacking in comparison to the vision that stood next to you at your wedding. Beyond that is the huge monetary outlay for a one day event instead of investing that money in the future of the couple. I'm a firm believer that marriages would be better off with simpler ceremonies followed by handing the young couple a check for the balance.

Every time I attend a wedding ceremony the words bring tears to my eyes and I end up holding hands with my wife. The vows I made that day over 23 years ago still have a hold on me. My lady wife and I have been through sickness and health in that time, I've been unemployed twice (so far), so has she, we're finishing up raising a child to adult hood (with that set of adventures), moved 7 times (so far)and in the end still find out greatest joy in one another. Just the sound of her voice still kicks up my heart rate, and doing anything is more fun if we do it together.

The longer I write the more thoughts I have about marriage but I'll knock it off now. With one last thought - I believe that the largest cause of divorce is not taking marriage seriously enough. Not so much DURING but BEFORE folks get married. We've made it all about the wrong things so we shouldn't be surprised when it blows up. There's wisdom in the old saw "Marry in haste, repent at leisure".


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