Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weddings and Such

Just over one week ago, our youngest daughter got married. It was beautiful – the service, the reception, the sermon – everything. It was a wonderful day.

A few days before the ceremony someone wrote on Facebook that she hoped the wedding was everything my daughter dreamed of and more. My immediate thought was ‘I hope the wedding is great. But I hope their marriage is everything they dream of and more.’ Weddings are fabulous, celebratory events. But weddings are only one day. The marriage, by contrast, will comprise the rest of her life.

The wedding day might be everything the couple dreamed of. I hope that is true for every couple. Weddings should be marvelous beginnings filled with the best things. Planning for this event is no small task, especially, as I found out, for the mother of the bride. But planning a wedding is nothing compared to the work and attention that must go into a good marriage.

Marriage, like the Christian life, is hard work. And nearly every cultural trend will push against that idea.

Hollywood makes love look simple, uncomplicated. Happy endings are the rule, and are usually quite effortless. Love just seems to happen to people. “Fate” brings couples together and moves them apart, seemingly without much human exertion. And if the relationship does not work out, it was clearly not ‘meant to be.’ If an individual is not ‘happy,’ it is on to the next relationship.

Hollywood romance is self-centered. It’s all about my personal happiness. It is, in fact, about what I am getting out of this relationship.

But Christian marriage is all about God bringing two people together. Those two people make vows to love and serve each other and through this union, to serve the world around them. In other words, it is not inward focused, but outward focused.

Marriage is not about self-fulfillment, but self-sacrifice. Try selling that on daytime TV.

The Christian community is not immune to the cultural trends. We need to keep reminding ourselves that regardless of what culture says about the meaning of marriage, the Christian calling to marriage is quite a different thing. I appreciated, for example, how in my daughter’s ceremony the pastor asked first the families, and then congregation for their promise to support this new couple with encouragement and prayers.

I hope the friends and family gathered took that “I will” seriously.

Marriages, you see, like children, are nurtured best in community. The going will not always be easy, as every married person knows. The support and prayers of the Christian community are crucial if these new families are to survive the rough cultural currents. But when nourished in the community of faith, Christian marriage can be wonderful partnership for kingdom service.