On Sunday I drove to the Eastern Shore to attend a wedding of two former students. I know that for many couples today, marriage is old fashioned, an arrangement that some sociologists say has had its day, but now lies as deflated as helium balloons after a party. I do not share that view because I believe this union between a man and a woman has roots extending back to the Garden of Eden.
Rain had pelted the beautiful gardens at the Silver Swan Marina for the greater part of the day. Yet the groom met me inside the tent and assured me that his bride would say “I do” outside.
Now in their 30s, they had waited many years to wed, finished college and post graduate degrees, planned a future that included building their home on the farm, next to her parents’ home — to look after them as the years passed.
But the bride’s Dad had died, the economy nosedived; they had not built the house on the farm. But today they would wed. The bride’s Mom would happily walk her daughter down the aisle. The guests looked at the rough waters of the Chesapeake Bay, the fishing boat that bobbed just beyond the pastor’s podium and the unity candle. Amid the lapping water each guest could consider the setting, the planning, the weather, the people. “The wedding lasts a day; the marriage is to last a lifetime.” So my husband and I have told countless couples we’ve counseled before they wed.
So I watched the sky and thought about the bride and groom. Every marriage unites two sinners. There’s no one else out there to choose from, you know! So they bravely came down the aisle as the sky winked briefly. The bride and her Mom walked toward the groom, and heaven opened a small portal; the clouds began to part. Those there to join in this sacred celebration of a man and a woman sighed prayers of thanksgiving as the skies cleared.
Something rather unique occurred in this particular ceremony, something I do not remember having heard before — and I have attended many, many weddings. The pastor asked the bride if she had received Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. He then queried her about acknowledging her own sinful nature. After her affirmative answers, the pastor posed the same questions to the groom. After his affirmations came the homily and the traditional wedding vows. Before two human beings promise to love, cherish, and obey in sickness or in health, in want or in plenty, they do well to consider their own sinful state and look to the God who can hold their marriage together “until death do us part.”
The pastor pronounced them husband and wife; they kissed! Joy popped like the cork coming from a champagne bottle! Let the celebrating begin! At the reception, the bride read her poem to her new husband ; the best man toasted the newlyweds; the groom held his new bride in his arms and twirled her around the dance floor. High school graduation lay over a decade ago for them both. They had weathered storms, experienced grief, watched each other struggle through disappointments.
I find such refinements painful but apt glue for bonding marriages. Lots of the romantic notions, quick courtships, and “Just get married” comments from well meaning friends and family, can make a couple avoid the hard topics. I loved watching the ceremony and thinking about the years of preparation these two had invested in relationships –with the Lord and then with each other. Just before I headed west across the Bay Bridge that evening, I pointed my camera that way. May the household of faith, the one established today, bear the delights of God’s blessing.