I went to my nephew’s wedding this past weekend. Our extended family rarely gets a chance to be together so it was a special time, not to mention the wonderful reason for us being there –Rachel and Ben’s wedding.
One of the readings they chose for the ceremony is a perennial favorite of weddings throughout the Christian world. It’s from Paul’s first letter to those rascally Corinthians. Chapter 13…love is…
I love this passage. However, as it was read I thought about how I have a different view of it now than I did thirty-plus years ago when my wife and I were married. My guess is that those many years ago, I was hoping my bride was listening carefully to Paul’s words: love is (implying you [are]) patient, kind, forgiving, etc. I’m sure I was thinking: Bonnie, I sure hope you are listening to this. Yeah, at twenty-four years old I liked the sound of those wise Biblical! words.
After three decades however, I don’t think it really works that way. I believe Paul’s words are directed at us, but more importantly for me to carry out. Almost four years ago I shared this with my own son and daughter-in-law on their wedding day. I suggested, “Insert I into everything love does in Paul’s letter.” When you do this it reads something like:
“I am patient, I am kind. I am not jealous, I am not pompous, I am not inflated, I am not rude, I do not seek my own interests, I am not quick-tempered, I do not brood over injury, I do not rejoice over wrongdoing but I rejoice with the truth. I bear all things, I believe all things in you, I hope all good for you, and I’ll endure all things for you. I’ll never fail you.
So, faith, hope, and love remain. And the greatest of these is my love for you.”
When two people are firmly committed to living this way, through humility, there’s no way they can fail in their marriage. On the other hand, if each one expects the other to be the one who bears all things, there’s virtually no way they can have a successful long term relationship.
A marriage is kind of like two jagged rocks thrown into a rock grinder. Over time, the grinder spins and spins, and the rough edges are knocked off and smoothed over. But, there’s a lot of contact and friction going on to make that happen. How do we keep it together while being tossed and turned by the rock grinder of life? We stay together -we actually become one, by living out the marriage vocation, in service to the other. John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.” This kind of humility gives us a good direction.
Faithfully living in service to your spouse has many Transfiguration moments –times similar to what the Apostles experienced when Jesus revealed his divine nature to them. This brilliance sustained them through the tough times they were to encounter as Jesus made his way to Calvary. In our married life there are innumerable moments of joy and ecstasy beyond comprehension. It’s those moments that keep us hopeful and fires us with life-giving happiness. But there are also Garden of Gethsemane and crucifixion times in the little details and large events of everyday life. “How many times do I have to take out the garbage? Why can’t he just pick up after himself? Why does he/she have time for friends, but not for me? Who’s cooking dinner tonight; not me again! I know he’s sick, but why can’t he…?”
Marriage is ultimately the formation of a unique, beautiful jewel –a diamond perhaps. And just like the life of a diamond, there’s deep darkness, high pressure and heated moments… But through those times, and through the good times, the multi-faceted jewel that God calls married couples to be, emerges and reflects a brilliant light for family and friends to follow; when we live like this, we build a treasured gemstone, instead of chasing fool’s gold.