Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reflections on Marriage: The 25th Anniversary Edition

Twenty-five years ago today, my college sweetheart and I married each other. It both seems like no time at all and several lifetimes ago.

I'm a Lutheran, and we only have two sacraments: Baptism and Communion. I think Martin Luther was too hasty when he got rid of so many sacraments. I wish he had kept marriage as a sacrament.

Marriage has taught me many things, but the nature of love is one of the most important things it has taught me. Nothing else has helped me understand God's love for me the way my spouse's love for me has. I make mistakes, and he forgives me. He forgives me, even though he knows I will likely make the same mistakes again and again. I do the same for him. He sees me--the best me, the worst me--as I truly am, and he loves me. Largely, he loves me not because of my anything I might say or do to convince him, but because he knows me.

And of course, I do the same for him. And in this daily practice of love and forgiveness, I come to understand God's love for me--and I am able to carry a similar love out into the world.

And by experiencing my husband's love for me, along with his forgiving of me, I've come to understand God's love for all of us just a bit better.

Understand is probably too strong a word. In some ways, we can never understand the scope of love, either the love we have for each other or the love God has for us.

David Brooks wrote one of the better essays about marriage that I've ever read (hopefully you'll find it here, but the link isn't always working). He says, "Few of us work as hard at the vocation of marriage as we should. But marriage makes us better than we deserve to be. Even in the chores of daily life, married couples find themselves, over the years, coming closer together, fusing into one flesh. Married people who remain committed to each other find that they reorganize and deepen each other's lives. They may eventually come to the point when they can say to each other: 'Love you? I am you.'''

He doesn't use the term "sacrament"--after all, he's writing for the secular The New York Times. But he's talking in sacramental terms nonetheless.

He begins to conclude his piece by saying, "The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn't just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity."

On this anniversary day, I pause to thank God for that love, that love that comes to me not because I'm wonderful, not because I'm perfect, not because I deserve it. I thank God for that love that's so much like grace. I thank God for all the people who love me even though I haven't reached my full potential yet. I thank God for all the people who remember me at my best, even when they're seeing me at my worst--and who love me, despite my less than loveable behavior.

I wish for us all the human love that points us to the love of God.

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