Marriage? Why Bother?
This summer, Tom and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. Many couples today reject marriage as an unnecessary encumbrance. They tell me, “We don’t need the church or the state to endorse our personal commitment to each other. Besides, if we discover we’ve made a mistake, we won’t have to go through a messy divorce.” Still, seventeen years ago, Tom and I risked marriage for the second time. Why?
Marriage is the public commitment of two people to spend the rest of their lives caring for one another, sharing dreams, failures, joys, sorrows and so much more. The operative word in this definition is public. A civil or religious marriage ceremony requires at least two witnesses, who along with the married couple sign two documents – the government’s form and a historical record in a special marriage register held by either the church or the justice of the peace.
The security of marriage can make it easier to risk our true selves, admit failures and offer and receive forgiveness. I use the word “can” because sometimes the security of marriage can make us careless with one another’s feelings.
For Tom and me, saying our vows before God and our friends and family meant not just security but also support. With their presence, our witnesses brought love, caring, and prayers. Their support has been with us ever since giving us the strength to lean together in the tough times and keeping us aware of the privilege and blessing of our love for one another.
This summer, I encourage you to remember in prayer all the weddings you have attended including your own, if you are married. I offer you the following prayer written by Jan Karon in her novel, A Common Life. It is spoken by her protagonist, Father Tim Kavanaugh after he proposed marriage to Cynthia. Adapt this prayer template for your own use, to help you maintain the wonder and gratitude we all need to love our partners well.
Father Tim says, “Loving God, we thank you for this miracle of married love, and for choosing us to receive it. May we always treat this gift of love with gratitude and devotion, humour and astonishment. May it be a river of living water to bring delight and encouragement to others.
Protect Cynthia, Lord. Give her courage for whatever lies ahead, and give me, I pray, whatever I need to love her well and steadfastly all the days of our lives.” Amen