Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. Love does not boast. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil. Love rejoices with the truth. Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perseveres. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Yesterday, we experienced the joy and surreality of a marriage celebration held during the strange days of pandemic. Our youngest son, Kellen, married a young lady named Victoria and we now have a new member of our family. Amid the masks, social distancing, and veils of fear and uncertainty, this young couple fearlessly chose something certain.
Under any circumstances, marriage is big, weighty, and expansive. To marry is to take a long view in a way that most of us never imagined; certainly those who married young like these two. However, to make the choice and follow through in spite of the many obstacles now facing those seeking to celebrate such a day demonstrates hope, courage, and commitment.
Yes, hope remains. Marriage is a view to the future – an eye on the horizon. In the face of fear and uncertainty, we often hesitate. We often freeze. When the barriers become many and the “what if’s” become a litany of worst case scenarios playing out in our minds, we punt, retreat, or stay put. I get it, pressing forward isn’t easy and things may not go as we’d like. Our plans could get disrupted. To press on in such times first requires hope. Hope is the faith that better days are ahead and that all will be well, no matter what happens.
Marriage is a journey born of hope and a voyage into hope. It says: we see good things ahead. We are betting the life we know on a future beyond what we can see today. We are running toward a future that is about more than us as individuals. Right now, hope can be elusive. Right now, the inconveniences and barriers are high. Today, it might be easier to wait and push things out to a time when it is easier or more likely to fit our vision of the moment. Looking at our young couple yesterday, they exuded only the joy of hope while effortlessly waving the obstacles aside.
As important as it is, hopefulness is only the ante to the game. Choosing marriage is also an act of courage. Pushing forward is an act of bravery in the face of the unknown. The path to yesterday’s festivities was winding, frequently disrupted, and full of uncertainty. There were many barriers before anyone had the opportunity to say any vows.
Now, inconveniences endured, the small test of courage has been passed and our young couple must bravely face the big test of an unknown future. Courage is choosing to face it together, come what may. Many marriages fail. Life is tough. People change. A lifetime is a long time. At 23, we have no frame of reference for such a long, winding horizon. At 53, we’re often still figuring it out. In a world quick to cast things aside, a lifetime vow is a major act of courage. Today, it feels even bigger, acutely uncertain, and maybe even unlikely.
Marriage is choosing to commit your entire life in one direction, with one person. Sacramental marriage is a lifelong commitment – a promise to stay faithful to that choice. To marry is to go “all in” in a way that is unique, strange, and beautiful. In the marital union, two people promise one another: “no matter what happens, I will stay the course.” Imagine such certitude in a world of shifting currents!
With a few years of experience, we realize how unusual, and difficult, such a commitment can be. During those years, we also realize what such a commitment brings to our life. In a world that doesn’t keep its promises, the marital commitment is exceptionally hopeful and courageous. In a world turned upside down by a pandemic, that commitment takes on new meaning and requires a different kind of hope and courage.
Marriage brings families together. It changes patterns and expectations. The hopeful commitment made by bride and groom on the wedding day translates into a letting-go simultaneous with a fresh embrace. We release our children to their new life while committing ourselves to walk alongside them on their new journey. They become the heroes of their own story and our part changes.
Watching the ceremony, witnessing this new covenant between my son and his love, I was reminded that it is not about me. Though our lives remain intertwined, they now belong to each other in a way that is uniquely theirs. We are together but separate in a new, frightening, and necessary form. And that is ok.
Ultimately, their union also demands hope, courage, and commitment from those of us who want to see them thrive. From each of us bearing witness to their joining as partners on a special mission. We too must find the courage to support their commitment. We must resolve to helping them along the way and steel ourselves for the challenges we know they will face. We must hold close the hope that is their future – for possibilities beyond us and our own desires.
Good luck and Godspeed, Kellen and Victoria. We love you.