Till Death Do Us Part
With the #LoveYourSpouseChallenge zipping around Facebook and Instagram these days, we started feeling kind of crappy about our less than photogenic marriages, unions, and romantic relationships. So, instead of descending into domestic despair, we decided to ask Rev. Sarah Taylor Peck (one of our very favorite thinkers, preachers, and writers!) to help us think theologically about marriage, life, death, disappointments, and ultimately resurrection. Here's what Sarah came up with - enjoy!
My husband dropped me on our wedding day.
He dropped me in the middle of our first dance, surrounded by 150 of our closest friends and family - I fell hard.
You could hear the collective gasp. Some laughed. Some yelled, “No!” My mom exclaimed, “THE DRESS!” because she hand stitched every seam of my gown…
There we were on the floor, with slightly bruised knees and egos, experiencing our first little death: the death of that perfect, flawless wedding. And, ever since that first little death, we’ve soaked in so much new life together.
Isn’t that the way marriage is? Many deaths and many moments so filled with life?
Marriage is a living, tender being.
We like to think of marriage as a solid structure - a fortress that should stand forever, unchanged, unmoved. We put marriage into such simple categories: successful or failed, happy or unhappy, faithful or unfaithful, Facebook worthy or messy.
But, here's the thing: the living being we call marriage is complex and beautiful and challenging.
Marriages are diverse, mysterious, and bold - no two are alike and they are very hard to capture in a week's worth of photos.
When I look at the photos of us falling on the dance floor, here's what I know: the vows we make are not a blueprint for a changeless structure.
Instead, marriage vows are like seeds we plant as we begin our journey. They grow and bloom and wither within that living being we call a marriage.
We promise to have and to hold one another - I remember squeezing my husband’s hand so hard in the hour before our son was born - holding on for dear life, and he let me.
Two people in a marriage have and hold one another through painful childbirth, burying a parent, celebrating professional success, lamenting deeply embarrassing failures; and, with each of these moments of "having and holding," life is breathed in.
We vow: for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part; but, it’s somewhere in the growing and blooming of these vows that marriages live out their lifespan. That living, tender being we call marriage can become healthy or sick, rich or poor - and all marriages face many little deaths.
Resurrection happens in marriage too though...
After the death of a dream, or a goal, or a shared vision: marriages can rise again. Even when vows wither and die - new life can spring up; new growth can emerge.
We see marriages bloom and wither around us all the time and we judge them. We start to repeat those old clichés and divide marriages into those simple categories out of habit: successful or failed, happy or unhappy, faithful or unfaithful, Facebook worthy or too messy…
We like to scrutinize the marriage of others as we watch their successes and foibles.
But truly - we cannot know when another person’s marriage experiences a death that parts them, or even revives them after one of those all too familiar near death experiences.
Instead, we are called - as brothers and sisters to one another - to honor the fragile, living and breathing commitments made between two people. In a time with rising violence and dissonance in our world: we are called to protect and preserve all glimpses of love and grace no matter how small, how fallen, how broken, how un-photogenic they may appear. Because marriage is more than a 140 word Tweet, a Facebook challenge, or a week’s worth of our best pictures. Marriage is a big, deep, wide, scary, wonderful, complex, living covenant that makes us fall and rise up every single day.
So, let’s keep vigil with one another as we tend to the fragile, living being we call marriage.
Let’s support one another through the life and death of marriages in our midst.
Let’s minister to one another with reverence for the bold, vulnerable, life-changing choice of saying, "I DO! Till death do us part!"
Let us welcome and bear witness to the falls, the little deaths, and God's newness of life springing forth even now - do you not perceive it in the photo above? :)