Saturday, March 8, 2008

union

today two of my ichthus pals are getting married. childhood playmates, high school sweethearts and after a reprieve, they chose to become lovers for life. i am thrilled for these two and the journey they are beginning, but this one among many wedding occasions is stirring something within.

i think my idea of marriage is skewed and scarred by an irreverent culture, controlling religion and plain old fear. i know in my heart of hearts it is a fantastic gift. yet lately there has been a bittersweetness to it all. i thought at first that i was just jealous, just selfishly unable to rejoice with those who rejoice. but it persisted, this nagging sadness, and this morning as i ran, i began to peruse it.

sure, there are all the issues of my being single/leaving the country and everything i know for two years that color this. but underneath it all is this sense of loss. i have heard friends say, "oh i lost my friend to a girl" when this friend gets a new girlfriend. or this sense of finality as the ring slips on the finger, as if all the friends are saying farewell. what i know about marriage tells me that this is ok, that this is part of it. the man and woman shall leave and become one...the union of two becoming one front. obviously, friendships will change. the best friend is now the husband, not the roommate from college. this is the logical order of things and proper. right?

this is my issue. i feel like a chasm opens up between single and married friends. i have watched best friends stop talking to each other. i have heard and been a part of the cynicism on the single side, and experienced a sense of arrogance from some married friends. "oh, until you're married, you just can't understand..." but again, there's a part of me that says, this is ok, this is how it should be. it's just how it is. even from the point of living missionally, it makes "sense." married people have the mission of their marriage and thus this creates a bond. single people have time/room for other missions, so they can bond through this.

but below all of it, there is this ache that says absolutely not. with the divorce rate at 50% and raising, both Christian and non-Christian, something tells me that something is not as it should be. if we are all part of the body, i don't think that there should be this split between married and non-married. i don't agree that marriage should be your greatest mission in life. i think that marriage should empower the two united to live out their mission better...not leaving it behind to make your union itself the mission. if marriage is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church, shouldn't marriage then be inviting, drawing people into their experience? shouldn't it reflect the pouring out and serving that flows out of the relationship between Jesus and His people?

i'm not saying i know how any of that plays out. obviously. i'm not married. but i definitely think that the way we approach marriage is not accurate these days.

i know that marriage in a lot of ways has to be between the two married. i also know that there has to be time and energy and intention placed on loving each other well. i just feel like in some ways we have swung to the extreme, encouraging ingrown, closed off relationships that stifle and wither. and when they do, we don't want to see it or say anything. so people suffer and wither within themselves. i just feel like the church should be different. i feel like we need to wake up...to get some perspective. i'm not saying don't get married...i hope to be married one day myself. all i'm saying is, does your union reflect the union Christ created with His people? does it invite people in or shut them out? does it resemble two people facing forward together, or facing each other? is it your ultimate mission, or does it enable a greater one?

i know a couple that i feel represent this. dean and jenny lead my pastorate, and i adore them. they are both uniquely themselves and yet totally "married". their love is simple yet clearly spoken. and it invites. never once have i felt uncomfortable in their presence, like i was imposing upon their relationship. it's their marriage that has created a foundation of love that pours out into our group and individuals. and all this i can see simply from interacting with them at group. i don't know the ins and outs of their marriage, how he folds his laundry or how she cooks spaghetti. the point is i don't need to know. you can spot a healthy marriage, a life-giving one, from miles away.

this is my prayer for zach and kristen today, and all my newly engaged friends. that they would be able walk through this next part of their journey facing forward, embracing each other yet inviting others into the joy they are experiencing. that this union brings more life than could be found separate.

*stepping off soapbox and begging for mercy from the indignant crowd*

3 comments:

graham r said...

Sarah, that was an absolutely beautiful post; gracious, well written, and free of all the justifiable choice words you could have used!

(I especially love the thought-provoking paragraph asking: all cliches aside, what does it actually look like for a marriage to reflect the communion of Christ and the Church?)

I wonder if part of the issue is that we have used marriage as one of the definition of adulthood (interestingly, I think we also use homeownership). I continue to get this underlying feeling or assumption from both married and single that once someone gets married than they really are an adult ('you wont understand until...'). This, of course, brings in obvious issues that marriage (or being married) becomes an unhealthy identity.

Obviously, I wrestle with that posture from both singles and married. We always talk of singleness preparing the individual for marriage, and I think that's true. But could it be said the other way as well... marriage preparing the individual to be expressly themselves?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I do think that single individuals need our married friends to teach us about service and sacrifice, submission and love. And I think that married couples need our individuals to teach us that even in covenant the individual remains to serve and create, to risk and pursue.

What do you think?

Sarah said...

Thank you Graham. Serioulsy.

I agree with your ideas of singles and marrieds needing each other...i think that is part of why the gap between the two bothers me. I feel like many people (myself included) have a false picture of what marriage should look like, and then when it doesn't, i feel like married couples either hide it or deny it or at least don't talk about it with their single friends. i think this fact leaves both singles and marrieds feeling isolated and unknown. like you said, both groups of people need each other to learn and grow with. especially if we are trying to live in community and following Christ together. i think there is an aspect of being the church that is learned through marriage...and if they aren't sharing, how are the singles supposed to learn and walk in it?

i also think what you said about identity was interesting as well...these constructs we have about what it means to be an adult, or successful...we just swallow them and attempt to live them out without ever asking, why is this true? why am i supposed to make lots of money and be married and have a kid and a house? i'm not saying all of those things shouldn't happen...i just think that we think we should without knowing why. to me, the why makes a huge difference in the way life is lived out.

it is curious to think of marriage about creating space for an individual to be themselves...some would argue that no, they are to mold together. but i think you are on to something...in a healthy marriage, there is the acceptance and unconditional love that allows a person to thrive as they are...unfortunately, many marriages and relationships involve one party becoming what the other wants...and then they become dissatisfied...and then they disconnect. they may have an affair, they may just feel lonely. either way, they don't feel the freedom to be or become who they are...and didn't realize that would become negotiable when they got married. i think of the movie freedom writers...they got divorced because she came alive...became herself. it shocked me really, and made me wake up about who i might one day choose to be with...but i think ideally, marriage should allow a person to blossom...almost like they could no longer carry out the process of becoming what God wanted without this new influence.

all that to say, i feel like i need so much more wisdom in this area. all the more reason i wish marrieds and singles would start sharing some of this stuff!

Christopher said...

Longsuffering.

I have learned to just ask questions........ if people are willing to share.

Sometimes pride or hurts/wounds gets into a marriage and it is hard for a couple to express their feelings...

Just Pray and open doors for yourself concerning your married friends.......