I've been thinking a lot about marriage and weddings - for quite a few reasons. I just celebrated at my second wedding of the summer, my dh and I just had our second wedding anniversary, and I've been following some posts @ halfwaytonormal.com that have been on the topic of sex and marriage.
When I first got to our little town, the funeral director said something to the effect of: "Those Methodists... they'll marry and bury anyone!" And in some ways, in our little town, that's kind of true. There are quite a few congregations that mainly do services for their members and families. I'm the pastor that gets called when the family is unchurched or there is no real church connection. The same goes for weddings - especially those where the couple has lived together prior to marriage.
This probably isn't a big surprise for most people, but my hubby and I did live together before we married. Twice, actually. After two years of long distance, he transferred to the same college I did, and then a year later we lived in the same house with a bunch of other classmates (hello PAC house!). Then we were apart again for a year and a half. Then he moved across the world to be with me in seminary and moved into my place. We wouldn't have been able to afford it other wise. We were engaged, we just hadn't figured out the timing to make the ceremony that we both wanted happen.
When we did eventually tie the knot, we wanted a central part of our service to be the idea that a marriage is about far more than the ceremony. Marriage is a journey that begins long before a wedding and continues long after you have said “i do.”
Deep in my heart, I believe that a marriage is about a covenantal relationship between two people. I believe it is a covenant of love, trust, acceptance, understanding, and respect. And as I said over on "halfway to normal," some couples have built the kind of covenantal relationship I'm talking about long before the wedding... and some of those couples are people who never want to get "married"... or can't get married legally. Other couples may not even really understand themselves what being committed to a covenantal relationship means until far into their “marriage." Some people never get it.
For me and my husband, we both had it early and are still working on it =). Very early on, I think we figured out that we loved and trusted and accepted each other. We made a lot of mistakes, but we stuck in there. We respected and cherished each other. We were in it for the long haul from VERY early on. Long distance relationships do that to you. We actually created rings that fit together that read on the inside "love stronger than the distance between us." And we still wear them.
But those kinds of covenantal relationships take constant work. They are hard. Sometimes I wake up and wonder who on earth is in bed next to me! Sometimes I'm positive he's feeling the same way. Marriage takes work and prayer and fighting here and there. Because we aren't perfect, we are human, and our human flaws mean that seeds of mistrust and fear and doubt creep in every now and then.
Love for me is choosing to say yes every day. It is choosing to forgive and to keep loving no matter how many mistakes we make. It is choosing to be the best husband or wife you can be. It is choosing to honor and respect your spouse. Love is holding fast to who you are while at the same time letting the other person do the same. And it's messy, and it's beautiful.