My best friend got married yesterday.
She was beautiful, and Virginia is beautiful, and we all cried way more than we want to admit. I arrived here after turning in my last final at Biola, throwing my belongings into my car, eating dinner, and speeding to the airport. Six or so hours later I was being whisked through the green, green countryside of rural Virginia to see my best friends and watch Emily be given away to Martin. She was, and they kissed, and we cheered and danced and sent them off, and now I’m sitting on our front porch enjoying the beautiful Virginia spring.
(This post is just as much a record of my love affair with Virginia as it is about marriage. Also a moth just landed on my leg – I’m not so much having a love affair with the bugs. Note to self.)
What struck me so deeply about Emily and Martin’s wedding was not their passion for one another or their evident joy in finally being husband and wife – it was, in fact, the subject of the sermon the pair decided to present at their wedding ceremony. The pastor spoke on the amazing privilege of marriage: a perspective, it occurred to me, that I never quite considered before. I realized I have been viewing marriage as a right, and how detrimental that has been to my expectations.
(Our landlord just brought me a bottle of sweet tea. And that moth flew into my leg again. But the breeze is blowing and there is the smell of freshly cut grass in the air.)
Our culture and community has done an interesting job in raising us where marriage is concerned. It seems, in many ways, that they spent much of their time telling us how wonderful it was, then quickly took all of that back to empower us and help us be content in our single lives, and now they’re flip-flopping back again to say that “Marriage is bliss – but it’s not for everyone, so we don’t want you to feel left out… But it is bliss.”
Granted, I just turned 21, but I’m surrounded by couples tying the knot or getting ready to do so. It is not that I am jealous – “jealous” doesn’t seem to cover the feeling, since I am not coveting the lives of my married friends, or wishing I was where they could be – instead it’s that feeling of when you are little and your older siblings have friends over, and you all decide to go to the park, and they all have their heads together whispering and scheming, then all at once they take off running, and you take off after then, laughing and happy, until you realize they’re outrunning you, and you can’t keep up, so you slow down and you watch them disappear from view…
It sorta feels like that. It’s not jealousy… It’s – left-out-ness?
But what Pastor Steven said seemed to put it right. Marriage is a privilege. It’s sacred and serious, and wonderful and difficult, and a privilege. Yes, statistically I’ll be married one day. Yes yes yes – that’s beside the point. I don’t want to treat marriage like a hurdle to jump over, or a checkpoint to reach. I feel as if we’ve begun to do that. The mantra since college started – and even maybe as high school was ending – has been: “Be content in your singleness, be content in your singleness… Until you finally get married and you don’t have to anymore! (Whew!)” We try our best, we really do, but we still treat singleness as if it is something you need to grin and bear. I almost wish the statistics were the other way around: I almost wish marriage wasn’t the norm. Perhaps then we would rejoice in it with so much more happiness, and not be disappointed when it doesn’t come to us. I don’t want to view it as an entitlement.
I imagine none of this is new for anyone reading this (how many blog posts have you read on marriage, honestly), but there’s something to be said about when things like this finally make sense for you. Watching Em and Marty get married did that for me. I watched this couple fall in love and decide to spend their lives together with so much maturity and intention that no one could ever call them irresponsible. In Mr and Mrs Shelton I saw – see – how love is the foundation for a much stronger, much deeper, and much more lasting thing called commitment, hinged on the knowledge that the office they were entering into was a blessing and privilege and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Congratulations, Martin and Emily Shelton. Cheers from this beautiful front porch, and enjoy… Hawaii! (I’ve known for two days, hehe!)