It’s odd that we wear such fine attire on our wedding day when marriage is so messy. It seems like it would be smarter to wear body armor or at least a sturdy raincoat to better prepare us. Yet, the bride and groom don lace and bow ties, veils and patent leather, pearls and cuff links, willingly pledging themselves until death to the life of the other.
It’s all so genteel, it’s hard to imagine the years that follow are anything other than champagne and roses. But champagne causes headaches, roses come with thorns, and marriage is messy. It makes sense though because we humans are messy. We come with pasts, preferences, and a penchant to think we are right.
Often there is no right, only two people who see things from different viewpoints. It can be ever so complicated. I know marriages are not invincible. I never approached the sacrament with body armor. Like so many others, I began the journey in white lace, a full skirt, and optimism that outshined any intricate beading or sparkling tiara.
We start out thinking marriage is going to be a gentle dance like the carefully choreographed one we perform on our wedding day. Inevitably, in marriage, there are missteps, clumsy moves, and moments when we or our partners let go instead of hold tight. Or sometimes, you just pick the wrong partner and no matter how many times you try to twist, they tango.
I was teaching Childrens Liturgy one Sunday and the readings that week were about marriage. Following the format of that week’s lesson, I asked the class to share what it feels like to be left out, ignored, and lonely. One little girl described it as not being seen.
In all my adult wrangling trying to understand what makes a marriage work, it was that answer that made me see how important it is in marriage to be seen. Not in the spectacle of a hoop skirt or a tailored tuxedo but as our authentic selves: as the soul that God created — both as it is and as it can become. Marriage is not just about being accepted in as-is condition like some defective merchandise discounted in the department store. It’s not just about putting up with the flaws and quirks of a spouse. It’s not about security or circumstances. Marriage is seeing someone in the ordinary, the messy, the mundane, in the gut-wrenching, and in the glory and seeing them as a gift of God’s covenant. “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other,” (Psalm 85:10).
In marriage and in life, when you see love in someone else, you manifest more love of them. It reflects. It converges. It fills the gaps in our flaws. Love begets more love. The more you look for it, the more of it you will see. Perhaps the reason we don’t wear armor on our wedding day is that marriage isn’t meant to be perceived as impenetrable. It’s delicate, fragile, and always vulnerable to the blindness of apathy. Behind the veil of marriage is love just waiting to be seen.
Dedicated to my husband of 21 years who sees me as I am and loves me anyway.
What do you think makes a marriage work? I realize there are as many answers to this as there are fish in the sea, but I would love to know your perspective.
Read last week’s post here.