It was a holy night eight months ago, when My Love and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a vow renewal ceremony. Holy sacrament. Holy bent heads. Holy tears of wonder that we had made it this far. Holy voice quiver when vow-words written in black, scrolled on white paper, are spoken again into the grey shades of our reality.
That holy night, eight months ago, we stood in the middle of 20 dearest friends ringed arm to arm around our re-pledges to each other and heaven’s holy hush saturated our air . . .
This time was different then the last time – the untried joining of our youth. This time, we knew. Oh God, we knew. We knew what cards life could deal and we knew our own humanity could cheat with the hands we are dealt. We knew that vows are meant to be kept, but instead, get torn a hundred ways to Sunday. We knew all this and beyond and because of our knowing, our vow ceremony words meant more and the definition is ten years long and ten years deep and ten years burned through holy fire. We knew, and we still stood on our holy legs of flesh to say “Yes” to each other again.
We said “Yes” again because we didn’t go through holy fire without being refined, restored, redeemed, resurrected. And we said “Yes” because our reasons and intentions for marriage had evolved alongside our purification.
Our reasons went beyond the answers that come skimmed off the top: “I want to wake up every day with my best friend” or “Because two are better then one and he/she completes me” or “I’m loved unconditionally by my spouse”. After being affixed to someone for ten years, these answers cannot stand-alone any longer. The rigors and rot of reality require that you have an exceptional reason for joining your life to someone and an exceptional reason for staying joined. Looking marriage straight in the face on the eve of our commitment renewal, I invoked the question again this decade later, “Why marriage?” I hoped to grasp an answer to paramount all the answers. I needed something I could hook my entire heart on when the day is done and the deeds are dark.
With elevated senses, I traveled far into understanding the magnetic mandate of marriage. I wanted to extend my imaginings to you as they’ve descended into my cranial comprehension; trickle traveled to my heart and found a secure resting place within my interior.
Let’s go crash a wedding in Cana . . .
“…The story of the wedding at Cana has a curious luminousness about it, the quality of almost a dream where every gesture, every detail, suggests the presence of meaning beneath meaning, where people move with a kind of ritual stateliness, faces melting into other faces, voices speaking of elusive, but inexhaustible significance.” – Frederick Buechner
I can envision this strange and stern guest with the soul of the world in His watchful eyes. He’s drinking Himself full of the symbolism at play in the celebration around Him. He laughs and merry-makes with the rest of them, all the while this other component of Him is stretching and reaching foggy fingers every which way and throughout, absorbing the deeper meaning in the peripherals. His entire purpose as a GROOM coming to love His BRIDE is being acted out on the micro stage of this Cana wedding. He’s dreaming of the intimate mysteries of vows and rings, clasping of hands and sacrifice, of feasting and ultimate love. He closes His eyes on the note of a sigh as He envisions another marriage; His own marriage . . .
Mother-Mary breaks into His reflection because she just overheard the servants talking about a beverage deficiency. Jesus! You must do something! She petitions her Son for a miracle because the party planner didn’t order enough wine – of all things!
The Son tells The Mother not to put the cart before the donkey.
The Mother waves her hand in The Son’s face and tells the servants to do whatever The Son says.
The Son is drifting back to His waking dream when He hears a familiar whisper . . .
The Father says near His ear; “I’ve arranged a marriage for You. It’s time . . .”
Without any added ado, The Son says to The Servants, do this and do that.
A miracle was made.
Refreshment is deficient no more.
The earth heaved a dry, thirsty sigh.
The invitation was heard around the world.
The Bride was born.
The Groom waits.
Anticipating His own wedding after what He knows will be a 3-year-long WILD and outrageous wooing.
Three years later, with dust in all the cracks of His square peasant feet, He walked a long and rocky trail to the top of death hill. Because that is where His chapel was and He was going to get married. But His vows of love needed to be written in blood; red ribbons of ripped wide sacrifice. Cross-eyed and crossed-out and criss-crossed in pain six-ways-damned till Sunday, He said, “I take you . . . to have and to hold . . . from this day forward, in sickness and in health, in riches and in poverty . . . as long as we both shall live” – which is nothing short of eternity.
Right after Austin and I married the first time and were pronounced “man and wife”, these words were spoken over us, “You Austin . . . and you Erika . . . together, represent the image of Christ.”
The image of Christ?
You mean the one I just described? The image of the Bridegroom tearing Himself apart so He could marry His Bride? The image of a Bridegroom with broken lips gasping, “Father, forgive my Bride . . . She knows not . . . “?
This was and is the answer my soul sighed for hearing. “Why marriage?” Because I would give my living and dying breath to reflect an image like that – an image of a marriage declaring an insurmountable love.
When Austin and I re-fastened ourselves one to the other, it was with the intention that there lives a Marriage in this torn-asunder-love world, worth reflecting and we would undertake anything for our marriage to be a mirror held up in salute to it.
A beautiful Ash Wednesday to you, friends.