There they stand. 2 young adults full of promise and possibilities. They have spent many months and many more dollars planning for this moment and there they stand. Of course, they are excited. Of course, they are “in love.” Of course, they have a path of mystery open before them. The path is truly a mystery because…well, life. No matter how perfectly a plan is laid life happens. That is not a bad thing. It just is the plain unvarnished truth. Life deals the cards, but how you play what you are dealt matters in ultimate ways.
As I meet with my engaged couples I marvel at the energy they have, the hope they radiate, and the love they feel for each other. Most know exactly how they want their wedding day to look, feel and be. They have planned it down to the last stamp on the SAVE THE DATE cards. They are, quite naturally, thinking about the day, the event, the cake, the dress, the dance, the music, the memories. Most, if any, have thought about all of the days ahead. I don’t mean to imply the couples are shallow or self-absorbed. Most enjoy rewarding careers and full lives. But the hard part of “happily ever after” is not on the front burner.
Jobs lost, babies born, forced moves, deaths, disappointments, dreams upended, all of this and more couldn’t be further from their minds. Of course. I think it is fair to say we are, as humans, ill-prepared for blows dealt to us by derailed dreams and shattered expectations. We can handle the stress of an ill-fitting tux or the frustrating maid of honor, those happen. But having our expectations crushed in life’s
big ways is too much. What then do we do? How do we relish the joy of the planning, the magic of the
moment and while still being aware that some day, down that long road of life, a husband won’t be able to remember what the microwave is for or who his grandchildren are; a wife gets slammed with a breast cancer. years of chemo, radiation, medication. This all may sound extreme but it isn’t. If we live long enough, the “happily ever after” can become something else. It becomes the resounding truth spoken with giddy delight in wedding ceremonies around the world. Couples, gazing into each
other’s eyes vow to love each other, “for better or for worse. In sickness and in health.”
Believe me when I say that the “for worse” part is when love with a capital “L” reveals itself. That is exactly what Love means. What Love looks like. How it works out in real life. We mature into tenderness. Tenderness is beyond passion, but is just as potent and just as valuable. Maybe even priceless. Love looks like a wife taking a husband on a drive because he is no longer able. A husband gently combing his life partners hair, fixing her make-up because, “She loved to look nice. It was important to her.” Gay or straight, these are the truths of a marriage….the truths of “I do”.
I watched my mother care for my father in his dementia. To say it was hard for her is an understatement, but it was a life time of remembering “I do” that kept her going. It was exhausting and costly to her personally. It was punishing because she didn’t do it well every day. She was worn out, frustrated , and totally committed to his care.
That is what I wish I could convey to my beautiful, sparkling, young couples. Not to frighten them or talk them out of the marriage, but to help them be ready for the work that is required by a committed love. I wish I could fortify them with knowledge that hard days are the days when you actually know the meaning of love. I wish.…
Maybe I will work it into my next wedding message. “Tom, do you promise to feed Lisa when she can’t feed herself? Lisa, do you promise to read to Tom, when his eyesight fails?” “Ben will you play Neil’s favorite music when he is in hospice care?” Maybe I will work that in next time around. If I do, it will be for the sake of Love with a capital “L.”
-Ange Humphrey Pastor and founder of Fresh Air Community of Faith and the host of WEHT Local Lifestyles