“It may be working, just not for everyone.”: Part 1.
What a strong narrative of marriage and family life is woven into the local church. It’s surprising given that both Jesus and the apostle Paul were single.
A community wedding under the shade of century old oaks yielded a new “Mr. & Mrs.” this week, in a hillside amphitheater above the town. Blessed by the pastor, who was already talking about them having kids, the future looks bright for these two who are joining the narrative right on time.
Can I celebrate this marriage while also critiquing how much we celebrate marriage?
At least in one church I can speak about, there are many and often references to the greatness of marriage including sermons titled by it. Many long-time single folks appreciate a warning before these Sundays, which one or the other friend passes along if we are thinking ahead. (But this warning system also gets activated on Mother’s Day, pro-life Sunday, same-sex sermon callouts, “God gives and takes away” sermons… should we really have so many Sundays where one part or another of our body needs a warning?)
I confess I do not know how to do this well. Brett Trapp does a fantastic job in his blog and podcast, Blue Babies Pink of applauding the church’s marriages and families while exposing how lonely it is to be around, but not in, them. “Love is not for you, Brett”, he keeps telling himself, and we feel his pain at attending wedding after wedding, happy for the couple but being poked in the eye with the “you’re single” stick.
Weddings could be accomplished by signing a license in a closet, but weddings are made for community
“Weddings could be accomplished by signing a license in a closet, but weddings are made for community,” we were told at the hillside wedding. An interesting choice of words for our LGBTQ friends, because if you’re trying to hold together the evangelical doctrines of your youth – but are not attracted to the accepted gender – you will either not be getting married, or getting married in the closet.
It’s different to watch a wedding in your church community before, and then after, realizing your daughter will never be the one wearing the white dress in this setting. To marry the woman of her dreams, should they be fortunate enough to find each other, we’ll need to find a new community – surely joined by parts of the former – to gather under the oak trees and bless the union.
“We’ve prayed for your spouse since you were born,” was the parental toast to the newlyweds. I confess I don’t understand how prayer works, persistently reminding God of what we want, with God sometimes granting it and sometimes not. But I know enough about human psychology to know that rehearsing a desire everyday for 20 years skyrockets both expectations and potential disappointment.
Not everyone will get married, not everyone will get married in the way the church wants, not every marriage will last. Not everyone will follow the overall narrative we’ve laid out and rehearsed week after week. As I step from year to year, I see more narratives broken, leaving loved ones kneeling like a kid on the playroom’s oval-rugged floor, trying to reconcile the glossy picture on the box with a bunch of emotional lego pieces scattered everywhere.
How free they would be to throw the box away and build the legos into something new.
I am celebrating marriage, knowing that for others to follow a different path does not take away the joy I’ve found in mine. In many ways, I am living the glossy picture on the box, and maybe that’s why all this has worked for so long without questioning.
At the same time, watching so many legos get scattered after not matching the picture, I’m turning toward the church and asking if the box really needs to be so glossy. Which part of this is our culture, and which part does dusty-sandaled, single, motley-disciple-choosing Jesus require?
Like the toy instruction’s dozen languages, maybe there are a dozen pictures on the box for how life gets lived, all of them in the company and enjoyment of the creator and their Creator.
(I trust the wedding family will understand this post is not particular to them or their wedding, as the above is common to weddings in churches anywhere.)
By the way, apparently wedding legos are a huge hit, but that has nothing to do with this post : )