I’ve always liked weddings. People are mostly happy and they’re fun. I’ve also officiated several weddings. To me it is literally the best seat in the house. You get to stand with two people (who you already love) as they say their vows and make a covenant with the Lord. It’s awesome! Sometimes they are nervous or stumble over words. Sometimes they are focussed. But always they are happy.
Happiness you see, is good. Seriously, it really is. It’s ok to want to be happy.
One of the things I’ve seen more and more of the last decade is this tendency in Christianity to try to walk back the fun. It’s as if people seem to think that if the ceremony is more solemn that the people getting married will be less likely to get divorced. Really?!
Now I get it, I really do. We want people to understand how big of deal it really is. It’s the second covenant of your life. And it is just that – a covenant not a contract. But that is good news not bad. If it were just a contract, it wouldn’t be worth the celebration.
We also often want the people in the audience to get it. And I get that too. It’s great to charge the people to stand with this couple, a great reminder to those that are married, and good thoughts for those that aren’t as they consider whether or not they want to be. But here in lies the part that bothers me.
Where is the Joy?
Joy is a good thing and it is a part of marriage. You are supposed to be excited. What really is the point of trying to temper that? “Let’s make sure everyone knows how somber this is so that later when it’s hard you’ll remember.” Really?!
Marriage was created before there was sin not as a response to it, so we shouldn’t look for it to solve all of our problems. But that also means it’s a stand alone good thing. If our message is constantly, “Marriage is really tough”, “Make really, really, really sure you want to get married”, “Once you go down this path, there’s no turning back – and it’s a long road”, etc., then we can end up pushing a group of people (everyone under 35) who already aren’t getting married, further away from marriage.
I’m not suggesting that we stop telling people the truth. In other words I’m not saying that we in the Church should soft sell marriage. But I think we need to understand that when we say all of this stuff to the general public (be it sermon, wedding message, book, or blog) that most of the people we are talking to are already scared crapless of marriage. They are not rushing into marriage, they are rushing away from it.
We need to stop reacting to a problem from 20 years ago and start reacting to the one we have now. People are not getting married.
We need to share that marriage is indeed hard, but we also need to share that it is worth it. We need to realize that no one can actually understand a lot of it until they are married anyway and we are not doing singles a favor by scaring them or turning them into some sort of solemn, unfeeling, drone dater.
Dating, marriage, all of it should be fun. It’s not just fun. But if it’s not fun at all, then you know you’re in trouble. (Bonus – This could be said about community, mission, worship, and on and on).
One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy and if marriage comes from the Spirit, well then. . .
It’s even in the Bible –
Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love all the days of this meaningless life God has given you under the sun”
Proverbs 5:18 – “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
Song of Solomon – Well there is just a whole lot of joy going on here!
Marriage can be work, even hard work. But it doesn’t have to be joyless work. God created it when He saw that Adam wasn’t enjoying being alone. Adam had it perfect right? Perfect relationship with God. Perfect relationship with nature. But it wasn’t right yet. There was a piece of his joy that was not complete. God didn’t look down and say, “Well Adam’s got it pretty good, let’s make it harder”. No, God wanted to make it even better.
I bring all of this up because I think as those of us who don’t feel called to celibacy struggle to wait, pursue, try, quit, breakup, date, try to get a date and so on, we need to not be afraid of marriage. We need to not feel like it’s all serious, all of the time. It’s not the end of fun – it’s the beginning of a deeper fun. Joy should be a big part of it. In fact, I’d submit that its one of the main ways that you’ll know if you find it.