As a person who once served as a pastor and now involved in men’s ministry, I’m regularly asked to perform a wedding ceremony. 99.9% of the time, I refuse. Honestly, I rarely can muster any excitement when I see people getting married. Lately, I’ve been pondering why I feel this way. I will give you my thoughts.
I don’t like make-believe. The wedding ceremony in the US has become one of the biggest make-believe days in our existence. Thousands of dollars and hours of time are spent for a wedding while little effort or time is spent preparing for marriage. I used to keep track of everyone I married and how many stayed together. Even after requiring premarital counseling before I would perform the ceremony, even after having couples sign a covenant with each other and me vowing to seek help when things got tough, too many were throwing in the towel after a couple of years. I’ve watched too many, especially brides, going into marriage with their eyes totally closed, so deluded by the desire to be married, to have the perfect wedding day, they overlook the storm that is coming. I partially joke about having an application to fill out before dating seriously. But seriously, shouldn’t everything be on the table going into a serious relationship that has the potential for marriage? Why tiptoe around sticky issues for fear of running the person away? In most cases, if you can’t come to terms with major areas of life before marriage is that really who you want to spend your life with? How about this approach, I really am attracted to you but before we get into this relationship too deeply, there are some really important things I need to know about you. The truth will set you free, to move ahead or move on!
I know human kind. I’ve been in the people business a long time. I know what people are like, even “good” people. I know me. I know Jesus said, he didn’t trust people because he knew human nature! I know most people have a public image and then a private self and it is rare the two are the same. When I hear future brides gush about how awesome their guy is, I want to say, tell me that after two years of marriage and I may believe you. Tell me after twenty and you may have found a keeper! I know how selfish we are by nature. I’ve experienced far more times than I’d like to admit, dealing with couples with stars in their eyes before marriage only to have them back in my office a year or two after barely able to look at or speak to each other. In my own marriage, we came close to calling it quits after only two years.
I don’t like some of my own marriage story. Gayle and I were engaged today, September 17, 1971! We were both 17-18 years old. We were everything I described above. Our wedding day was nice, our marriage was not too much fun. Oh, we had several good months early, but it deteriorated quickly. Even after becoming Christians and later as I became a pastor, too much of the above still came into play. Only after being crushed and humbled and willing to do the hard work on ourselves did we begin to find joy in our marriage. It is not any easy road. It is not for the faint of heart.
Saving Grace. The only hope I have for marriages to prosper is the only hope I have for individuals to find satisfaction in life. Surrendering to Jesus Christ and being open to his constant work of changing you, while your spouse does likewise. Two imperfect people being shaped by the loving hand of the Master, being quick to own your failures and quick to forgive your spouse’s failures. Two people who care more about reality than presenting a false front to their peers. Two people willing to do the hard work required on themselves to become the best partner they can be. Two people who care enough to hear and see the truth no matter where it comes from. Two people who will choose to love and accept their partner while God works out the self-deception, self-will and self-absorption. Marriage can be an amazing, beautiful journey but it can also be a devastating, life altering disaster!
So, the counsel from a traditional wedding script should be heeded: Marriage is ordained by God therefore, not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, soberly and in the fear of God!