As I remember it was an oppressively hot day, with large puffy clouds, a pale blue sky and a steamy white sun. The train ride into Chicago early that morning for make up and hair and nails was filled with the excited laughter of a bride and her bridesmaids. Later that afternoon I walked, with one of my closest friends, to the church, a few blocks away. I think I carried my wedding dress. So many details lost to time and over ridden by other memories of excitement. I do remember dressing in the church and laughing a lot with my friends. We were having so much fun. I wore my mothers dress, a 1950’s tea length, strapless lace dress with a lace jacket. What I loved most was the sleeves of the jacket ending in a point with a pearl tip, just past my wrist. It was beautiful. The women were dressed in coral colored dresses and the men in grey tuxes. I carried a bouquet of calla lilies. We had poetry and scripture and prayers and vows. A vow to love, honor, and cherish through sickness and health, for richer or poorer.
Twenty five years later we have loved through all of that – sickness, health, richer and poorer. It has not been an easy ride. Our life together, for all that excited bloom we carried that day, has been challenged by so many factors. Perhaps no different than any other married couple. Today we celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. I thought we’d celebrate this day with a big party. I thought I’d get new jewelry, some new token to honor the past and symbolize the next twenty five. But there will be none of that. We are in one of the poorest places we have ever been in. Scraping together each month just enough to pay our bills, our gas, our food. In the car yesterday my husband said, “I didn’t get you a gift.” I replied, “I didn’t even buy you a card.” He said, “Let’s don’t buy cards. We can use that money another way.”
We do have a gift card to a local restaurant, where we will probably go for dinner, just the two of us.
Right now, this is not the life we imagined we’d live. Actually much of our marriage is not the life we thought we’d live. It’s been so much harder than I ever imagined. There have been tender moments that take my breath away with the depth of love, of being cherished. There have been times of laughter and great joy. But most of all it has just been hard work, carving out this life, scrapping by, but doing it side by side. For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, are vows we have taken seriously.
I don’t know what my life would have been like if I had not married this man. I don’t think it would have been any easier, or better, or harder. Life just is. If we hadn’t faced this life together it would have been something else. Life is complicated.
Today, even as I am blessed to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary, I think about the events unfolding in California, and other states in this country, I think about those who cannot marry, legally, in this country. Those who do not have the opportunity to make a vow to another, to love, honor, and cherish, and have that vow made legal by the State, and or blessed by the Church. God created us female and male, male and female, female/male, male/female, and the variations in gender that happen in and around those markers we recognize. We humans manifest something of God’s nature, but we are not God. Still we are called by God to be the living expression of God’s love in the world. Why is it that this means, when it comes to marriage, that it’s only to be for a certain defined portion of God’s creation? I don’t really understand that. I mean I do, from a conventional perspective. But not really.
If I had not married, if we had not made vows to one another, and had those vows legalized by the State and blessed by the Church, I am sure there are times when one or the other of us would have walked away. (And sometimes, when the union is not love-based but hurtful and abusive or at least life draining, people have to walk away – our unions are meant to be life-giving). But also, admittedly, there are moments over these twenty-five years when the vow I made gave me pause. And because of that pause, those words, that intent, I have a life partner who has blessed my life. For me the greatest gift is the awareness that love grows and deepens in the most profound ways. And for that I am richly blessed. I believe God created us for love and to love. It’s a rugged thing, this love. But I also know that love can sustain and bless our lives through all the challenges.
Isn’t this the kind of love God desires for all human beings?
“O God, you have so consecrated the ccovenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (Book of Common Prayer, marriage blessing, pg. 431)