We went to a wedding this weekend. As recent college graduates it is certainly wedding season for us – Saturday’s marked the fifth we’ve attended since July and we have three more to look forward to over Christmas break. And I absolutely love it. I’ve always loved going to weddings since I was young, but since getting married myself they have come to mean even more to me. Before my own, each wedding was an opportunity for me to daydream a little. It was an event of anticipation as I envisioned with hope for the day when it would be my turn. Now since my turn has come each wedding serves as a reminder, not only of how wonderful our wedding was, but what we are committed to as we walk down this path called marriage. The hope for my own wedding was filled, and now I live in real marriage – eager for it also to be filled.
Whole marriages are rare things. When two broken people come together in attempts to do life as one there is a lot of mess that happens. Misunderstandings, loaded responsibilities, and unrealistic expectations accrue and the promise of nothing broken and nothing missing seems like an idealistic dream that has no chance of coming true.
And yet when Christ holds His hands out to offer us the gift of peace, shalom completion, I don’t think there was a footnote that said marriage not included. Nor did it say good in marriage for only two years or less until the honeymoon glow wears off. I believe He intends the marriages between His people to be whole, complete, not lacking and not broken, radiant with peace that transcends understanding. In fact, I believe that next to the peace of redemption and saving grace, marriages are among His greatest ways of facilitating peace.
Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
Isn’t the parts becoming one – the fragments becoming unified – what we speak of when we ask for peace? We were once two, moving disjointedly and independently. Now we are one, synchronized with one another in unified service for the Kingdom.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Ezer-kenegdo. This word is often translated as helper, or helpmeet – and results in heated debates as words like equality and chauvinism are flung about. But the definition I quickly scrawled out as I sat in Old Testament Narrative and Law was stunningly beautiful. Ezer-kenegdo – equal but different from man, without whom he is not complete.
Completion. That is what marriage offers. Two different people, with radically different gender tendencies. Man does not have what woman has. Woman does not have what man has. Each separately reflects characteristics of God that the other does not. But bring the two together and there is completion. There is wholeness. There is peace.
There is a reason people cry at weddings. There is a reason there so much anticipation and hype and joy centered around these ceremonies. There is a reason that some strains of Christianity have considered the wedding ceremony to be a sacrament along the lines of baptism and communion. It is because it is a beautiful picture of something sacred and holy. Where else on earth do we see such a vivid reflection of the wholeness of God?
It’s easy to recognize this beauty at a wedding. A bride in an extravagant dress beaming as she walks to her groom, handsome in his tux, smiling with tender affection at his soon to be wife. Sparkly rings, untarnished by daily wear, petals blossoming and unwithered. Friends and family coming together to celebrate, despite differences or judgements. Frivolous dancing, laughter, and merriment. Everything speaks of sacred beauty.
But then the bags are unpacked from the honeymoon, the gifts opened, and real life begins and sometimes the sacredness is lost in the humdrum of everyday life. Obnoxious alarms, wet towels in a pile, and burnt toast are the casualties of hurried mornings as work presses in, bills accumulate and the various duties of life call. Through a megaphone. In your ear.
We all see the wedding. We relish the beauty and are deeply touched by the profound implications of what that day means and the peace that it brings. But this day is a mere glimmer of the rest that is to come. Continued wholeness, greater completion, lives to the full. All under the banner of love. And all in the mess of real life.
It’s not all a fairy tale come true. For the first few months of marriage I waited in fear for the fateful day that everyone speaks of when you wake up next to your spouse and are hit with the realization that you have fallen out of love. But now, after 17 months of reveling in the same giddiness I did as I walked down the aisle, I’m realizing that it doesn’t have to be everyone’s story. Sure, we change, our love matures from twitterpated beginnings to appreciation and enjoyment that comes from time. We don’t always feel butterflies the minute his name is mentioned, or call our girlfriends every time he says something cute. But I can’t help but think that when God ordained marriage it was for a two year rosy glow and then a life time of trudging through dutiful commitment. His way of peace and wholeness is for life, no matter what may come. And that is better than a fairy tale come true.