Thursday, January 31, 2013

Marriage Is More Than a Wedding Day

     As a little girl, I would daydream about the moment that Prince Charming would ask me to marry him. The fall air would be crisp and I would be thankful for the long lace sleeves of my gown. My father’s arm would wrap around mine and with an single look we would exchange an understanding of the beauty of this moment. His little girl was to be wed, and soon begin the next season of life. The string music would play softly and the guests would rise indicating that it was time for me to walk toward my groom and our life together. Our eyes would meet and enormous grins would stretch across our faces. This is it. This is the most important day of our lives. This is our wedding day.

      Even in my childlike mind, I had my wedding day on a pedestal. I knew it was supposed to be a magical day in life, and every movie and message confirmed it. Best of luck to Mr. Charming because getting married to me would come with some high expectations.

      Interestingly, I never envisioned my groom. There was never a particular build, hair color or even personality type to go along with the physical presence that was at the altar. Perhaps those details were considered only minor elements to the big day, despite the fact that they belonged to the groom whom is a pretty instrumental for that particular event. My dream was all about the wedding.

     Life is kind of funny in how it rearranges our ideas. My actual wedding was nothing like what I had envisioned, and I am thankful for that contrast. It even now strikes me as humorous to compare the two. The proposal was not an elaborate production, but one more intimate. I am not sure if I will ever forget the sight of David standing in front of me while shaking and stuttering to get the words of the question out. It was the greatest and most life changing words he would ever speak, and his delivery was honest and heartfelt. I never imagined it that way, and now I can’t imagine it any other way. It was perfect. I, of course, said “yes!” I also suddenly became left handed as for some reason my right hand seemed inadequate in comparison to the left which now displayed a shiny ring.

     We kept our engagement short, and while this period is typically full of delight over dresses, colors and other planning my mind and heart were elsewhere. I just wanted to begin life with him. Instead of the orchestration of the wedding day, I dreamed of beginning and ending each day together. I was filled with excitement for even the mundane aspects of married life like grocery shopping and sharing meals. The little girl grew up and realized that there was more to marriage than a wedding day.  

     We chose to wed in private, and then celebrate with friends and family on separate occasions. No longer was it the day, but our day. We did not have to be concerned about details of the ceremony or the fact that we would be the center of attention (a position that is rather uncomfortable for each of us). The exchange of vows was the most important to us, and it was that aspect that we desired to be the center of our attention. They were intimate words of our love and devotion to one another. From this point forward we would become one in marriage.

     To my surprise, married life did not come as smoothly as I had expected. We experienced our most difficult times to date during our first years of marriage, but also learned a tremendous amount about love and marriage. I expected to enter the famed “newlywed bliss” season of marriage and eagerly assert that I had married my best friend. While we did marry as best friends, we did not stay that way for long. I grieved the close relationship we had while dating and lamented over the ways life had changed. I imagine that he struggled with a similar realization of the difference between the expectations of marriage and the reality of marriage. What happened? Where did we go wrong? Why was marriage not making me happy?

       The truth is that marriage will not make you happy if you were not happy before marriage. Depreciative feelings toward myself or my life’s accomplishments will not disappear and I suddenly become a happier person with a better life simply because I am married. In fact, to place a means of definition of myself and fulfillment of my life solely on my marriage is to weigh it down with far greater responsibility than it was ever intended to hold. Perhaps there is more to marriage than me and my state of being.

     In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Chapman poses the question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” The message is not that we will not be happy in marriage, because I assure you there is happiness in marriage. Rather, that marriage is a tool and not the end goal in life. God uses this tool to carve and sharpen us. Marriage teaches selflessness in that instead of my focus being on my happiness it shifts to the happiness of my husband. We are both going to experience moments of unhappiness in life, and it does neither of us any good if we are both focused on our own state instead of encouraging the other person. Marriage also teaches the meaning of love and grace regardless of them being offered in return.

     Marriage is a powerful tool, and I would miss these lessons if my focus had not shifted to God and His purposes for it. My life and love have been enriched greatly because of marriage. The truth is that my wedding day had little to do with reaching this end. Although it was a beautiful day and a memory that I will always hold dear, the greater joys in life are the marriage and the man with whom it is shared.  And so, may the child who imaginatively transforms a pillowcase into a veil and a Ring Pop candy into an engagement ring dream wildly, but also grow into a young lady who understands and cherishes that marriage is more than a wedding day.



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