[Post written in late 2019 – just before the world tilted sideways]
Nothing requires more courage than to marry. Choosing to vow a bound life to another soul takes courage. It is the riskiest most vulnerable endeavor on the planet. One can be deeply in love with another person an not marry. And I argue, there is far less risk in cohabitation. To marry, to vow before your Whole World differentiates marriage from all other versions of being *with* someone. I can look you deeply in the eyes and tell you I love you. But to stand before all the important enough people in my life and make that promise is risky. Or at least it should be.
And courage can manifest in a multitude of other ways. It’s how you walk into an exam room and tell a woman she had stage 4 breast cancer and she may not see her son graduate high school. It’s how you put on body armor, jump out of a plane and accept command to enter a battle, a war. It is how you donate a kidney to a sibling…or a stranger. It’s how someone steps into an active shooter and gives their life for a stranger. These are all courageous acts but they are truly unilateral. You give with no expectation from the other side.
If you do marriage right – the way it was intended – it is intimate. Beyond the sexy-sexy, it is intimacy like no other space. Marriage is a bind, a binding, to be tethered to another person – for life. In some cultures, the ceremony ties the spouses hands together as they say their vows. Some jump over a broom, stomp on a glass, the husband carries his wife across the threshold of their marital home. Symbolism for the act of connection, commemoration of the promises made. And to wake each day and stay intimate, be vulnerable, keep not just an open mind but an open heart. It is a promise to take off armor, put down weaponry, share your Achilles heels, offer our partners the exact road map to our darkest fears and our deepest insecurities, and yet, to still love and honor that stripped down, exposed, honest person.
Marriage is not about love, or compatibility or attraction or great sex or a bright future or creating children or companionable living. Marriage is about the promise to be real, to be honest, to stay standing in that ring of intimacy, vulnerable and bare.
The marriages that work, the success stories, the couples who still LIKE each other arrive at that graceful and merciful accomplishment because their partner has stayed true to the vow to be true, to be present and to be vulnerable. It is how seemingly imperfect people can stay happily married. They SEE each other and allow for failure, weakness…..INTIMACY.
My nephew gets married this weekend. Starting out on this new journey. He is undoubtedly a man of courage. A soldier. They don’t have to marry. Not in today’s world. But I hope and pray that they marry and they willingly and courageously step into the fray that is the boldest acts of courage any human being can muster. And I pray that they will take that vow over and over and over and never quit, never give up. Plenty of marriages fail and they fail because someone or both people stop being vulnerable, stop being present.