For the past few months, my husband has referred to our home as Wedding Central. Though, as a deacon, he normally witnesses only two or three weddings per year, by the end of this year, he will have witnessed twelve. The good news is that he has enjoyed working with the couples involved who seem happy and prepared to take on this commitment. The better news is that several of the couples are personal friends, so both Mike and I have or will be present at their nuptials.
Whenever I attend a wedding, tears fall in tiny trails down my cheeks. Some of the tears come with memories of our own wedding. My thoughts just before I walked down the aisle and throughout the ceremony remain a vivid memory. When I witness another couple exchanging their promises to love, honor and cherish, the successes of our marriage bring tears of joy. Unfortunately, these happy tears are tempered by tears of sadness over our failures in this regard. Each time, I end these melancholy bouts with three prayers. I pray that the newlywed couple of the day will not be discouraged by the failures that are a part of all of our relationships. I pray that the two will hold on to the love which brought them together and that they will continue to nurture it. Finally, I pray that they discover the art of keeping joy alive in their relationship. My husband and I have managed to stay together for four decades, mostly due to our feeble attempts at all of these.
I share these wedding reflections because we have much to learn from our experiences within marriage and within all of our important relationships. Even when a marriage fails, it mirrors the journeys on this earth which will take us home to God. We fall in love with our seemingly ideal partner with the expectation of a successful relationship. Because we are human, we meet many obstacles along the way. When we encounter rocks on our paths, forks in the road and washed away bridges, we recalculate our route and carry on. We will never get anywhere in our relationships or on our journeys if we fail to reassess, regroup and try again along the way. Even when our renewed efforts require us to walk away from a relationship, they contribute to our progress. It seems to me that this is the point of most of what Jesus has to say about life on this earth and about God’s love for us.
Matthew’s gospel (21:28-32) reports another of Jesus’ parables. On this occasion, Jesus spoke of a vineyard owner with two sons. One day, the man asked the first to work his vineyard. This son refused, but later had a change of heart. He went out to the vineyard and did as his father asked. When the man asked his second son to work, the young man immediately agreed to do so. However, this son never lifted a finger. Jesus asked those listening which young man did his father’s will. All who were present agreed that the son who worked was the righteous one, in spite of his initial response. Ah, “in spite of his initial response!” Jesus recognized that failure at one time or another is inevitable. Jesus also recognized that our opportunity to turn things around is also inevitable. When Jesus remarked that tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the kingdom of heaven, he was not condoning their sinfulness. Rather, he condoned what they did after they engaged in this wrong-doing. In spite of their sketchy pasts, the tax collectors and prostitutes took Jesus’ message to heart. They reassessed, regrouped and tried again. Jesus promised that similar effort by the rest of us will be rewarded as well.
I admit that I haven’t minded being a part of Wedding Central 2014. Though the good deacon bears the brunt of the paperwork, marriage prep and wedding rehearsals, we share the joy and the hope which come with witnessing the commitments of these couples. When they promise their love for a lifetime, they also pledge to reassess, regroup and try again when they fail. Like Jesus’ parable, these couples remind us that this is all any of us can hope for: To do our best, to acknowledge our errors, to make amends when we fail, and to know, regardless of how often we repeat this process, that God loves us. Yes, even when we fail, God loves us.
©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved