I was born into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), dedicated, baptized, active in youth group and worship my entire life. When I was to get married, of course, it would be in my home church, with a family friend and minister presiding.
The person to whom I was engaged did not grow up in the church, and he didn’t care about the ceremony so much. My mom wanted a soloist. He did not. We had a soloist.
We attended pre-marital counseling sessions and took the test to see what our “growing edges” would be. Faith was one of them. We fought after every session.
I thought that’s just how it was.
But we didn’t just fight after counseling sessions, we fought a lot. And even though my parents had given their blessing, and lots of money to help make the wedding and reception what it was, I later found out that they were not sure we were a good fit. The officiant also had reservations.
The ceremony was lovely, I wore a beautiful gown (and tiara which is weird to even think about), and my dad cried as he walked me down the aisle. It was at that point, and seeing the hundreds of church members who had watched me grow up, that I began to wonder what I was getting into.
We moved across the country weeks after being married, and I didn’t want to leave my family. I also left my family of faith, the church, which had kept me grounded. And our marriage fell apart within six months. We both made mistakes, and we “tried” to make it work. But after two years, we got divorced, and I moved back home.
Attending worship the Sunday after I returned was one of the hardest things I ever did. I cried throughout the service. And did for many thereafter. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I had made vows in the sanctuary that I hadn’t kept. I had failed.
I didn’t like to talk it, but when I did, I wondered why no one had said, “don’t do this.” My mother said she gave me an “out,” but I don’t even recall that conversation. I felt like we were already too deep in the process to back out. Deposits paid, dress bought, invitations sent.
I wish I had listened.
I now tell my friends that if there are big doubts, it is never too late to wait.
As the church, we must care about marriage because it’s a big deal. It is life-changing, and can be scary. We, the church, must be willing to ask the hard questions and support a couple by doing more than buying gifts and throwing a party. And when a marriage fails, we need not avoid the topic, but comfort the grieving. And say, it’s ok. God still loves you, and so do I.
When I got re-married to a minister, we planned the whole service together, wrote our vows, and made the ceremony a worship service. Again the church (the one he serves) was full, and my gown was lovely. But more importantly, we knew we were in this together, for the long haul, bound by love and faith.
I have plenty of friends who marry without a faith community, but I can’t imagine my marriage without one. They are the people who pray for us in thick and thin, celebrate births and mourn deaths. My husband and I don’t often get to worship together because we serve different congregations, but we are able to talk God and church and matters of faith.
That’s important, and I give thanks that the church cares about our relationship as much as we do.
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?