Catherine and Jonathan, there is so much to share on a day, on a threshold as important as today. You no doubt have been told by many what it takes to have a successful marriage. Some advice is worthwhile – other advice is valuable only as a smile, nod and move on. What I would like to speak to is a sort of non-advice.
It comes down to this – enter your marriage with empty hands.
Few of us do that frankly. We enter marriage hands loaded. What are our hands loaded with? We like to think hopes and dreams – and that is partially true – but we also enter marriage with all our beliefs and expectations of what MY marriage will look like, and how the future will unfold. So we load up with all our expectations and plans for MY marriage. And yet there has to be the soft place to allow OUR marriage to grown. One guarantee I can give you, your marriage will in the end look nothing like you imagine. It some ways it will be a brighter future, in other ways more dim, but always changing, always dynamic – and more precious than you can imagine.
Unloading our hands takes times. For some of us decades. And the sooner we do it, the better I believe. See imagine what happens with empty hands.
With an empty hand we better hold the unanticipated joy of life. With an empty hand Jonathan, you can turn to her and offer a dance. With an empty hand Catherine you can accept.
With an empty hand we can better hold as well the breakings of life. You will know pain. Those who contract with pain – a clenched fist as it were – never allow pain to transform them but can only transfer that pain onto others. With an empty hand reaching for help and receiving help in return we don’t contract. The pain will be, but the pain will be an opening, a crack through which the light gets in.
With an empty hand you will accept the future. I was struck several weeks ago in some pastoral work noting how many times I hear (and experienced in my own marriage) this desire to “get back” to something. “I know we were crazy in love when we first were engaged. I want to get back to there.” Well, that is nice in a nostalgic way but from here on out there is no going back. Better things are in store than what was- which is a life’s work to understand.
God is leading you somewhere. He is not showing up with a grand blue print accompanied by a detailed strategic plan. What He is showing up with are far more organic tools – His Word, love, compassion, friends, family, one another – all part of the great stream, the great river of His Divine Providence that will bring you home. And we can only hold His Word, love, compassion, friends, family, one another – you guessed it, with empty hands.
So of course I wish you many things. And in my heart, I know in a sense, that God is asking me actually to wish you No Thing. He is asking me to wish you empty hands for the journey. We are just plain too attached to this life and we confuse this life with LIFE. Enter the LIFE of marriage unencumbered – just like you did when you were born.
Marriage gives us glimpses into LIFE. It allows us to witness it in seeing you two, even if it is just for a moment. Eventually you will sitting right there, in the front row where your parents are sitting right now and you will know exactly what I mean.
And you will know LIFE when you partner passes. We don’t pass at the same time as our partner. One will go first. And what will you look back and remember if the other goes first? You will look back and remember all the precious blessings that God and your beloved placed in your empty hands.
And the story will not end. I think when we enter heaven, God in a sense asks to see our hands. They will be nicked and cut, a few callouses, but hopefully empty. And God with smile, and He will gently tell you somebody has been waiting for a dance!