I grew up in church.
Church, as I have seen it, is much like any sort of subculture in that it has it's own jargon.
You know, the language that people within that group use on a regular basis. It is what defines their particular clique.
So, because I grew up in church I had a unique brand of vocabulary instilled within me from a young age on.
Words like: salvation, redemption, sacrifice, Jesus, sin, fallen, righteousness...
Perhaps, in your own subculture, you have your own unique language that you use to communicate the shared interest of the whole.
There are two things that I have noticed about subculture jargon:
One of these, is that it makes it very difficult for those who are 'outside' of the culture to understand anything a person who is 'in' the culture is saying.
This is certainly something that I've noticed is especially prominent with church-goers. They try to tell others about Jesus and God, and it is as if they are speaking Chinese in Spain.
Or Ebonics in Elm Grove for that matter.
(This particular aspect of subculture jargon is worth writing about, but is not my key focus today so I will put it aside for now and address the second observation.)
The second thing I've noticed about "church-y" language, is that the words which are instilled within the youth, growing up in a church environment, is that they are used so often the words themselves begin to lose their weight. Their depth and meaning.
Marriage is one of the words I grew up with in church.
I always assumed I would get married because...well...that's what church people do. Right?
This was the formula as I understood it from a young age on...
You find someone you are fond of, date her for awhile, give her a ring with a shiny stone on it, throw a big party and become permanent roommates.
Isn't it funny how, so often, some of the most beautiful things can be turned into the mundane?
Marriage is an absolutely beautiful thing.
As I am beginning to see it in a new light, it is one of the most singular noble and worthwhile commitments that any individual could pursue.
I started thinking about this when I was talking with my sister Becca...
We were grilling dinner for our parents on Memorial Day, and took a break from our frisbee tossing to sit down.
She started searching her iPod for a new song, as I sat and sipped an ice-cold Miller Genuine Draft. I listened to the sound of meat sizzling on the grill and felt the warm sticky heat of the day begin, ever so slowly, to subside.
We shot the shit for a bit, and the topic of marriage came up.
I asked her if, when she got married, if she'd have a super huge poofy dress or if it'd be a more modern one slim and simple...
She responded simply by saying that she would go with whatever works with her body type, but that the dress and the whole hype about the wedding being "her" day wasn't what mattered to her.
She said that she wanted a small wedding, just close friends and family, and that it would be simply a day about her and her fiance.
The sheer simplicity of that statement almost knocked me off my chair.
It was one of the most beautiful things that I have heard in a long time.
Her answer helped expose me to the reality that my thinking subtly mirrors conventional thought about weddings now.
This thinking, however one may try to phrase it, is that weddings are a production or a product. They emphasize the pageantry, and seem to assume that a great wedding day will provide a fantastic marriage. Many couples search desperately to customize their perfect, ideal, dream wedding...and, as a result, something gets lost in the process.
The wedding becomes about the dress,
Or the caliber of food which is served,
The 'perfect' ceremony,
The length of a guest list...
Have you ever encountered those who love to be the secret critic at weddings?
I've sat at tables with friends and relatives alike, who do nothing but critique elements of the wedding. How the ceremony lacked this, or the bride's dress is too much, too little...
All the while I'm screaming in my head that the dress, the candles, and the table decorations aren't the point!
The point is something far more breathtaking and altruistic.
It is the covenant (or deep commitment) that these two individuals are making before God and their loved ones.
A promise that they won't share themselves with other lovers.
A commitment that they will demonstrate the fortitude that is necessary to stand by their partner when life's storms crowd in: unemployment, sickness, loss in family...
The pledge to serve the other before serving themselves.
Marriage is the complete giving of oneself to another.
An understanding that together they compliment, and become more than one alone could ever be. The understanding that they will stay together, even through the hardest times.
This is a revolutionary concept in a society which strongly emphasizes living in the moment, and doing what feels good all the time.
Ask anyone who has been together, even in the healthiest of marriages, and they will tell you that the 'honeymoon' doesn't last...
Something does come from a lasting commitment, however, something powerful and profound.
It brings oneness.
The deepest level of relationship possible.
It's how we were created to be.
This depth is not replicable with one night stands or open ended relationships.
This is why great physical chemistry doesn't always bring happiness in relationships.
Sex isn't something that defines a marriage.
Sex was created for marriage, but does not define marriage.
Oddly enough, all of the things that marriage is, in it's true form, reflect God's intended relationship with humanity.
That is what it all boils down to.
Which is why marriage, as it is intended, is a beautiful thing. It is completeness of relationship.
Sharing oneself fully with another. Being open, vulnerable, known.
Having trust. Being supported when life collapses...
These are all the things God wants in his relationship with us...
Realizing these things about marriage, I see now that marriage isn't just a "Christian" thing to do.
It is something special, unique and worthwhile.
Life won't always be kind, but the beauty of finding the other half is their uncanny ability to be able to reveal God to you in ways you could have never known.
To mirror a Creator whose one desire is to have a relationship that is full, complete and whole once again with his creation.
That is the beauty of marriage.