Twenty years kind of seems like a big deal when it comes to commitment. And it is. Still, when I reflect on the sacrament of marriage and these two decades living out life with my husband, it is clear that our staying together is due to far more than each of us merely resolving to stick it out. We just attended a wedding of one of Howie’s co-workers, and the pastor was quite adamant about the wedding being carried out before God, and the vows being recited before witness and in the presence of the Holy Trinity. I certainly believe the ceremony encompasses a mysterious reality, a spiritual performance of God’s act and being. But then we exit the theater with hope and anticipation that the other will make this life worth living.
It is true: Howie does make this life worth living. Yet, it is because of so much more. We have definitely insisted on more from the other than is fair (or possible) to expect. We also understood from the beginning that no relationship lasts without community; it cannot thrive without support and accountability and love and examples of others who live out a commitment to each other. Howie’s parents have been a beautiful example of this to us. While my parents were separated by death (my father, just shy of 14 years with my mother), they loved well! and my mother continues to honor the memory of it. We have had countless friends and family, married and single, and our four children who remind us, hold us to that commitment—and, make evident that it is so much better to do life with another.
The manner in which our culture (in time and place) propagates marriage is not really functioning well, though. It is likely attributable to its being modeled on the imperial Roman, elite sensibilities—the model of upper class order and control over household—and less to do with the Hebrew tradition (and, of countless other cultures) of families and tribes covenanting to support and love and grow this newly formed family—together. While the other features usually coexisting with those arrangements are less than desirable (forcible union, woman-as-property, etc.), can we not perhaps look to the tribal aspect of the act, and creatively reimagine what family has the potential to be? Instead of isolating ourselves from each other—even our own families, our schedules high jacked by the urgent, superficially filled with tweets and Facebook updates, might we commit to gathering regularly as community—family-in-truth? I know that we need that—especially if we are to go another 20 years (or more!) because, as I’ve told Howie before, I have worked too hard on this relationship to start over! And, I have grown very fond of that man! It takes community. So, please, come, join our tribe!