In the Company of Others {Reflections on Marriage}

We sat around the table sharing the solemn celebration we often fail to rightly name as sacred.

It was our twenty-second wedding anniversary and we should have been any number of places except where we were. After that many years a worthy celebration should include all things romantic–candlelights, sparkling drinks, and hushed romantic tones.

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Instead we crowded in among the company of friends and pizza plopped down in the middle of highchairs and sippy cups with cartoons playing in the background babysitting tired munchkins. We chose to spend the evening with them and their littles–with boys now grown we know these kind of family moments pass too quickly and twenty-two is a rather uneventful stutter of an anniversary.

It was the right place to be–celebrating our marriage there, with them, in the unspoken awareness that doing life together means sharing things we often relegate to unnoticed places.

I felt vulnerable sitting there them staring at the reality of how much blood, sweat and tears had been shed in twenty-two years and knowing that every single person around the table knew because they too are bleeding and sweating and crying marriage into life every single day . Nobody gets to a hyphenated number without war stories and purple hearts.

My hubby and I exchanged glances, sending silent signals of discomfort as we lifted the veil to the inner part of lives–much like we did on our wedding day when we stood before the crowd professing publicly our love and commitment to one another; inviting their accountability because we knew we wouldn’t be able to get twenty minutes into our marriage without the confidence that friends, family, and the faithful would help us keep our promises.

And now here we were still in the presence of friends, this time they inviting themselves to celebrate our relationship with us. This was new. Usually you let anniversaries stay quiet between husband and wife. At the most you golf clap quietly from the side. We didn’t expect them to acknowledge the significance of the date, but for some reason they did.

They gifted us with copper, because that’s what twenty-two years will get you–metal that easily dents and tarnishes, but is ever so functional. There was a copper pail to hold firewood–to keep the fire burning. There were twenty-two pennies–one for each year of our marriage, date respective, sorted, cleaned and polished by my friend Joy (because she knows my squeamishness with germs of unknown origin). There was a bottle of twenty year port–two years shy, because there are always two years better left forgetten. And there were questions for us to answer–questions about us and our marriage.

I’ve always said that special occasions aren’t complete without questions. I’m pretty sure I have friends who go out of town on their birthdays just so they don’t have to endure my questions. Yet reflection on the past is what helps us grow forward in the future.

In answering thier questions–and they had some good ones–about marriage I realized with a newfound clarity how marriage is not for the fake or phony, or the dishonest, or the selfish or self-promoting, and God only knows how much it is not for the do-it-alone or the self-sufficient. It’s the one place where all the other socially accepted pretenses fail.

No, marriage is too raw for pretense. It requires transparency. There isn’t any place to hide in marriage. Nowhere to run. {Because let’s be honest–the thing that is most wrong in every marriage is the person you see in the mirror.} While marriage is a union of two (plus One), it needs the guts and glue of others to withstand its internal stresses.

I was once told to choose my spouse carefully–no other choice, they said, would have the influence of that decision. {I’m convinced I chose well–my husband helps me steward my story well and I am better because of his leadership in my life.}

But here’s the thing that nobody ever told me–once you’ve chosen your spouse, then choose carefully your friends who will help you love, honor, and celebrate your choice. Choose honest ones who can bear the truth about you…even when you can’t. Choose funny ones who will help you capture joy and fill the holes in the wall where the energy of life leaks out. Choose friends with big faith who see God at work even when you can’t. Choose bold friends who will step in and be guts and glue for every time you are falling apart; who will be glitter and confetti for every good reason to celebrate.

Friends aren’t the panacea for a marriage falling in on its fallenness. I’ve sat in the front row of too many breaking, bleeding out marriages to believe that. But I also know that any marriage that falls down is blessed to have friends to help them up again. Marriages standing tall are no less blessed to have friends stand with them, clapping, acknowledging that sacred bonds are forged with tired muscles and calloused knees.

As we settled into the car to leave my hubby looked at me and said bashfully, “I can’t believe they did that for us.” I nodded as I reached for his hand and whispered sacredly back, “They blessed us” and somehow it felt like the words were received in some heavenly place as a prayer of thanks.

How about you–how has your marriage been strengthened by the company of others?In

2 thoughts on “In the Company of Others {Reflections on Marriage}

  1. From the day we got married to twenty five years later, friends have always been one of God’s greatest gifts to our marriage. We had a simple, all hands on deck, church fellowship hall wedding. No fancy caterers or decorations, no professional photographer, nothing pinterest worthy but the place was filled to overflowing with love, and was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. Grandpa was in the kitchen with the church ladies, friends served light bites, Aunty took photographs, friends made the wedding cake, Dad grew the flowers for on top of the wedding cake in his own garden, sister painted a handmade banner. The list goes on . . . The hands of friends and family held us up that day and every day ever since. Thank you Lord for friends.

    • That made me teary. Wish I had known you then to stand and celebrate with you…so thankful I get the pleasure of cheering with you now.

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