February 6, 2009

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Successful marriages are work and include God

Patti LambRecently, I attended my friend’s wedding.

The church was beautiful. The pews gleamed, and the flowers were fresh and fragrant, a welcome scent for mid-January. Every petal stood at attention.

And then there was my friend. Simply put, she was radiant.

She walked down the aisle to the altar, where the bridesmaids and groomsmen stood elegantly dressed and perfectly color coordinated.

She joined hands with her dashing groom. It was like a fairy tale. Her many months of planning every little detail, right down to the jeweled embellishments on her shoes, led her to this—her exquisite wedding day.

Up there, it all looks as if it’s on stage. Everything is new. The couple is in love, and ready to take on the world. They exchange vows rooted in tradition, promising to be true to one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.

Aren’t those vows rhythmic and poetic? It is prose of the angels.

“I will love you and honor you all the days of my life,” they each stated confidently.

I paused and thought to myself about that sentence: That’s easy for the bride and groom to say when they look and feel their best, and are surrounded by all the people who love them on their wedding day.

Then the priest made a candid, but enlightened, remark to the couple: “Making this promise takes guts.”

“However eloquently worded, the conditions of the contract you’re entering aren’t easy to swallow,” he said. “In the sight of God and all of us here today, you enter into a human contract to love and honor each other all the days of your life.”

I’m sure all the married couples in attendance were thinking the same thing: It’s not always easy.

My husband and I have only been married for five years and, in that short time, we’ve learned that it’s not always smooth sailing.

It’s wonderful, but it’s clearly not effortless. I suppose it’s easier when the refrigerator is full, the house is warm and the kids are healthy.

But there are also days when it’s not so easy: When your child is diagnosed with special needs. When you’re unemployed or underemployed. When you find yourself in the midst of tragedy, standing around a casket, saying goodbye to a loved one all too soon.

The priest continued by reminding the couple that the most important part to remember is that this human contract is ratified by divine grace.

How true. A lot happens between the wedding and when we are called home.

Marriage takes work. Every day we wake up and choose to love that person again.

But most importantly, marriage takes God.

It’s no wonder that marriage is a sacrament. We require the grace of the sacrament to get us through such a big undertaking. It’s not an institution that human beings could sustain without divine help.

Matrimony is not as glamorous as the glossy, touched-up wedding photos make it look. Marriage, and all real friendships for that matter, require hard work and constantly renewed love, with the grace of God.

My wish for my friend is that, in the midst of the hard work and sacrifices that marriage requires, she will have an abundance of days when she says, “It’s so worth it. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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