A season of weddings. That’s what I see as I look ahead to the next few months. Many of the children born in the 1980s are now young adults falling in love, pledging their troth and bravely preparing to marry.
Several invitations for these weddings dot our family bulletin board, some of which include photos of the engaged couple. They are young, full of promise and good intention. With sparkling eyes and sweet smiles, they radiate joy and eagerness to declare their love. They are beautiful and so is the love that spurs them forward.
It is a joy to witness these young people move towards their commitment. I have known some of these soon-to-be married people since they were babes. I fed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and rocked them to sleep. I wiped their tears and changed their diapers. I watched their distinctive personalities emerge, and witnessed their amazing growth. How is it possible that they have become these mature, ready-for-commitment adults? Like the singer in Fiddler on the Roof, I wonder, “Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?”
I have been asked to provide premarital counselling for some couples. We meet and talk about the kinds of things that make marriages strong and happy: About being steadfast companions, people who can be counted on to be there for each other; about providing a safe harbour for each other, a secure place of steadfast love and attachment; about “space” in the relationship, and freedom to be the person God created each one to be; about balancing couple time and individual time, balancing time with friends and extended family, and alone time to seal their bond; about sexuality and finances and communication and conflict.
I am heartened by the wisdom of these couples, and humbled by the privilege of watching couple-love in its infancy. As they negotiate the early stages of their commitment, they seem like fledglings taking wing, learning about themselves and their lover, their strength, their vulnerability, their limits, their joy.
There will be challenging times ahead for them, although no one can predict exactly what difficulties a particular couple will face. If those who are marrying today are like the generations who have preceded them, there could be any number of things that will test their love. Economic strains are certainly a possibility. Some may struggle with infertility. The children who come may bring trials, like physical or mental health strains, or the turbulence that often accompanies adolescence. The adults may find themselves flattened by illness: cancer, depression or addictions. Some will lose sight of their commitment and not always be faithful. Others will grow apart or it will seem just too hard—or even impossible—to stay married.
That’s why I call them brave. They boldly make their vows before God and in the presence of their community, declaring their love and fidelity in the face of all the possible tribulations that lie ahead. In their youthful commitment, they shine out a light of hope and promise. Even the seasoned—or cynical—veterans of married life find it hard to resist such bright cheer and optimism.
As I prepare for these weddings and pray for these young lovers, I return to the words of Song of Solomon 8:6-7. “Set me like a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,” sings the lover. “For love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. . . Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” May it be so.
Melissa Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives in Winnipeg, where she ponders family relationships as a pastor, counsellor and author.