Following the cancellation of many weddings last year this year’s wedding ‘season’ is well and truly here – we have lots of them! I don’t recall exactly how many wedding I’ve officiated at over the years, there have been so many, but I can’t remember one bride who did not look amazing, or a single groom, who did not, at least, look better than he’s ever looked. The guests all look fantastic too and are full of excitement and anticipation. What a wonderful day! But then come the vows and it strikes me that these promises dare to invade this idyllic day with warnings of more difficult times. He says, ‘I will love you if we are rich’; the vow whispers, ‘But what if you are poor?’ She promises, ‘I will love you for better…. and for worse.’ He says, ‘I will love you if you are well and…. in sickness too.’
Will those vows ever be called in? Yes, they will – but the couple do not know that now. And the scripture is read, ‘Love is patient, love is kind.. Love is not self-seeking… Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes… Love is..’ Yes, love is all those things. But the young couple often don’t know that yet either. On this most perfect of days many cannot yet know that love is not just a feeling, but a daily commitment to love in action – to love sometimes not just with the heart but with the will.
Some know it. One husband I can think of had been married for 30 years, the last ten of them watching his wife die slowly of a terrible wasting disease. He has lifted her, washed her, and cleared her excrement from the floor; he has kissed her and held her all through those long years of sickness. It was not what he expected when he made his vows, but his life makes me understand something of the words of St Paul, ‘Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.’ Such a husband has feelings of love for his wife, but his love is deeper than feeling. This was sacrificial love that decided to love when at times it seemed too great a burden to go on loving. This was love that in some ways laid down its life for another. This is love….
I have also spoken with a man who was leaving his wife and two young children for someone younger who he said would better fulfil his needs. I asked, ‘Why are you leaving?’ He said, ‘I don’t feel in love anymore.’ I treated him with dignity and with care, knowing full well the frailty of my own heart. But even as he was speaking, there was, in the back of my mind, an image of a man bleeding on a cross – and of another man clearing excrement from a floor.
Loving is hard sometimes….. may God help me, may God help us, and may God help all those I have the privilege of marrying this summer love in the good times and the bad.
Yours in Christ,