Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Ann Bolson In the words of Rogers and Hammerstein, "June is Bustin' Out All Over!" one of the sure signs of June is the increase in wedding activity in local churches. Just last Saturday late afternoon, I noticed newlyweds exiting several churches in the downtown Vermillion area. The institution of marriage has changed quite a bit since the days of Jesus' life on earth. The predominant world view of those days included the notions that women were property and that the world was flat. We have come a long way.
As you may know, I have spent nearly 10 years of my professional life as a marriage and family therapist. I have come across some interesting observations of the relationship which we call marriage, and I thought I would share a few of those with you today.
I recently attended a wedding out of state. One of the interactions which I noticed was the competition between some members of the bride's family with some of the members of the groom's family. People were noticing how much air time each got at the rehearsal dinner and so forth. I laughingly told my brother of a statement made by a famous though rather cynical marriage and family therapist. "If the truth be known," he said, "there is not such thing as a marriage. There are only emissaries from two different families of origin fighting for control of the next generation."
Wow. There is a lesson in this. I think that one of the kindest things we can do for our young adult children is to let them have the freedom and autonomy to design their own marital and family values. I caught a few minutes of a remake of King Lear last night on television. This was a man who struggled for control of his daughters to the very end.
One marriage story which I have included in a sermon drew many requests for copies. It comes from a book by a Christian psychiatrist, Dr. M. Scott Peck, in his book The Road Less Traveled. In one vignette, Dr. Peck is facilitating a marital group. He asks the husbands and wives present to comment on "the purpose and function of my spouse." He gets some rather stereotypical responses along the lines of "my husband earns the money and keeps the cars running" or "my wife cooks and does the laundry."
Peck becomes quite agitated with these replies. "No wonder you are in therapy!" he thunders. The group members return his indignation and demand that he tell them the purpose and function of his spouse. Here is his simple response which so many people find captivating. "The purpose and function of Lily," he replies, "is to grow to become all of which she is capable, not for my benefit but for her own and to the glory of God."
It is the lucky spouse whose partner realizes that every person was created in the image and likeness of God, and that each of us has a separate destiny to fulfill. We were not created for the convenience of our spouse. A client asked me to read a book several years ago. I often decline such invitations because they are so time intensive, but this woman made a compelling case. She herself was an amazing person, recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but still on her spiritual path. Here are some thoughts from this book, Soul Stories by Gary Zukov.
The groom was handsome. The bride was radiant. A warm, alpine day completed the picture ? The new husband looked into the eyes of his new wife. "I trust you," he said, "because I know that you love God more than you love me." ? The new husband knew that his wife would always choose her spiritual growth over everything less, including him. As long as he remains committed to his own spiritual growth, they will grow together.
Zukov also goes so far as to say, "Until you have the courage to enter into relationships of substance and depth, you cannot develop spiritually ? When the other people are committed to growing spiritually, too, then you are in a spiritual partnership." I pray that all of our June weddings may produce spiritual partnerships.