[Guest post from Pastoral Intern Drew Humphrey]
There’s something mysteriously beautiful about the contrasting hues in which our lives are painted.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to trek over to the shores of the Mississippi River for the wedding ceremony of my brother-in-law. It was a beautiful event. The vows were exchanged on a refreshingly cool Sunday evening beneath the canopy of a stand of stately old trees. The air was filled with excitement and joy as two lives were formally united through the covenant of sacred matrimony. There was hugging, crying, laughing, dancing, story-telling, and picture-taking. (There was also an incredibly cute flower girl, who just so happened to be my eldest daughter. But I digress.) In short, it was a celebration fit for the significance of the occasion.
The next day, I found myself sleepily driving eastbound down Interstate 74 with one daughter who was being very vocal about her desire to be anywhere but her car seat, another daughter who was providing us with color commentary on her “Dora the Explorer” movie, and a wife who was trying to maintain some level of sanity in the midst of it all. At some point on that long stretch of road through endless central Illinois farmland, I had an existential moment. In a single and glorious instant, I saw the startlingly vivid contrast between the experience I was having in the minivan and the celebration of the previous evening. One felt something like a magical fairy tale. The other felt more like a migraine.
It’s ironic if you think about it. Most of us start our marriages surrounded by pomp and circumstance. We’re dressed up as nicely as we’ll ever be. We revel in the presence of our families, our friends, and those who managed to somehow garner an invitation despite being neither. Our faces hurt by the end of the day from smiling so much. Yet most of our married lives are spent surrounded by electric bills, dirty diapers, broken-down vehicles, and microwave meals. The tuxedo goes back to the store it was rented from and the wedding gown gets stuck in a box in the closet. The blissful exuberance of a wedding day quickly gives way to the mundane simplicity of life in a frustrating, fallen world.
In other words, we start marriage in the serenity of a summer evening ceremony beneath the foliage of majestic trees. But we experience the daily reality of marriage in a cacophonous minivan rolling down a boring stretch of Midwestern highway.
Sound depressing? It’s not. It’s actually what makes marriage beautiful.
We can’t live in an eternal wedding day. And why would we want to? Sure, it might be true that Day 1,914 of my marriage was a tad bit less spectacular than Day 1. But it was no less beautiful. And it was certainly no less of a blessing. Because I got to do something on Day 1,914 that I never would have been able to do on Day 1. I got to pull over for an emergency bathroom break on the side of the road (sometimes even cute little flower girls can’t wait for the next gas station, you know). How’s that for a memory? Perhaps it lacked a certain amount of pageantry. But pageantry doesn’t make marriage beautiful. Simple, subtle grace makes it beautiful.
I think wedding days are great. But I happen to think there’s plenty worth celebrating in those days when no fancy clothes get worn, no cake gets eaten, and no pictures get taken. Those are the days that make up the kind of marriage I want to have. Those are the days that make for a lifetime of memories.