Sunday, August 8, 2010

Soulmates, Seven Years and Wedding Season

The life of a campus minister tends to include a lot of weddings. I consider this a perk because (a) I love to dance and (b) it's great for my own marriage.  This summer I've gotten to be involved in a few of those weddings, reading scripture and singing.  One of those weddings was of two of my former students to each other. I watched them start dating, saw them wade through the chaos of senior year decisions, stand tall through tough family adversity, celebrate their engagement and, through it all, learn how to trust that God was guiding them together towards Him. They aren't getting married because of fireworks or passion, because of feelings or circumstances. They've taken a slow meander through the last few years of life together and learned how to do it together with God's lead.

Being a campus minister means that for a lot of the day I end up talking about relationships. Listening as people talk through crushes, dating, breakups, engagements...and all the while hearing a lot of theology inadvertently woven into their expectations. I've heard a lot of people throw around the word "soulmates" or the phrase "the one." A few times I've actually been asked what I think about those, probably because of the look on my face when a student slowed down long enough to notice. I'm not sure my answer is particularly popular among Christians who seem to, more than others, hold a kind of storybook, Hollywood view of courtship and dating.

The bottom line is that I don't believe in soulmates or "the one." Some may call me unromantic but what's so romantic about finding someone who is supposedly perfect for you who through a series of cosmic orchestrations has been thrust into your path? There's no work in that, there's no doubt in that, there's no real risk-taking and commitment, no trust in God. What I find romantic is the idea that God has given us the opportunity to walk alongside Him as we choose someone to love. To wake up each morning, as the pastor who married my husband and I said, and "decide to put that person ahead of our own needs" each and every day. To know going into it that life was made for trouble and marriage won't be easy. That the point of the commitment is to make it, stick to it and choose to out-bless that other person each day in a way that honors God above all, even when and perhaps especially when our feelings don't match our choice. This view takes out a lot of the what-if's I've heard. "What if I've already met "the one" and I didn't know it?" "What if I never find my soulmate?" Is God some capricious God who withholds good from us unless we know the specific 5-step way to place ourselves in the exact right situation to meet someone? I say "no".

My husband and I just celebrated our seventh anniversary. Neither one of us, when we met the other person, ever thought we'd hit this point. He wasn't my type, I wasn't his. Our first meeting was atrociously awkward(and could potentially take up a whole blog post of its own). No fireworks. No weird niggling feeling in the back of my mind that this could be "the one." He took a chance and asked me to coffee and my roommates made me say yes. I tripped up the stairs on our first date and he barely spoke. It did not end with a romantic and unawkward perfect meeting of our lips on my doorstep. Just like Hollywood, right?

If I were looking at signs or what I expected when meeting the man who eventually was to be my husband, I would never have said yes to Date Number 2. Or even Dates 3 and 4. But at some point in that early courtship, God made it clear to me that this kind of thing takes a risk. Mostly it's risking that God might think I need someone very different from who I think I want. And knowing that that's a risk worth taking. Even looking back on over nine years of knowing my husband and seeing how very different we are and knowing that each excruciating moment of discovering just how wide that gulf sometimes is is ultimately worth it because, more often than not, those differences and the working through of them bring us closer to God and one another.

Going to all these weddings reminds me of this. That marriage is a gift from God, one not to be entered into lightly. That the commitment is unkeepable on my own and that I need God's strength and perspective to wake up each day and fulfill those vows.  Sitting in the pews when these former students have said their vows over these last few months has been an amazing reminder of what we said to each other more than seven years ago.  I'll take a good wedding over a chick flick any day.  Hollywood's got nothing on the real thing.

1 comment: