It Happened One Night

Growing up in the churches of Christ as a girl with a passion for God and leadership abilities was not as easy as one might think. Any time I expressed interest in leadership, it always needed to be in tandem with a(n often less enthusiastic) boy, after no boys were willing to do it or only if they couldn't find a tactful way of turning me down. This included leading prayers, reading Scripture in "mixed company", creating or heading any ministry outside of things specifically only for children or women and certainly anything involving extemporaneous speaking (teaching or preaching). I was treated as a threat by my faith community because of my faith. After years of having my motives questioned, I sometimes questioned them as well. Am I full of pride? Do I want to get attention? Who the hell do I think I am that I have any insight to share?It breaks my heart that the voices who spoke these shame-filled statements to me were not from the devil, but in fact, were the voices of the church.

That's not to say that I didn't have any encouragement along the way.  I had a few youth ministers who loved my energy and sought to mentor me. At my Christian high school that was much more egalitarian, I was fully supported in my ministry abilities and was in leadership for most of my high school career. And once I got to college, I was able to lead ministry as a full partner. Then, I married a youth minister. Tim and I were just speaking last night about how much our mutual love for ministry attracted us to each other when we met in 2002. It's ironic as neither of us are in ministry anymore. But the love of God and ministry was a critical piece to our story both as a couple and as individuals. 

I've found myself drawn back to church (my very "liberal" UCC). I've started reading more spiritual memoirs. I'm considering the activity of God in the world and within me. It's a little scary to be wooed. I'm not gonna lie. And yet, there's a certain coyness with which God draws me to himself, like He knows I can't resist. One of the things that has happened to me recently is that I got be ordained (by the internet) in order to perform my best friends wedding. It was such an incredible honor to do. And she and I giggled at the progressiveness of it (she chose me because of our relationship, but we snickered at breaking our childhood rules as an added bonus). It was such an incredible, humbling, heady experience. It just felt right. It makes me wonder if God's not done with me and spiritual leadership (not that I'm not using those gifts now as a "layperson." In some ways, I think Tim and I both feel freer to use our gifts outside of the constraints of an eldership).

She asked me to post the words I wrote for the occasion. In true Becky fashion, it was a very short, simple, sweet, beautiful night. So don't be alarmed - there isn't too much to read. But I thought I would share my words so you can share both in Becky and Ali's joy and also in mine.

Welcome to Ali and Becky’s wedding!

What a wonderful day to celebrate the life these two begin together today. Marriage is the craziest of the traditions I think we hold so dear as humans. It is sacred. It is incredible. It is undoubtedly a crazy undertaking. To willingly choose one person to share your life with, to build a family with, to love and die with FOREVER?!?! It is an absurd risk, this act of getting married. And yet, all the things we really care about require great risk. And that is what makes these things courageous. Because even though getting married is certainly common, it is more than anything - quite daring.

We’re here to celebrate this amazing thing that has happened, these two people who’ve found each other, fallen in love and are committing to being together forever in front of us today. When God made this incredible planet and everything in it, he called us his ultimate creation. I think loving each other in marriage, choosing to give each other grace, appreciating all the idiosyncrasies that make each of us unique and living life alongside each other as partners and as friends is the most incredible way to honor the creation God made. We take each other on as family and we do our best to love each other as we change and grow all our lives alongside each other. I’m warning you both now – you’re going to change. A lot. We’re typically sweeter when we date than after we marry J But we’re also more intimate post-nuptials, as we learn each other in every possible way. We get a sneak peek, we commit forever, and then we really, really get to know each other. It’s an incredible and weird order – how we humans love each other. But I think there’s a certain purpose to it – that we don’t fully reveal ourselves until we are completely safe. It is my desire to see the safety you’ve found in each other grow with each passing year, that it never decreases or remains static over time, but that as you reveal yourselves to each other more and more, your safety in each other only grows.

None of us know what awaits us in the future. Today, as Ali and Becky move forward, they are stating to the world that whatever lies ahead, they plan to face it together. May you cling to each other and to the family you’re making today as life brings you many unknowable challenges and gifts. For we don’t seek a partner to fill us and make us whole. We don’t seek a partner to walk before us or behind us as leader or property. We seek a partner to hold our hand, to walk alongside us and to face whatever comes together. That is what you are getting today – not just a lover or a spouse, but a lifelong friend. There is no greater gift.

My wish for you is that you continue to create space for your differences. For, I think, it’s in our differences that we learn what respect really is. We always talk about love when we talk about marriage and love is indeed, critical for success. But the goal of marriage, or how we claim “success” isn’t really in just “staying married.” What we really want even above love, is acceptance. In my experience, the key ingredient to a happy marriage is a bone-deep appreciation for your partner as “other.” We must make space for the other, whether it be in our closet, in our plans and dreams, in our decisions and life direction. We accommodate. We create space – not just for who your person is right now, but for who they may become. Hopefully all of us will continue to grow and change throughout our lives. Ali, Becky, if you decide to clamp down on each other and try to keep each other as you are now, frozen in time, you will stunt each other. And if you push and prod, trying to make one another into a better version of yourselves, one that you may think you prefer, you will quench each other. True marriage is respecting the other enough to let them evolve as they see fit, respecting their personhood before God, providing your support and encouragement along the way. People who achieve greatness of spirit often have a community behind them. May you be each others teammate through and through. And as your family and friends, may we cheer you on as you face life together from here on out.

While celebrating differences in marriage is important, celebrating your similarities is too. I think when Becky and Ali got together, many of us here focused on the obvious differences between them in culture and religion. But you know what’s funny? After meeting Ali in person and seeing these two together, it felt like the most beautiful surprise to see how incredibly the same they are. They share a love for the world, for travel, for deep conversation, for learning, for peace and kindness, for children and extended family, for exercise and the outdoors, for God and of course, for each other. These are the things that carry us through life’s difficulties – not just finding someone you can live with, but meeting the person you cannot live without. I believe that Becky and Ali have found that person and are just grateful and humbled to stand before you and before God today and make a lifelong commitment to each other.

I couldn’t be more pleased to celebrate your union today. Congratulations!   

And here are the gorgeous vows they wrote to each other:

 "In the Name of God, I, Rebecca, take you, Ali, to be my husband to have and to hold from this day forward. I will be yours in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health, in failure and in triumph. I promise I will laugh with you in times of joy, and comfort you in times of sorrow. I will listen to you with compassion and understanding, and speak to you with encouragement. I promise to learn with you and grow with you, to explore and adventure with you, to respect you in everything as an equal partner. All that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you. Whatever the future holds, I will love you and stand by you, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."