Why do people choose to get married?
Years ago I attended a retreat program presented by Deacon Arthur Miller. There were about thirty people there and it was an inspiring night filled with wisdom, laughter, and the sharing of faith. At the end of the program, I introduced myself to Deacon Art just to say a quick thanks. About six months later, I had the opportunity to attend another one of his programs. As I entered the room, Deacon Art came over to me with a welcoming smile. “Hello, Sheri!” At my look of surprise, he said: “You didn’t think I remembered you, did you?” An immediate sense of pleasure and gladness washed over me. To be noticed like that…to be remembered by name and picked out of the crowd, for just that moment…it transformed the experience for me. I felt like my presence mattered to the group and the purpose of the day. (It wasn’t until much later that I realized I was wearing a nametag, so Deacon Art had a little help in remembering me that day!) But the point remains the same. It was the moment of being noticed that stayed with me.
It brings to mind a wonderful movie I saw years ago called Shall We Dance, staring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon. The movie is about John and Beverly Clark, a couple who’ve been married for almost 20 years. They have a good life together, two children, and a loving marriage. But John is in a rut and he doesn’t know why or how to get out of it. Without giving too much of the plot away in case you decide to see it someday, there’s a scene halfway through the movie where Beverly Clark is asked a question. “Why do you think people get married?” Her response:
“We marry because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”
I think this is one of the most beautiful descriptions of marriage I have ever heard. The sacredness of the ordinary. A union between two people who have found each other and want to continue life’s journey side-by-side.
I’m a proud and hopeless romantic, and my favorite part of every love story is that moment when the main characters realize that they are in love. The moment they choose this other person as the one they want to be with…to build a life with. It’s the choosing that always captures my fancy. Out of the billions of people out there, two people have found and chosen each other. It’s quite a miracle when you think about it. But what’s often frustrating about these movies, is that the story ends there. The couple kisses, the screen fades to black, and the credits roll. You never get to see what happens next.
In the long and successful marriages that I’ve been lucky enough to witness, the story doesn’t end there. The couple wakes up each day and goes to bed each night, and they continue to choose each other. They continue to notice each other. To be a witness to each other’s lives. Not always in the grand romantic gesture…but so much more often in the small gestures, the every day moments.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be known. To be understood by one special person. How lucky and blessed we should all feel if we have found that person. Maybe after really reflecting on this sacred and ordinary miracle called marriage, we’ll work a little harder to make sure our spouses know that we ARE noticing everything about them. It’s not always easy. Stress and routine are probably two of the biggest roadblocks to a marriage. It’s easy to get distracted and take our partners for granted. It’s also easy to feel like after so many years, our spouses don’t notice us in quite the way they used to. It’s something to continually be aware of.
When those feelings run particularly strong, I ask you to consider this: you were chosen, noticed, known, understood, and loved long before you met your spouse. In fact, long before you took your first breath in this life.
When I was a senior in college, I attended a 5-day silent retreat in Rhode Island. At that time in my life I didn’t have a boyfriend or any prospects of one. I had long held the belief that I had to find the love of my life in college. If I was still single when I graduated, then I missed my chance and I was destined to remain single for the rest of my life. It sounds silly now, but I was utterly convinced of it at the time. This silent retreat was in January of my senior year… so I was running out of time. And so I spent a lot of time that week praying for God to send me someone special. Someone who would fall in love with me and sweep me off my feet. On the third day of silence, I discovered the following Scripture passage from Psalm 139:
O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit or stand. When far away you know my every thought. You chart the path ahead of me, and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say before I even say it.
The psalm goes on to say…
How precious it is, Lord, to realize that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn toward me. And when I waken in the morning, you are still thinking of me!
I had never spent much time reading Scripture before, and I was absolutely stunned by these words. Everything I had been hoping to gain in a romantic soulmate was offered to me here. The promise of marriage described by Beverly Clark is perfectly fulfilled in this passage. Except it came from a place I did not expect. I realized on that cold January day that God had been there with me all along. My witness. The One who picked me out of a crowd. The One who knew me and understood me. The One who noticed me no matter how trivial I thought my life might be. I truly believed on that day that God looked upon me and called me his Beloved Daughter. It was a startling revelation and one that certainly took the pressure off my yet-to-found husband.
What’s kind of cool about this story is that my husband Mark and I actually went to the same college. In fact we lived in the same dorm for two years (he was on the second floor and I was on the fourth) but we never knew each other. It wasn’t until two years after graduation that we met up again, became friends and began dating. I often wondered why God led us to the same college if we weren’t destined to meet and fall in love there. Maybe it’s because I had this lesson to learn first. I had to truly know and understand the depths of God’s love for me before I was ready to love someone else.
So Mark and I dated for about two years and got married, and I began to understand this kind of love in a new way. The love that exists within a marriage is an incredible gift given to us by our Creator—the One who loved us first and best. In my opinion, absolute faith in how deeply and individually we are loved by God, is one of the best gifts we can bring to a marriage. This Divine Love is a love that will never fail, is patient and kind, is never boastful or proud, is not jealous, selfish or rude. A love that goes on forever. It’s that kind of Love that we are challenged to bring into our marriages each day…transforming the most mundane moments together into something sacred and extraordinary.
WANT TO HEAR MORE? This piece is an excerpt from “The Power of Two”—a marriage program presented by Mark and Sheri Dursin. Click here for more information on how to bring this program to your church or organization.