As I’ve already described in a previous post, my best friend was married last weekend. She said “I will,” not the traditional “I do.” We wondered aloud before she said “I will” why the change, but came to no significant conclusion in the hustle and bustle of preparing for the ceremony.
I’ve thought about it further and either phrase is both sufficient and insufficient. “I will” is supposed to designate an ongoing commitment (or for the cynical, some pending, ever receding on the horizon commitment). “I do,” is, obviously, an immediate affirmation that he takes her and she takes him (at which point, the “committees” must acknowledge the terms “husband” and “wife” contain within them the idea of “for as long as we both shall live”). Maybe couples should say “I do” and “I will,” just to be sure we know that they know what they mean.
Either way, for Kacie it was to be “I will” because the pastor was to ask “Will you take this man to be your husband?” rather than “Do you take this man to be your husband?” So she replied to the pastor, in her sweet voice, “I will.” And I’m pretty sure she meant both then and now and tomorrow.
And with that declaration she was given a husband; and with his declaration of “I will” he was given a wife; he is now hers and she is now his. More than she was ever mine, as my best friend; more than I will ever be hers. She is Ben’s more than she was ever her grandpa’s or grandma’s, her mom’s or her dad’s.
I think we all felt a strange, sad sort of parting last weekend; though she didn’t leave us, though our relationships with her remain essentially the same, oddly enough, we felt a loss. I think this is because I could never and will never be for her what he is for her now. I could never share such intimacy with her in this life. The Bible even tells me so. Paul never compared best friends with Christ and his Church. No, that comparison was reserved for marriage.
Now, this comparison could be talked about in a number of different ways, but, it seems the initial excitement, the subsequent commitment, the heights and the valleys of both man’s relationship with God, and a man’s relationship with his wife all huddle, eventually, under the umbrella of intimacy.
The relationship of a husband to a wife is designed in its physicality and its sentimentality, in its constancy, to be far more intimate than even that between a mother and child, though a mother carries and bears that child. It isn’t unique in the same way a best friend relationship is unique compared to a mother-daughter relationship. It’s unique in that it’s mysteriously more – more intimate and more challenging.
God demands that the love of a husband for his wife strive to be like that of Christ for his church, and the respect of a wife for her husband strive to be like that of the church for her Christ. I’ve wondered if it isn’t the physical, sentimental and constant features of the marriage relationship that allow for the possibility of such high demands to be met. And if so, the marriage relationship, uniquely, must provide a deeper, severer sort of sharpening.
Like all relationships, we can live as Christians without marriage – we can grow, learn, develop and flourish. However, it must be noted, this does not demean the extravagance of the blessings derived from marriage. When you strip it down to its very bones, I think you can say its simply seeing, staying, and sanctifying like you do in no other relationship. Seeing the good, the bad, the sometimes very ugly and staying with the good, the bad, and the ugly – and being committed to pray for and rejoice in the sanctification the Spirit of God works out through the confines of that commitment.
Yet, the very context of the words exalting the marriage relationship, though they do not say so explicitly, imply marriage relationship is but a pillar, a path, a real physical conduit to lead us to the mental, emotional and spiritual understanding of our relationship with Jesus. We are first his.
Jesus prays to the Father right before the Crucifixion, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me…” (John 17:6) We are the Church he came to save from sin. We are Christ’s when we’ve chosen to “be crucified with Christ,” finding along with Paul as we journey that “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in Christ, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20-21) Paul writes in a different letter, in specific reference to marriage, that “this mystery is profound, and I say it is between Christ and his church,” (Eph. 5:32) not a husband and his wife.
Kacie may now belong to Ben, more so than she belongs to her family and her friends, but she was given this relationship on earth that she might understand – that she and Ben might both understand – that they always have been, are, and will continue to be, first and foremost, bought with the blood of Jesus. They can belong to each other only because Christ first made them his own.
As K and Ben understand this intimacy with Christ more and more through their love for one another, they are given back to friends, family, and the Church body, further sanctified as individuals, more their true selves. And, I imagine, with a greater capacity to experience intimacy in these relationships than they were able to prior to their marriage.
Still, marriage remains the most intimate relationship – and I am speaking of Christ and his Church. Whether single or married, our restored and growing relationship with God is foundational for intimacy in our lives.
Thus, praise God – praise God for the marriage relationship and, more importantly, for the blood of Jesus restoring us to individual and communal communions with God. Praise God that, daily, through our interactions with Him, with our marriage partners, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ the mortar of intimacy is thickened among the living stones of the Church drawing us closer and closer to one another, that, as Jesus prays at the end of John 17, we may be one as he and the Father are one.
Perhaps it would be appropriate (albeit slightly cheesy) to close with this question: “Do you, will you, take this faith to be your earthly life?” Oh, I will and I do!