Hashtag: For Better or For Worse

Sheltering at home, and pulling drafts from the draft folder. This one from the spring of 2018. Current events have drastically affected the wedding market. Perhaps, the better to savor the true meaning of the event. Thanks for reading.

 

‘Tis the season (or “szn,” as seen on instagram, heh) for evites with attached wedding registry links, wedding date count downs with clever our-name-stuck-together couple hashtags, an infinity of wedding photos;  girls swathed in frothy white dresses, guys suited-up sharp, couples in dreamy filtered botanical gardens, or sunset streaming beaches, architecturally sound cakes, and shiny-faced, big-nosed selfies with hotel reception festivities in the back ground.

Mr. Garner and I are thirty-something years into our own marriage, and neither of our children are the least bit romantically inclined, so for several years this “szn” has been beyond our periphery. However, the “wedding fervor” has finally invaded our awareness.
Delightfully aware ~ in that #1 Son served as a groomsman for dear friends from George Mason, and so there were joy-filled events, and new apparel to purchase. As a mother, I’m always excited when my son is actually willing to discuss purchasing attractive clothing. 
Vicariously
aware ~ in that a few of my friends and their daughters are caught up in the swirl of wedding planning. While it’s fun to participate when the discussion inevitably turns to dresses and reception venues and expenses, as a non stake-holder, I’ve learned to bite my tongue. listen with an encouraging smile and swallow my opinions. Curiously aware ~ in that we were puzzling over a church-wide evite to a wedding-shower-potluck for a our-name-stuck-together-young-couple who have not similarly invited us to the actual event. I’m guessing that wedding ettiquette is not a thing anymore?

So, delightfully, vicariously, curiously ~ and coincidentally ~ I’ve been reading two books about marriage this month.

The first book, Let Me Be A Woman, by Elisabeth Elliot was brought to my attention by a young woman who blogs about home maker topics – organization, time management, home school. She included a strong quote from this book that served as a bit of oyster grit in my shell; that irritation that will someday become a pearl (not there yet). I wrote this Spiritually Bracing quote in my planner several weeks in a row, and then put it on an index card and taped it to my bedroom vanity mirror. At some point, it occurred that I could benefit by reading more Spiritually Bracing words from Elisabeth Elliot so I placed an Abebooks order.

There are tensions. The strength of a great cathedral lies in the thrust and counter thrust of its buttresses and arches. Each has its own function and each its peculiar strength.

Each chapter in Let me Be A Woman takes the form of a letter from the author to her daughter.  Written in the months before her daughter’s wedding, Elliot touches on various aspects of marriage and the realities of a woman joining her life with that of a man. I love what she writes here: “There are tensions. The strength of a great cathedral lies in the thrust and counter thrust of its buttresses and arches. Each has its own function and each its peculiar strength. This is the way I see the dynamics of a good marriage. It is not strength pitted against weakness. It is two kinds of strength, each meant to fortify the other in special ways.” 

And this:  “Friend, lover, husband. In your life together he will be many things to you. Confidant, companion, provider, strength, playmate, listener, teacher, pupil, leader, comforter, and as Sarah saw Abraham, ‘lord.” …Your provider may someday lose his job. Your strength may show unexpected weakness. Your knight in armor may experience a public defeat. Your teacher may make a serious mistake that you tried to warn him about. Your lover may become a helpless patient, sick, sore, and sad, needing your presence and care every minute of the day and night. ‘This isn’t the man I married,’ you will say, and it will be true. But you married him for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and those tremendous promises took into account the possibility of radical change. That was why promises were necessary.”

‘This isn’t the man I married,’ you will say, and it will be true. But you married him for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and those tremendous promises took into account the possibility of radical change. That was why promises were necessary.”

This book has a frank and Biblically informed approach to the roles of men and women and husbands and wives.  After three decades of marriage, I see great truth in what she is saying. Sadly, I suspect my younger self would’ve found a lot of her wisdom challenging to the 1980’s feminist indoctrination that I was exposed to in college and that heavily influenced my thinking at the time of my marriage. I was not a very wise young woman and I’m rather certain my marriage would have been stronger, sooner, with less pain, given the benefit of reading this book earlier in my life.

I chanced upon the second book about marriage in a charming book store in a renovated train station outside of Christiansburg, VA called Whistle Stop Books. One of four that form the Crosswicks Journals series, Two Part Invention, by Madeleine L’Engle is a memoir of her marriage and the terrible cancer that took the life of her actor husband.  The Daughter read the first volume in the series, A Circle of Quiet, for her American Christian Literature curriculum.  In Two Part Invention L’Engle does not give advice, but instead shares insights gained over her rather interesting life. Her observations are beautiful and worth pondering. She relates life experiences from her childhood, courtship, and pregnancies; about making a home, living in New York, the uncertain income of actors and writers, raising children, and how her faith informed her choices.

I suspect that in every good marriage
there are times when love seems to be over.

She writes, “Our love has been anything but perfect and anything but static. Inevitably there have been times when one of us has outrun the other and has had to wait patiently for the other to catch up. There have been times when we have misunderstood each other, demanded too much of each other, been insensitive to the other’s needs.  I do not believe there is any marriage where this does not happen. The growth of love is not a straight line, but a series of hills and valleys. I suspect that in every good marriage there are times when love seems to be over. Sometimes these desert lines are simply the only way to the next oasis, which is far more lush and beautiful after the desert crossing than it could possibly have been without it.”  

These scenes from life always return to the current event of the book, the serious illness and death of her husband of forty years. The delight of many memories is placed alongside the pain of others: doctors, hospitals, doubt, heartbreak, and grief.

Reflecting on the reality shared in both of these books, what most strikes me is the depth and stamina and richness of the unions of these women who are realistic and godly in their approach to marriage. Pondering my own family, and some of the Christian women I’ve known over the years, I can think of several women who haven’t written books, but whose marriages have also exhibited a similar joy-filled endurance.  Like so many good and godly things that are difficult to document in a selfie and quick post, social media offers up a fleeting image of beautifully photographed superficiality for every bride to aspire to, document and upload to share to an increasingly overstimulated and shallow society.

If there have been a few silver linings to the demands of the Corona Closings, perhaps one is the change I’ve noticed in my IG feed this month. I see pictures of living room weddings and family garden receptions; photos of grandmothers bringing food, and friends bringing flowers, and brides who look beautiful, and a lot less stressed.

The glowing bride, the glorious gown, the nervous groom ~ this is the stuff of June.  And, the hashtag fun, Instagram posts and registry hopes are probably harmless, but how I would love to gift these two wonderful books about marriage to these new wives along with the preferred store gift card or the china pattern dinner plate.  Hmmm. Maybe I will.

 

 

 

 

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