My family and I are away for the weekend for my baby sister’s wedding. Last night was the rehearsal and my other sister asked “So, is your speech ready?” Well, this was the first I’d heard of a speech, so naturally I said it wasn’t. She felt it would be “nice” (code for required) for the eldest brother to give a speech. So, I wrote this, and plan to deliver it tomorrow. Of course, I can’t stand fluff speeches, so I can’t help but turn a speech into a mini-sermon.
So, I offer it here (edited to remove the names) for your … perusal, if not enjoyment.
Last night as the wedding rehearsal was ending, I was standing at the back of the church and noticed a basket of cards. A little bit later, my brother in law came by and pointed out the same basket of cards. These cards said “This offering has been given by Pre-Authorized Remittance”.
At first glance, I read it and thought “oh, cool, they’re using pre-authorized remittance for tithe and offerings”. But, when my brother-in-law pointed it out and said he thought it was odd, I re-evaluated it. It was odd. In fact, it’s extremely odd and more than a little unsettling.
Because I can think of only two reasons for a card like this to exist.
- So that when the offering plate is coming around, you don’t feel guilty for not putting something in it (even though you’ve already given).
- So that when the offering plate is coming around, you don’t see an empty plate (because of all the pre-authorized givers) and thus don’t feel compelled to give.
In other words, the only reason for this card to exist, as far as I can tell, is to perpetuate a cycle of social shame. I’m sure that wasn’t the original intent, but that is what’s happening. It ensures that people continue to feel social pressure to act a certain way, to physically put something in the offering plate. And this is unfortunate, because we should be giving it out of a spirit of generosity and thankfulness, not to avoid shame.
And in the midst of a wedding rehearsal, I was forced to reflect on the social shame that comes with marriage. We have all heard these statements before:
- Marriage is hard
- Marriage takes work
- Marriage takes commitment
These very statements are spoken by nearly everyone with marriage experience, often to a newly married couple. However, very few will share personal statements and say
- My marriage was hard
- My marriage took a lot of work
- My marriage took real commitment
Very few are willing to admit personal experiences like
- Some days it would have been easier to give up
- Some days I wondered if I had made a mistake
- Divorce was never considered …. but some days murder was looking pretty good
We don’t hear these statements, because of this other type of social shaming. In our society, we paint marriage to be this “happily ever after” scenario. It’s where the hero, or heroine, gets this prize. It’s what the romantic plot was driving towards. These two found each other in the midst of chaos and worked to create a life together. Then they got married, and all is right in the world. It’s the end of the movie.
Those of us who have been married for a while know that this isn’t the end of the story. We know that everything up until this point is just the prelude to the real adventure. All the struggles and obstacles before this were merely small bumps and dips in the road, not the mountains yet to be climbed or the rifts yet to be crossed.
And I don’t want to discourage my baby sister by saying, “you’re going to have struggles ahead” or “you have no idea what’s coming”. But at the same time, I want her to know that it’s going to happen. This is not the happy ending we so often pretend it to be. That is still to come, with work and determination. This is the beginning of an adventure. Don’t get me wrong, there will be fun and laughter and bliss and joy that you can’t even imagine yet. But there will also be dark nights and cold winters. Droughts and floods that you will need to weather.
And in our culture, we don’t talk about those times. Sure, we complain to our friends a bit when our spouse does something stupid, or when they’re a bit inconsiderate, but when there are really difficult times, we tend to fall silent. Most of us will quietly suffer and won’t get the help we need, because we feel ashamed. It’s like we pick up one of those “This offering has been given by Pre-Authorized Remittance” cards, even though we haven’t given, just so that everyone will think we’re doing the same thing as they are. So we won’t feel the shame of failure or the guilt of not having a perfectly happy marriage.
After all, we rarely hear our friends and family talking about the struggles in their marriage. You don’t often hear a couple saying they can’t have a conversation without fighting. Most people won’t admit that their physical relationship is confusing or difficult, or painful. People don’t generally share that they’re not sure they’re still in love. Every week I talk to individuals or spouses who feel like their marriage a fake, and they feel they have nowhere to turn to in their social circle for help.
And because not many will talk about these things, you might feel like you’re alone. Like you are the only one with problems. We feel so socially shamed by this that we don’t get the help we need. So, we instead try to figure it out on our own despite having said their vows in front of a large group of family and friends who in turn promised to support them. A sad number don’t make it on this adventure, and their marriage ends up left by the wayside. Others barely make it, together, but scarred from the experience. A few manage to actually grow closer through the struggles. They find warmth in each other during the cold nights. They comfort each other during the long winters. They work together to overcome obstacles and actually come out stronger for them. And we don’t hear those stories either, because in order to share them, they’d have to admit there were struggles to begin with.
Well, Christina and I are one of those couples who have learned to make the adventure fun, We’ve learned some of the lessons to not only surviving, but thriving through the struggles. And while we still have conflict, everyone does, we now use conflict to grow more intimate, in all facets of marriage. That’s not a statement of bragging, but one of confession. I am not afraid to admit that we have had struggles, and will continue to have them, and we’ve managed to learn how to get through them.
So, in addition to everyone else, I offer this:
Congratulations to the bride and groom. I wish you nothing but a long and happy life together. But, if you ever feel like you need help, if you ever have questions that are difficult, embarrassing or you think no one else asks, if you ever are hurting and aren’t sure where to go for support, Christina and I are here for you. We’ve had a lot of different issues and have helped literally hundreds of couples deal with even more problem than we’ve had. We have an amazing marriage now, but I don’t want you for a second to think that it’s always been that way. Because I don’t want you to feel the pressure to always have a perfect marriage. So, we are here today to show our love and support for your marriage. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death you do part. That is our commitment to you.