One of the great joys of being a pastor is marrying people. I take couples through a fairly in depth pre-marriage counseling program and thus get to know them quite well. Most are eager to learn more about their relationship, are transparent about who they are, and show interest in building a solid foundation upon which to build their marital lives. Participating in one of the most important days of their lives as the officiant is indeed an honor and a privilege. When I was campus pastor at a small liberal arts college in Chicago, I was always surprised and moved when couples came to me wanting me to marry them. I often assumed that they would want the pastor from their home church or a man to marry them. So when asked to participate in their lives in this way, it meant a great deal to me. Perhaps that is why I feel a special closeness with those couples and feel tied to them in a unique way even as the years go by. I rarely see many of them anymore as our life in Sweden has taken us out of the same circles, but through the emergence of Facebook, I have become re-connected with many of them. While I cannot be 100% sure of this statistic, (because my memory is slipping a bit!), I am quite sure that all of the couples that I have married are still together. Now they are thriving professionals, interestingly enough, many are either pastors or teachers! Most are actively involved in church leadership and that makes me feel quite proud. I'm allowed a few moments of being a proud mama, right?!
Recently, one of the couples learned that their 4 year old has cancer. It's been a difficult week for the family that has included emergency surgery to remove a kidney, waiting for a pathology report that revealed the sad news, and adjusting to a whole new way of life. The upside is that the cure rate for this type of cancer in young kids is high. The downside is that in order to get well from cancer you have to get really sick first. So now they are on the chemo road and adjusting their lives to fight this battle. I have only been in touch with them via email but they are on mind, in my heart and in my prayers often. I just want to be nearby, give 'em a hug, provide space for them to vent and grieve and walk beside them. Since I can't do that, I will pray for them and try to stay in touch as I can.
This whole experience has caused me to realize how much I care about those with whom I share a history, no matter how far back we go. The connection through their being married is unique and means something to me. I feel invested in the well-being of their family life and so I guess I just wanted to express that through my blog. Having the privilege of marrying people is not something I take lightly. The wedding ceremony is a holy moment. I have the power to pronounce them husband and wife, forever linking their lives. It makes perfect sense to me that I would stay invested in their journey over time and space.
I am appreciative of the ways the college students I was close to when I worked at the university continue to include me in their lives. Those were amazing years in my life. And I will always treasure the journey I took with those who chose one another as their beloved and then included me in that process. And so this is a shout out to the couples I have stood with at the altar...May God bless and keep you in your marriage...I said those words to you on your wedding day and I say them again today.