The WRITE Word for November 2013
Rev. Dr. Y’Lon Dozier, Intentional Interim Specialist Pastor, New Light, MCC
The WRITE Word for this month is: on LOVE AND MARRIAGE-1 Corinthians 13:4-8
When I began at New Light as Pastor in September of this year, being asked to officiate a wedding between two same gender loving people my first week was not something I would have expected. And that was only the beginning. Within that first month, several more requests came through from all over the country. Though I have officiated many weddings, none of them have been with couples I didn’t know nor met with during pre-marital counselling prior to my marrying them.
To be fair, many of the couples asking if I would marry them (upon my arrival at New Light) had been together for many years. And because of the new laws legalizing marriage between same gender loving couples in Maryland, many were ready, willing and able to travel for miles to get married in Maryland. In addition many also wanted something more than just a civil ceremony at the court house. So for me, this was a dilemma. A dilemma because it was important I be true to myself and what I believed as a professional Clergy person, and at once, also deeply committed to my belief in the sacredness of marriage between all God’s people who loved one another.
The good news for many, it seems, is that there are other authorized members of the clergy in Maryland who perform marriage ceremonies between same gender loving couples upon request. And who also do not require pre-marital counseling first.
Whether or not we agree about what may or may not be required before a marriage ceremony is performed, I would hope most of us would agree getting married is serious business. Which brings me to a passage of scripture which has been used in the performance of many faith based marriage ceremonies:
LOVE IS PATIENT; LOVE IS KIND; LOVE IS NOT ENVIOUS OR RUDE…IT BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS, HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS, LOVE NEVER ENDS-1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Paul, however, didn’t write the First Letter to the Corinthians about romantic relationships. He was writing to a community struggling to understand how it needed to behave with the end of time so near. Love, he writes, is a gift from God, not just an emotion or human feeling. The Greek word for love in this passage is “agape:” God’s unearned love for humans.
What is the reason this passage is used so often at weddings, or as a reminder in church for all of us to act kindly toward each other? At least within the context of a new marriage, these words are perhaps best understood as aspirational, a goal to strive toward. It is our hope that the newly married couple will always be patient and kind toward one another, never rude or uncaring, and that the intense romantic love they feel for each other on their wedding day will not end until “death do us part.”
But those of us in long-term relationships know that romantic love changes over time. Few long-term couples remain in the heightened days of overwhelming romantic love, but instead shift to a love characterized by their attachment for each other. Dr. Helen Fisher describes the three stages of love as lust, romantic love and attachment. Attachment, she writes in her book, Why we Love, is characterized by “the feelings of serenity and union with one’s beloved.”
In the day-today crucible of marriage, it is not easy to be our best selves with each other as we face the pressures of children, finances, aging, and illnesses and so on. It is especially in difficult times that we need to remember these words from First Corinthians: Be patient. Be kind. Put up with what is currently distracting or distancing. Work so that love may endure.
It seems to me that for any long-term relationship to last, whether marriage or friendship, that go-the-distance love…the kind of love that endures, requires a commitment to bring our best selves to each other, work through the struggles when we do not, and forgive ourselves and each other regularly.
This passage in First Corinthians also calls us to bring love into the wider world–to love our neighbors as ourselves. To love in such a way, is not always easy. Nevertheless, Paul is calling the Christian community of Corinth to love each other. Love endures because people commit to each other.
How would it be if next week we chose one quality of love a day and intentionally worked to manifest it in our daily lives and relationships? Or choose to have a day in which we practice patience, a day of kindness, a day without envy, and so on. And how about planning to have a day of hope in which we look at everything with optimism and anticipation of the good that is to come. How would it be?