Yesterday I married Catherine Herman and Mike Cecere.
Last weekend, I married Casey Clark and Matt Simon.
A couple of weeks before that Brad Breakstone and Liz Coupland.
And, this morning we baptized Brandon Hiller-Dupont.
What a privilege.
What a privilege to stand with young adults, most of whom I have known for most of their lives, and have them join hands and step into the future together. And, what a privilege to stand with Don and Brian and their families today, and to hold Brandon and in those very young eyes to catch a glimpse of a tomorrow I cannot begin to imagine.
All of these moments over the last couple of weeks has made me think about families and about relationships and about being in it for the long haul which is what parenting is about and what being married is about. I said to the couples I married and I will say now to you, Don and Brian, and to any of the rest of us who have children or who are in a relationship or who a moment ago promised to care for and to support Brandon.
The promises you make (and we make) are really just this: to walk into the future together. A future in which your heart will break from both overflowing joy and from deep sadness and sorrow. A tomorrow in which some dreams will be realized and other dreams set aside and new dreams emerge.
Any of us who have been married for any length of time or who have plunged into that wild and wonderful world of raising children can tell you that as much as we have wished for them, there are no magic wands and no magic answers. The happily ever after of fairy tales is just that…a fairy tale. Not the happy ending part. All of us wish for many happy endings for those whom we love. But, what is a fairly tale is that everything between this moment and that just falls into place. Raising children. Staying in love after you have fallen in love. Sustaining relationships over time requires attention and patience and kindness and forgiveness and hard work. And, a love which goes deeper…much deeper…than a fluttering heart or stars in my eyes.
So without the luxury of magic wands or magic words.
And, without any easy answers or a step by step guide to help you through the next disagreement or the next misunderstanding or the temper tantrum in the middle of the store or the testing of limits which is sure to come, how do we we make it from here to there with grace and gratitude and with arms still wrapped around our children and around each other?
What would be on your Top 10 List of things that are important?
Listening to each other deeply and well?
Making room in your life for that which we know and name as God?
Caring about others?
Each other. And also about those others around us who intersect our lives?
Here is what I have been saying recently to the couples I have had the privilege to marry. And, because whatever I write and say I write and say first for myself, this is also a reminder to me. And, now today, maybe a reminder to you, as well. In an article I read recently social scientists identified two traits in couples whose marriages have withstood the test of time. And, while the focus of this study and the article was primarily about couples, I think what they found holds true for families and for raising children, as well.
The first trait is generosity.
Generosity, not in terms of things, but in terms of time and attention.
And in terms of listening to each other and caring about each other and paying attention to each other. Sometimes it is paying attention to those big moments and big things that seem important at the time, but mostly it is a generosity of time and attention in those little moments. Those everyday moments that make up most of our lives. In the push and pull of life, with all of the outside demands and the expectations of others, and internal pressures and the lists of things that just have to be done, time becomes a more and more valuable commodity. Too often it becomes too easy to forget that which is, in the end, the most important to you or to take for granted the relationships which stand at the center of your lives or to overlook that which is needed for your love for each other to remain strong. So be extravagant. Not about things. But about the most precious commodity in your life. The time you have to give to each other.
The second characteristic is kindness.
Kindness, they found, is the glue which holds relationships together.
Kindness makes the other feel cared for and understood and validated. And loved.
Couples whose relationship is deep and lasting and families whose bonds between each other is strong understand that kindness doesn’t just happen especially when you are tired or distracted or having a bad day. Kindness has to be paid attention to and practiced and made a priority in your life together and as you interact with that circle of family and friends and community around you. I sometimes wonder why it is that we find it so much easier to complain and to find fault with and to wish for than it is to be kind and to say thank you and to practice kindness in those everyday moments that add up to a lifetime.
There are no magic wands, I know.
And no guarantees…even when we have done our best.
And, I learned long ago that life is not fair.
And, I have been a pastor long enough to know deep within me the brokenness that is a part of life. But, as we do our best to love one another and to raise our children and to keep our families safe and strong, maybe these can be markers that help us to find our way. First, be kind to each other. And second, be generous to each other with the time you have.