If you’ve visited this blog before, you may know that the name of my Therapy Private Practice, Relationships For Better, is a reference to the point in traditional marriage vows in which couples vow to take one another “for better or worse”. Through Couples Therapy, I work to help couples thrive in their marriage, even when the ‘worse’ is a harsh reality.
About six months ago, I attended a wedding in which the Pastor read aloud a letter that he had received from the Bride in preparation for the ceremony. I have not forgotten that letter since. I think you’ll see why.
Thanks to Tricia Aurand for allowing me to share her letter with you all today:
Dear [Pastor] Josh,
Thank you so much for all you’ve done for Sam and I so far. We’ve
loved meeting with you and we can’t wait for you to marry us!
I’ve been thinking about our ceremony, and while it looks like Sam and
I will basically be sticking to the traditional vows you outlined, I
would like to ask you to say something during the service about grace.
Let me explain:
Sam and I are doubters. Neither one of us has ever done or believed
anything simply because we were told to, but because we have struggled
and questioned and twisted against the mysteries of life. Both of our
journeys in Christianity have been marked by doubt, our personal views
about God and the universe are held in the face of doubt, and neither
one of us has ever had much faith in marriage, either. In fact, the
biggest question we have faced in deciding to marry is whether or not
we actually ‘believe’ in marriage.
And marriage is difficult to believe in because it is a mystery. We
talk a lot about mysteries in church – the mystery of Christmas, of
Easter, of the Trinity – and those are mysteries that are a little
easier to hold because they are so abstract. We can write them off as
unknowable, in a way; we can blunt their sharp edges by wrapping them
in spirituality. But marriage is a mystery that we’re expected to sign
up for, to live with and walk in, in all of its raw everydayness. Its
mystery is not far off in space or heaven somewhere, its mystery is
present, huge, and terrifying.
I know what the world is like. I know how big it is, how terrible and
vast, how stories never work out the way we’d write them. I know that
the thing that splits couples up is never the thing they saw coming,
it’s always the bus you stepped off the corner without looking for,
it’s always the door in your heart you’ve closed and locked without
I’m not afraid to spend my life with Sam, to walk with him through
sickness, poverty, and all the other things we’re about to vow to walk
through together. But I am afraid to pledge to do it, because I fully
know my own inability to keep that pledge in the face of the unknown.
And the fact that I’m going to pledge that anyway, despite the terror
that has gripped me about marriage my entire life, that fact is wholly
the work of God’s grace.
I know what I am. I know how small I am. I know the work that my hands
are fit to do – the feeble, inglorious work of writing words on a page
– and the work they are not fit to do – the work of holding something,
anything, that I love. And yet for two and a half years, the thing I
love most has held me. And that is by grace, grace alone, the grace of
a God who is made of love. Who is love itself.
Grace is the only reason I exist. It’s the only reason Sam and I are
together, that we are a part of Mountainside, that we continue to say
‘yes’ as the tiny vessel of our love rocks on a sea of doubt. The
grace of God is so huge, so overwhelming, so complete in every moment
that I can’t help but cry when I think of it.
I am not the brave one. I am used to fear, and I never saw myself
being able to be brave enough to marry. But I am. And this courage is
a gift, like every day with Sam is. And it’s not from me, of course,
not something I’ve simply finally mustered up; it’s directly and
completely from the Giver of all good things.
So please say something about grace and where it leads us. It is hard
for us to lay claim to this amazing grace sometimes, but it does save
wretches, like us. It does find the lost. It does open the eyes of the
Thanks be to God.
PS – Also, can we do that part where the church and the people present
pledge to support us? I’ve always loved that part, and more than
anything our community and our church have been an incredible means
of grace in our lives.
Isn’t this an incredible reflection on marriage, grace, and community? I’d love to hear your thoughts!