“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.”
What a sweet promise that is, isn't it? Yes, I believe.
Today my wife and I will go to a wedding rehearsal. Two kids I met just yesterday will exchange vows, and I’m conducting the ceremony. I’m not ordained. The couple’s uncle is a judge; he’ll make the bond legal. They wanted someone to “do the wedding.” I’ve never “done a wedding,” but this is family, not close family, but family.
I admire their idealism, what seems even their estimable foolhardiness, simply in tying the knot. Getting married is a good thing, the right thing to do, even if their second cousin (me) is likely to fumble through the ceremony In Protestant tradition marriage not a sacrament; but, Lord knows, it’s a big, big deal.
But I’m of the age when their sweet resolve to plunge into a legal and (somewhat) binding contract, seems, well, dreamy in an adolescent way. The whole thing seems scary. They are so young and they are, really, so dumb. They’ve been dating seven years, which has the sound of something biblical. No matter: to the mind of any oldster, they don’t know squat.
In their mid-80s, my parents suddenly turned into scrappers, even though I don’t remember their ever being particularly cross with each other before, at least in my presence. They got in each others’ hair something awful. At the very end, do we really go it alone, like the medieval play Everyman so fearfully promises? Do even our closest relationships fail us? I don’t know.
What I know is this. Last night my wife and I skipped an end-of year gala and stayed home by ourselves, in part because we’re becoming less social, but also because in our 35-year marriage, right now nothing seems more blessed than being alone, just the two of us. Playing hooky on a gala was low-stakes. Couch potatoes get bad press.
I could try to explain all of that to this young couple—I’ve got to give a homily; I could tell them how we stayed home and simply enjoyed each other. I could try, but their being 22 means they wouldn’t begin to understand.
They’ve got their individual pilgrimage(s) ahead of them, just as we did, and my parents before us. Those two kids will be starting out on Sunday, and all the diagrams, the how-tos, all the counseling sessions we can offer will mean little to them because they’ll have to create their own map as they go, just as we did.
Marriages are a big, big deal for all of us really. Every cow-eyed young couple carries all our hopes with them when they recite their vows; because our hope, like theirs, is for nothing more or less than the first word of Psalm 85: 5—to be blessed.
I cannot imagine life without faith. Faith was the soul of our solitary night together, even though we didn’t recite bible verses. The two of us have spent hours and hours in prayer in our lives together, hours of pleading that sometimes seemed fruitless, but wasn’t. Guess what?--we’ll keep praying because faith isn’t something one wears like a tux; and we are blessed—as the psalmist says—by putting our faith in God. I know that’s true. Our pilgrimage, begun so long ago, continues. Our story continues to unfold.
I hope somewhere down the line we don’t start to carp at each other, but then, my mother would roll her eyes if I brought up the subject. “What do you know, really, about pilgrimage, young as you are?” she’d likely say. And she’d probably be right.
What she’d tell me, unequivocally, is that their sixty years of marriage was a great ride, a pilgrimage, begun and lived in faith. She’d say, I’m sure, she was blessed.