Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent Thoughts

This season of life, while not the busiest I have ever known, has pulled me in the greatest number of directions: everywhere a task to complete, a deadline to bear. Endeavoring to succeed in all, I fear to please in none. I have, for example, been an indifferent blogger, neglecting even to mention that in a month or so, I will marry.

Not that I regret what has felt like a  necessary silence on my part. This blog is not intended as any kind of a faithful record of life events, nor even a confessional. And I have studiously avoided a discussion of issues and events that intimately concern others besides myself. There is a time and a place for such things, and the Internet, with all its advantages, is neither. That, and my time has been otherwise and joyfully apportioned in all that led to the engagement, and all that has followed it.

All that aside, yes, I am about to most happily join the ranks of those that have and hold til death do them part. And that is the background of today's writing.

One of the fascinating things about marriage in America is that people give you stuff - lots and lots of stuff. It arrives on my doorstep nearly every day in a cardboard box from a major department store, swaddled in packing peanuts and plastic wrap: a rice cooker, silverware, a crockpot, candlesticks, bamboo sheets, wine glasses, a toaster. An avalanche of possessions without which, apparently, my intended and I will not have a hope of felicitious union. I am grateful for these things, truly I am. The Kitchenaid mixer has fulfilled a lifelong yearning, and virtually everything on our registry will have legitimate practical use in our daily lives. It's not that it's too much, but rather that, as I seem to know instinctively, it is too little . . .

A cake platter, to hold together two disparate souls? A blender, to help us put off selfishness every morning for the next fifty years? It is a ludicrous proposition.

The averge fourth-grader knows that marriage is an institution in peril, and that the reasons for its disintegration go much deeper, most often, than what "stuff" has or has not been accumulated. Why, then, do we offer material answers for what is basically a spiritual challenge?

I am having my second (of three) bridal showers today. The year's first snow falls earnestly outside the window. And the question I am asking myself is this: What present does God give for weddings?

In just that question, I find much to help me.

For the first and most obvious answer, during Advent, is that God joyfully gives Himself wherever He is welcomed by glad and eager hearts. And this instantly reverses the marriage odds in our favor. If a husband and wife have, living in them and through them, Christ the Lord, their chances pf prevailing over all smallness of heart are immeasurably improved.

Secondly, God gives marriage to married people. It is His creation, one of the things He allowed us to bring from Eden. And though I stand still outside the covenant of marriage, I cannot help but think it must improve matters to always view the marriage as a gift - not as an obligation, or as a competitor against one's own self-realization, but as gift that, like a young tree, holds the potential always to grow larger, more fruitful and more beautiful so long as we give ourselves to tending it.