A meditation written for an upcoming wedding. Thanks to LutheranChik for the story that opens it:
Along the fence line of a farmer’s field grew several "volunteer" apple trees -- whether they got there via passing birds or farmers tossing discarded apple cores along the fence, who knows. Anyway, one of the trees was actually two trees -- the apples on either side were different colors and shapes and flavours. But over the years the two tree trunks had grown together in such a way that they couldn't be separated; they were distinct, yet also one. Perhaps the metaphor for a good marriage -- grounded in the same "soil," growing in the same direction, yet maintaining the uniqueness and personal integrity of both parties.
Marriage is a blending of two individual lives to be shared each with the other. K and Q, today you stand up in front of all these people and pledge to share each other’s lives: the good and the bad, the fast growth and the slow, the warm and the cool. Today you plant a tree to symbolize your life together, trusting that as the tree grows so will your love.
What does it take for a tree to grow? It needs roots that seek out and absorb water and nutrients. It needs a trunk that is both strong and flexible – “strong enough to bend” as the song goes. It needs branches and leaves that reach for the sky, gathering the energy of the sun and transforming it into food. It needs the right environment: enough water (but not too much), the right type of soil, protection from the harshest weather and from insects. And it needs time, time to develop, time to get stronger.
What does it take for a marriage to grow? It needs to be rooted in love, with roots that seek out nourishment for both partners. It needs strength to withstand the storms of life but also flexibility so that it bends when needed. It need partners who reach out for the light in the world, pulling in what is healthy and good to feed the hearts of them both. It needs people who cultivate it, who keep the conditions good, who protect it from attack, and help each other heal from the scars that life throws at us. And it needs time, time for the relationship to grow deeper and stronger.
It is a fact of nature that not every acorn grows to be an oak, not every cone becomes a pine. Some never germinate, some start to grow but for on reason or another are stopped. Some grow for but a while and some become tall and mighty, providing shelter to many. Yet in every acorn, every cone there is the potential for a mighty tree.
Relationships are the same. Some never get started. Some are started but because the conditions aren’t quite right they end soon afterward. And some, the ones where the conditions are right, where the care is taken to ensure growth become strong and long-lasting, providing shelter and comfort not only to the partners but to others around. In marriage we work to create these relationships, well rooted, with a broad canopy of loving support.
Growing such a marriage is not always easy. In every life there are storms that toss us around. In every life there are bumps along the road. The challenge is not to avoid all of them. The challenge is to sway with the wind, to absorb the bumps, to work through the tough times. After all none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. But in marriage we promise to love and support each other flaws and all.
Q and K, today as you start the shared life that is and will be your marriage, may you grow strong together. May your marriage be rooted in the love that Paul describes saying it “bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. May you grow in love together over the years.
And as you grow together remember that there is a third strand to the cord of your lives together. If you try to make a braid from two strands you will find that it doesn’t hold, but if you add a third strand the braid is given strength and stability, less likely to break or to unravel. God is present in this covenant of marriage as that all-important third strand, the one that adds strength when the others are stretched to the breaking point.
K and Q, may you both be strong enough to bend. May you reach out together for the sky. And may you always be blessed because you are together: to pick each other up, to keep each other warm, to share the joys and sorrows of life. And may God be with you today and always, for God is love. Amen.