The young minister was saying tenderly:
All of us know that you are deeply in love. But beyond the warmth and glow, the excitement and romance, what is love, really?
Real love is caring as much about the welfare and happiness of your marriage partner as about your own.
Real love is not possessive or jealous; it is liberating; it sets you free to become your best self.
Real love is not total absorption in each other; it is looking outward in the same direction -- together.
Love makes burdens lighter, because you share them. It make joys more intense, because you share them. It makes you stronger, so that you can reach out and become involved with life in ways you dared not risk alone.
True, I was thinking. All true. But you can’t learn it form hearing it. You have to learn it by living it, and even then no one but a saint can apply more than fragments of it to his own marriage or his own life. All we can do, even the best of us, is try. And even the trying is hard.
Now the time had come for the questions, and indeed the language did belong to the twentieth century:
Ken, will you take Dana to be your wife? Will you love and respect her? Will you be honest with her always Will you stand by her through whatever may come? Will you make whatever adjustment are necessary so that you can genuinely share your life with her?
“I will.” Said the tall boy, and to the same questions the slender girl gave the same answer.
Now the minister’s steady gaze fell upon us.
Who brings this woman to stand beside this man?
“We do,” my wife and I said together. We could not give our child away, for she was not our possession. She was uniquely and eternally herself. And yet, but for our own love, she would not be here under this tranquil sky, close to this restless sea.
The same question to Ken’s parents. The same answer. And then a challenge to the four of us:
Are you willing, now and always, to support and strengthen this marriage by upholding both Ken and Dana with your love and concern?
“We are, “ we said, and now all of us were a part of the commitment. No favoritism. No side-taking. Just a quiet, constant defense against the fierce centrifugal forces that threaten every marriage. This at least, I thought, is wholly within our power; this much we can do.
Now for a moment the wind seemed to hush itself and around us the swaying sea oats grew almost still. I saw Dana’s fingers tremble as she put her hand in Ken’s, waiting for the ancient symbol of fidelity and love.
“ I give you this ring, “ the tall boy said. “ Wear it with love and joy. I choose you to be my husband this day and everyday.”
Silence, then, for a moment or two. No one stirred. The faces of the onlookers were touched with something indefinable, a kind of timeless, a sense of life fulfilling itself and moving on. Perhaps this is the way that everything of consequence begins, I thought. No certainly. No guarantees. Just a choice, an intension, a promise, a hope….
The minister reached forward and took the couple’s clasped hands in his own.
Ken and Dana, we have heard you promise to share your lives in marriage. We recognize and respect the covenant you have made. It’s not a minister standing before you that makes your marriage real, but the honesty and sincerity of what you have said and done here before your friends and parents and in the sight of God. On behalf of all those present, I take your hands and acknowledge that you are husband and wife.
He smiled and released their hands.
Now the ceremony is over and the experience of living day by day as married people is about to begin. Go forth to meet it gladly. Love life, so that life will love you. The blessing of God be with you. So be it.
So be it, I thought, watching Dana kiss her husband and turn to embrace her mother. So be it! Cried all the hugs and the handshakes, the excited laughter and the unashamed tears. So be it, murmured the wind and the waves, turning away once more from human things.And when I looked the apprehension that had been in me, it was gone.