There are times when thoughts hit me like an avalanche and I become so consumed with them I have to tell someone, you are that someone. Humor me here for a second (I am sure that this is an obvious statement).
Marriage is not an individualistic thing
Yes, if you want to tweet out that amazing and insightful statement feel free, or if you want to mock me do that as well. But as I sat at what seemed like my 100th wedding in my lifetime this past weekend that thought struck me. From the beginning God realized that it was not good for man to be alone. From that moment on relationships were made up of two people (friendships and marriage apply here).
You are probably tracking with me on this one, but here is where I might throw a curveball in…
Marriage is not about the couple but the community
I really think that we can agree that marriage is not done alone, that you have to have a partner that you share the rest of your life with. But if that is all you have in your marriage it can get very very dangerous. Now two things might jump out here. First, you might be thinking “this guy has no clue what he is talking about, I mean he tweeted out the other day that he needs a wife. What can a 23yr old who has never even been in love know about marriage?” Second thought, “is this guy advocating polygamy?” These are two valid questions that I understand and no I am not advocating having multiple wives or partners. I know I do not know anything about marriage. But I do know that I have 2 eyes that can see and 2 ears that can hear, and a mouth that can ask questions. Even though I have never played the game of hockey I can observe and learn. Same with relationships and marriage, even though I haven’t been married I can observe and learn.
Here is how I know that marriage was never entended to be done alone…you invite people to your wedding. Think about it, if marriage was meant to be between two people you would never invite family and friends to your “special” day. It would be just you and a judge at the courthouse getting the deed done. Remember now that you are humoring me on this and might already be far ahead of me, but I just started to realize this stuff.
I find it amazing that marriage is not done alone. At marriages core level you are united as one and share that commitment, that relationship, with the community.
There is no better place to look at this then in Jewish tradition. There is one word that has struck me as very interesting, Yichud . This word simply means “privacy.” Now this word holds its weight for the couple both before they are married and after. Before couples are married, yichud is not allowed. Some orthodox Jews go as far as never having any physical touch at all. The best way I have heard this describe is picturing the relationship like an open door, no privacy, someone is always watching. Now after the marriage ceremony the couple escapes away for a few minutes of yichud. This is done behind a closed door, alone, just the couple and God. Now you might be wondering what is going on behind closed doors…we all are, but that moment is a very intimate time and usually is the first time that the couple has had any physical contact. As the author of Mudhouse Sabbath Lauren Winner described this experience, “a single peck on the cheek is a spark-sending, faint-inducing big deal.” She later went on to describe a Jewish wedding that she attended and the first time the bride and groom came out of the yichud room, they simple could not stop holding hands. It was the first time their hands had ever touched.
You might be wondering why I am using a strange word to describe marriage and community. But I think the yichud room is the very point. Its the place where privacy gives way to community. You can imagine that having no physical contact up until that moment of being alone would make you never want to leave that room. The last thing you would want to do is leave that room, but the couple returns to their family and friends who will now support them in their new relationship. For Jewish couples, marriage is not done alone, but done with a community.
I do not want to turn this post into a discussion about the problem with marriage and relationships and why the divorce rate is so high. Simply put, I want to make an observation that sometimes couples forget the fact that they did not get married alone and instead go married in front of their community. A community that will now hold them accountable to the commitments they made to each other, a community that is there to support them through good times and bad. I think we have lost this idea of community and marriage.
I do not know where I am going with this point, but simple have realized the significance of marriage and relationships inside of community. I cannot help but see marriage ceremonies as a great picture of Christ and the Church. Church is not meant to be done alone, but to be found in community with others.