Wed., Sept. 5, 2012 – My nephew is getting married this Saturday, so I’ve been thinking about wedding wisdom. My father-in-law, who had performed hundreds of weddings in his career, always said it was a waste of time to give advice or counseling ahead of time. It only made sense once you had lived into the marriage for awhile. That’s probably very true, although most of the couples whose weddings I do now have been living together for awhile.
Marriage counselor David Schnar wrote that “Marriage is a people-growing machine.” He’s not just referring to the children who may be the fruits of a marriage, but most importantly to the two people who are married to one another. They are the ones who can grow in marriage.
“In a friend,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, [and it’s true for a partner] “in a friend, I’m not looking for a mush of concessions, a person who will agree with everything I say. Rather, I’m looking for a person to challenge me, who will be a beautiful enemy, to help me in my apprenticeship to the truth.” I love that image– “a beautiful enemy, to help me in my apprenticeship to the truth.”
“The truth” is the truth about who you are as a person, who you are as a beloved child of God, given a unique set of gifts and graces; only you can bring forth the particular combination of qualities and dreams whose seeds have been planted in you. To be a “beautiful enemy” is to truly see and love that unique person who is your friend or your partner–which may be different from the idealized person you maybe wish they would be for your sake. To be a beautiful enemy is to be honest with yourself and the other when you see them turning aside from their sacred essence, to call them back to their apprenticeship with the truth, and remind them who they are and Whose they are. To be able to do that for one another is a holy trust, a sacred path, and, ultimately, a joyful dance.
I love the rabbinic story in which Rabbi Alyosha tells his disciples, “When I come before the Almighty, I will not be asked, ‘Why were you not more like Moses?’ Rather, the question will be, ‘Why were you not Alyosha?’” We may seek to follow in the Way of Jesus, but we are not to be “like Jesus.” We are to be true to ourselves as Jesus was true to who he was.
We can be “beautiful enemies” to one another, calling us back to our true Selves. That is my wish for Patrick and Kristen this weekend.