Tied To You With a Silver Chain

The wedding you have always dreamed of - Sofitel Hotel

A few weeks ago I was privileged to be able to be the “officiant” at my niece’s wedding. She and her new husband had been dating through their high school and college years together. They are now launching a bold new life as husband and wife. I’m so thrilled it is a post-pandemic adventure!

“To keep your marriage brimming, with love in the wedding cup, whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up.” ― Ogden Nash

Can you imagine what it must have been like to try and plan a wedding a year ago, not knowing what the conditions would be like THIS June? Weddings are already filled with stress. They and their families pulled it off brilliantly – you would never have known they had all this uncertainty hanging over their collective heads.

“Normal, in our house, is like a blanket too short for a bed–sometimes it covers you just fine, and other times it leaves you cold and shaking; and worst of all, you never know which of the two it’s going to be.” ― Jodi Picoult

As I stood there and walked them through the big and life-long promises they were making to God, each other and all their family and friends…I knew they were nervous wrecks. I had sent them their vows ahead of time so that they would know what they were getting into.

But, when I stand there these days there are things going through my head…

  1. I’m teaching classes every semester about the state of marriages and families in our society right now. It’s not a very pretty picture, especially for children. What’s most alarming is that no one seems very concerned – notice what we are all currently “worked up” about in the news and social media.
  2. Anyone who’s been married, and stayed the course for any length of time knows that it’s hard to avoid thinking about your vows, “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…” As I looked into the faces of this beautiful couple I couldn’t help but look into the future and think about the trials and tribulations that awaited them, that awaited all of us who got married.

“Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”Erma Bombeck

Sailing into the Sunset Photograph by Robert Shard

One Valentine’s Day (I think) as my wife was starting to fade away (a brain tumor ultimately ended her life on earth) an old song from our past struck me as very appropriate. I copied down some of the lyrics and tried to create a symbolic gift. I don’t think it worked well, she wasn’t ready to “catch it” that day. But it still works for me – here I am three years later and it’s making my life more meaningful than yesterday.

The song is Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills and Nash. Talk about an old classic! Stephen Stills rewrote the original lyrics basing it on a sailing experience he had after a failed relationship. Well, that’s NOT what I got out of the song!

Flag of New Zealand.svg

The Southern Cross is a star constellation that sailors can see in the night sky from the southern hemisphere. Before technology, they would use it to navigate. That star constellation is a part of the flags of New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.

Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

What I heard in the lyrics was a story about never being able to escape true love – that no matter what circumstances you end up sailing through – that vow you made long ago before God and all your loved ones is meant to last. Don’t let go, even though the fickle voices all around are urging you to abandon ship. Don’t turn loose. If you do, you’ll never get back a part of yourself.

So I’m sailing for tomorrow my dreams are a-dyin’
And my love is an anchor tied to you (tied with a silver chain)
I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’
She is all that I have left and music is her name

On that Valentine’s Day I gave my wife a silver chain with an anchor (along with the lyrics). I think it meant more to me, now that I realize her condition at the time and all that was overwhelming her. That’s okay. All of us need to do things for others and just not worry about the outcome. Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes it’s not how you thought it would turn out. And other times it’s meant to be for you (when all is said and done).

The newly married couple zoomed off later that morning in their father’s sports car. It was a wonderful scene for the assembled crowd of loved ones. Racing ahead into a future of happily ever after. Maybe a darkened sky every now and then might appear. But surely they had found and were building enough true love to carry them through all the days ahead. Tied with a silver chain, anchored to withstand all the choppy waters the future might bring.

What Did You Promise Yourself?

Driving home down that same highway
Sun in my eyes this time
Trying to find a song on the radio
A tune I haven’t heard a million times before
Something that resonates with my mood today
Reliving today’s missed opportunities
What’s at home for dinner?
This life is still strange to me
I don’t have the right rhythm yet for this new dance
I promise I’m going to figure this out
And continue to become who I’m supposed to be

“Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.” ― John Green,

Twice over the past six months I’ve heard different people say that the promise of a marriage was worth breaking if happiness was at stake. This was hard for me to hear. My wife and I were married for 35 years and spent the last five of those years fighting cancer together. She was so strong and valiant. While I wasn’t always a very nice caregiver (think Nurse Ratchet), I never thought about jumping ship. We weren’t very happy during this battle. But leaving our marriage never crossed my mind. Now, over those 35 years we had many ups and downs. I honestly don’t think either of us spent much time tossing around the idea that abandoning our marriage was one of the choices we could consider. Regardless of how happy we were at any given moment.

“A good marriage is supposed to be one where each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal.” ― Anne Lamott

The more I think about it, I wonder if it’s the promise to someone else that’s easier to back out of?  Don’t you think we live in a world where commitment is never certain in anything anymore? People back out of contracts, loans, friendships, etc. every day. Maybe it’s always been like that?

Are most people living together rather than getting married today because they area afraid to make promises they can’t keep?

cohabitation 1

My subject is marriage but the promise that I think is essential here is the one we make to ourselves first.  I believe it’s the promise we make to ourselves that makes the promises to others possible. Relationships work – even when it’s terrible – because we’ve first made a deep internal promise that affirms who we are and what we actually believe. People who can’t make that kind of promise or at least start the process, don’t make it very well in the relationship journey.

“We make promises to live, not to keep.” ― Marty Rubin

In order to start a relationship on the right foot and keep it heading in a healthy direction – each partner must be able to make a promise and keep it. The first thing to understand about making promises to other people is that they never work if you can’t hold on to promises you’ve made to yourself. I don’t think my wife and I would have made it for 35 years if we hadn’t, prior to marrying, each carried within us the promise that marriage was permanent. Then we could make the same promise to one another. I think keeping a promise with each other depended, in a large part, on our promises to our selves.

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ― Ernest Hemingway

You already know that you can’t change someone else. You can’t make other people keep their promises to you. What you can do is make certain you keep your own promises. The place to start is to be certain you are true to the promises you’ve made to yourself. Most of these promises center around who we believe we are (and are becoming).

What kinds of promises do you make to yourself?

  • to live up to your roles (parent, spouse, friend, employee, etc.)
  • to put others first
  • to keep changing , growing and learning

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”  ― Rainer Maria Rilke

 

Does Church Attendance Matter?

“The church is like Noah’s ark. It stinks, but if you get out of it, you’ll drown.” ― Shane Claiborne

Church attendance among younger adults is on the decline

Attendance typically dips at this time but has historically increased once people marry and start families. But today, that number – the return to church – is also on the decline. People are waiting later to have children and more people in America today are living together, not married. Most Americans believe in cohabitation.

This means church attendance is declining in young adulthood and doesn’t seem to be bouncing back.  Add to this an increase in the number of young people in our society who claim to have no religious belief at all. This means that church attendance is on a general decline.

“When introverts go to church, we crave sanctuary in every sense of the word, as we flee from the disorienting distractions of twenty-first-century life. We desire to escape from superficial relationships, trivial communications and the constant noise that pervade our world, and find rest in the probing depths of God’s love.” ― Adam S. McHugh

But every indicator we have has always demonstrated that church attendance has tremendous benefits for both individuals and society. In an effort to spread the word, here are some of the personal benefits of attending church.  These aren’t religious or spiritual reasons – just physical, emotional and social benefits that help to explain why attending church is still a good idea.

  1. People who are a part of a church report that they experience better marriages in all kinds of ways
  2. Longer life (here on earth, even longer in heaven!)
  3. Lower blood pressure – religious practices and beliefs reduce stress and have a measurable effect on overall health
  4. Managing your daily time and overall life is easier for people who are a part of a church community. The routine and the commitment help with life management.
  5. Less susceptible to depression and suicide – especially when you get involved in helping other people through the ministry of your church
  6. Better sleep (not during the sermon!)
  7. Drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous
  8. More friends and a larger support network – wait long enough on this earth and you’re going to desperately need this!
  9. Teenagers who attend with their family (or even on their own) do better in school both  academically and socially
  10. Getting up and going to a worship service and/or a Small Group each week provides a routine in your life, something that helps you to manage all of the unexpected chaos that comes your way.

“Then the singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart. There was no sense of performance or judgment, only that the music was breath and food.” ― Anne Lamott

What’s on your list of why attending church is good idea?

Sources:

Aleteia

Tyler VanderWeele and John Siniff

Peter Haas

T. M. Luhrmann

The Health and Fitness Revolution