FAITH AND VALUES: Marriage can be heaven on earth
The student journalist did not print the interview–perhaps it was not worth printing, or perhaps she was simply completing a required assignment. She was writing an article on June weddings and marriage.
Question: Have you performed many weddings?
Answer: Perhaps not as many as you would think. In some small churches there might be only three or four a year. My total is about 700 in more than 35 years.
Question: Have you kept up with all of them? How many are still together?
Answer: When you have served four churches, it is impossible to keep up with all. What I do is try to give them the best chance I can for success, and the rest is up to them.
Question: Do you mean that you counsel them?
Answer: If a couple doesn't have time to visit with me–sometimes in several sessions–then I do not have time to marry them. It's that simple.
Question: What do you talk to them about?
Answer: That varies. I talk to all of them about the vows and the factors that make for successful marriage. Other considerations depend on their individual needs. I look for bumps in the road, and insist we discuss them.
Question: What kind of “bumps?”
Answer: All kinds. Sometimes there is immaturity or a very brief acquaintance. There may be an inadequate financial base or disapproval by the families. It may be that there are children from previous marriages. Wherever potential future difficulties exist, we talk.
Question: Do the couples sometimes resent your dealing with these personal things?
Answer: Only rarely. They sense that I care and am not judgmental. I tell them up front that they do not have to share with me, but insist that they talk to each other about the issues raised.
Question: You mentioned factors that make for success. What are these?
Answer: This cannot be simply stated. There must be love–love in its many dimensions, not just physical attraction. There needs to be commitment. Open communication is essential. The shared community and significant spiritual life must be built.
Couples who do these things rarely divorce or have serious disruptions.
Question: Do you ever refuse to conduct marriages?
Answer: Refuse is too strong. There are times when I cannot conscientiously be involved–a young couple running away without parental knowledge, or someone strongly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or where there is a clearly discernible reason why they should not marry.
Each situation is different, and I seek for the will of God and redemptive purpose in the marriage.
Question: Anything else?
Answer: I ask my couples to love each other, to find a church where they can be active together, and to be in touch with me early if any difficulty arises.
Marriages are not made in heaven–they are built on earth–but they can be the closest relationship this side of heaven.