On the Equinox I attended a lovely wedding for two dear friends of mine. Their relationship was tried and tested over and over again, sometimes from internal forces, and sometimes from external forces.
Sometimes the Husband’s ego gets the best of him and he acts in a way that is less than divine. Sometimes the Wife’s emotions get the best of her and she lashes out when she doesn’t feel seen.
The couple is relatively famous in Conservative circles, and this has also been a trial for them. They receive death threats from some of their political enemies, and have been on the receiving end of a great deal of harassment over the last year.
To say their relationship has been tested and tried would be an understatement. There were a few times when I thought they wouldn’t make it.
But their commitment to the Lord is strong, and their Church community helped them find the path back to each other.
On Saturday, the Equinox, they were married in a beautiful God-centred ceremony on a farm. Following the ceremony was a Baptism ceremony at the small pond on the farm. They declared their dedication to serving the Lord and walking hand in hand with Christ as a couple.
It was a truly lovely ceremony; I may have cried a few times.
As I’ve been sitting with the experience and contemplating the wedding, something really stood out to me.
It was a profoundly God-centred ceremony, and that stood out to me as unusual. I have attended a good number of weddings, and few of them have been religious. Most have been secular with little to no mention of God, Christ, or the Church.
We are living in a world in which the divine, the numinous, has been removed from so much of our lives there is barely any left. We only encounter the numinous in church, which for many of us is sporadic at best.
It didn’t used to be this way.
In Christendom, the numinous was everywhere, including weddings. Holy Matrimony is a sacrament, one in which two souls come together to glorify God through their union. Historically, weddings were religious as much as they were political or socially expedient.
But the Reformation sought to move their peoples further away from the trappings of the Catholic Church. They eschewed the ornate artwork and complex rituals that were fundamental to the Catholic faith. With this, there was a simplification of wedding ceremonies as well.
A significant shift initiated by the Reformation was the understanding of marriage less as a sacrament and more as a civil or social matter. Martin Luther himself stated that marriage was “a worldly thing…that belongs to the realm of government.” This meant that the church was not the primary institution responsible for marriages, and this resulted in a simplification of the ceremony.
In many Protestant traditions, the role of the clergy in a wedding ceremony became less prescriptive. The emphasis was more on the couple’s mutual consent, with the clergy acting as a witness or facilitator rather than a vital conduit of the sacrament as was the tradition in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
This simplification has accelerated rapidly during the 20th century where civil ceremonies are now more common than religious ceremonies. One needs to look no further than the vibrant marriage industry of Las Vegas or group wedding ceremonies to see how far we have shifted away from the reverent religious weddings of the past.
My ex husband and I got married at village hall in a non-denominational civil ceremony. We didn’t have a minister; we were wed by the town Judge. I didn’t know how to invite God to be present, so I didn’t. Our ceremony was humble and sweet, yet devoid of the numinous.
But surely the non-religious, non-spiritual, weddings are just a reflection of the current trends. Our society has fallen away from the divine. We have pushed back against the Church. We have become religiously obsessed with science, with pop culture, with commercialism, with ego, that we have very little time or energy left for the divine. It is no wonder that our weddings lack God. It is no wonder that our marriages and the homes in which we raise our children lack God.
As friends of mine have demonstrated time and time again, if those who are getting married have a relationship with God, God will be present at the wedding. God will be forefront in the ceremony. God will be felt. God will lead the couple down the path of righteousness, and their love of God will be exalted as they strive to honour him through their union. God will be present in their home, in their children, and in the way the family shows up in the world.
But if there is no relationship with God, there will be no righteousness. There will be no exaltation. God will not guide the home.
My next wedding, while will also a humble civil ceremony with no guests and a town Justice, will have God present. It will be numinous, if for no other reason because I now know how to call forth God. I now know how to be present in His presence, and how to make a vow in front of Him. I now know how to honour and exalt Him in my thoughts but also my actions. I know how to honour Him through honouring my Husband and raising our children as good Quakerly children. I know how to honour His Creation through gardening, homesteading, and becoming one with the land in which we reside.
My Quaker Faith teaches me that I have a direct connection to the divine; we all do. All I need for God to be present is to connect to my inner bit of God, and to seek the inner bit of God in those I encounter.
And it is this inner bit of God that calls me to wonder if more marriages would be successful if the divine were called forth, not just in the ceremonies, but in the marriage itself. If couples would find happiness, love, and fulfilment if they called upon God during the courtship, during the engagement, during the wedding, and also during the marriage.
While there are many unhappy marriages among couples who love God, and have a relationship with Him, I do have to wonder if those relationships would be even more unhappy if God wasn’t present.
If the couple doesn’t have a relationship with God, are they more likely to succumb to ego? To worldly desires? To a life seeking mundane fulfilments? Is this mundane world more likely to pull them apart?
Conversely, I am forced to entertain the idea that people marry the wrong people. I know many couples who are together but shouldn’t be. They got married because “it was time” and that person was right in front of them and seemed acceptable. That kind of relationship, no matter how grounded in God the individuals are, will never be the soul-fulfilling, uplifting marriage that God wants them to have. Faith and divine exaltation cannot fix you marrying the wrong person.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. Many people do not have a relationship with God, nor do they want one for themselves or their partners and children. What I believe, and the conclusions I have come to, may not be appropriate for you.
But as I’m looking out at the world, as I’m moving through modernity, I am becoming more and more convinced that we need to let God guide us to finding our partner, and not rely on our ego to do it for us.
I believe we need to bring God back into our weddings and into our marriages. We need to bring God back into our homes. And we need to bring God back into our hearts for only when we are leading with divinity and encountering the numinous in our relationship will we find ourselves at one with our soul’s purpose.