by Elyssa Salinas
Engagement is all about transition. The climax of the proposal goes straight into the rising excitement of preparing for marriage. The proposal story gets a small spotlight on the wedding website, and then the questions start. Then there are decisions about wedding details: colors and flowers and food and bridesmaids and hair styles – all these material decisions that honestly made me feel more frustrated than excited.
I’m not saying that I’m not materialistic! On the contrary, I love shopping and my Amazon app gets a good workout regularly. But as I began planning my wedding, it felt so strange to talk so much about table decor and the exact shade of gray I wanted, instead of the reasons behind the celebration in the first place. All the people who asked me these questions were asking out of care and interest, but I wasn’t able to be invested in the answers.
I was upset that this time of transition was becoming all about the answers to these questions, and the inevitable question my fiancé Derek and I had to ask: “How much will it cost?”
I was crying when I should have been happy. The process of getting married is so easily co-opted by the wedding industry. It was overwhelming and I felt adrift. I had lost my grounding and the why behind the planning.
Talk it out
I talked it out with Derek, my mom, my best friend and a new friend, and I was finally honest about it with myself. I needed to remember why I was marrying this wonderful man and begin to focus on the real purpose of the engagement, which is transitioning into marriage.
Marriage for me is about more than love. It is about respect, trust and making the choice every day that I will not be selfish, because it is not just about me anymore. It is about us. The letter to the Romans reminds us about pleasing others and not just ourselves.
Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” (Romans 15:2-3).
Marriage for me is about this call, to please or love one another in order to support one another. For Derek and me, that also means supporting one another in our different faith practices. When I pray, he meditates, and when I pick up the Bible for guidance, he might turn to an ancient Eastern text. God is present in the midst of our religious differences and calls us to support one another.
As Derek and I prepare to be joined in marriage and share that moment with our family and friends, we know that each day thereafter will be work. Love is not all we need, and some days will be easier than others. Yet we are not alone in this marriage. God is constantly present and accompanies us. God reminds us to be kind to one another, and to love one another. For us, loving one another means promising not to be selfish, but no one can do that alone. We must call on God to help us each day.
This passage from Romans closes in a prayer or blessing: “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:5-6).
In marrying, Derek and I are combining our worlds into a new one. The little world of my family, friends, mistakes, hopes, dreams and everything in between is combining with his. A new world will be created and we must take care of it. We must tend to the problems that arise and celebrate the joys that come–together.
Being engaged is all about transition. I’m transitioning from checking the single box on a form to the married one, to being Mrs. instead of Miss, and to sharing my world with someone else. I know that this transition will not be an easy one, but I will not be doing it alone. God prays beside me and meditates with Derek as we learn how to be married.
1. What kinds of transitions have happened in your life and where was God in those transitions?
2. What does it look like to be selfish?
3. How is God present in our relationships?
All embracing God,
May your love and steadfastness strengthen our relationships each and every day. Teach us to support one another in the midst of great pain, and in the wake of tremendous joy. Be with us as we embrace one another in love. Amen.
Elyssa Salinas works as the program assistant for ELCA Hunger Education. This Fall she will be starting her doctoral work at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, concentrating on Sexual Ethics. In her spare time, she writes poetry, reads avidly and plays with her two adorable kittens. Read more from her blog.
Photos by Babs. Used with permission.