Note: Amy and Peter met para-gliding, and it remains one of their go to recreational options that they enjoy together. Also, if you want to see a video of the affair based on the songs that I wrote for the processional and the recessional, go to https://youtu.be/Ot2E-AkOyhs
Well, Amy and Peter: it appears that you’re ready to launch this thing. I think that’s true: you seem to have done some pretty good pre-flight, things seem to be in order..
But here’s the thing: once you turn and launch and your love is in the air, you’re committed. None of this “I think I’ve changed my mind, I’m going to bail out of this harness” stuff. Not without severe injury. That’s because, in part, that there’s a sense in which the two pilots who stood on launch have become one. So the only question left to answer is, “how do we make this the best flight possible?”
With regard to that, let me just say that in the many years I’ve been doing so I have observed relationships falling along a continuum between 3 basic types. The first is when both partners are primarily asking the question, “What’s in this for me? What does my partner have to offer me in this?” Those kinds of relationships, if they’re lucky, will just be a quick sled ride to the bottom. Otherwise they will suffer multiple collapses and eventually, inevitably, a hard landing with the only question left being how wounded will the pilots be walking away. Because that one pilot will have been split back into two, and nobody survives being cut in half without scars.
Moving along the continuum, however, you can come to a relationship where at least one of the partners is primarily asking a different question, that is “what do I have to give here?,” but with the other partner mostly responding, “yeah whatchyoo got for me? I’ll take that.” Those are relationships that have at least a chance to maintain some altitude, but they are asymmetrical and subject to multiple partial collapses that will prevent them from ever attaining the heights that they’re capable of.
But if you continue along you begin to approach a type of relationship where each partner is primarily asking what it is that they have to give. In the wisdom tradition we come from it is spoken of like this:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider the other better than yourself; not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of the others.
Just imagine that. Not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interest of the other. That’s when you get this amazing dance of people attempting to out-serve and out-give each other and there are literally no limits to how high you can go. Bring your oxygen. Always keeping in mind that it is about what you have to give, not just how you feel. There are plenty of emotions in these situations, as there should be, but those are not what will take you the distance. It is love manifested in concrete acts of selfless service that will do the trick.
But that is only half of this wing called marriage. The other half is just as important and is simply this: mercy. Grace. Forgiveness, because newsflash, Amy: in spite of the epic quality of the DNA he has inherited, Peter is a flawed human. Likewise Peter, in spite of her beauty and charm, her joyful demeanor and intelligence and immense ability to love…dogs. And some humans, Amy is also not perfect. And let’s face it: perfection is boring. Plus, it doesn’t get us anywhere. Because nothing grows unless it’s stressed and in every crisis is an opportunity.
It is these two halves of the wing: mutual, selfless, sacrificial service as well as the mercy and grace necessary when one falls short, that is rightly spoken of as unconditional love: rumored by some to be not just a characteristic of, but the very nature of the divine, as well as what we are called to reflect in this world. So pursuing your relationship in these kinds of ways becomes one of the ways in which you pursue your very purpose in life. This is a big deal you're getting yourselves into.
So here is my charge to each of you as individuals and the two of you as a couple: every day of your relationship, so long each of you endures, make every effort to take advantage of what I guarantee will be the multiple opportunities for selfless sacrificial acts of service and unyielding grace. If you do this the wing of your marriage will stay inflated and stable, able to handle the turbulent air that will come as well as to take full advantage of the nice lifty thermals that will take you to the heights you’re capable of. There will be adventurous days and bumpy days and days when you will be soaring along on that smooth buttery air, as the reverend Jesse would say. And ultimately you will come to a nice soft landing. Amy will remember to flair, and I along with all those here, those who wish they could be, and those yet to come who will be on your side, will celebrate with you here and now and we will celebrate with our then and there. Because there’s a party over there.