Will You Marry Me?
Process Theology and Marriage
This page in JJB is merely an excuse to share this video. Somehow the video captures the playful, free spirit of process theology...thanks to Isaac and Amy and their friends. But in order to justify the sharing, I offer ten ideas concerning process theology and marriage. As I offer the ideas I have in mind different kinds of marriage, including gay marriages.
1. Marriage is a communal activity. Our marriages belongs to us, but we are not isolated individuals cut off from the world by the boundaries of our skin. As we enter into our married lives, the many people in our lives come with us, including our parents and friends. Ultimately our marriage does not belong to us alone, but also to other people and to the Life in whom all lives unfold.
2. Marriage is a process of re-marrying. In marriage as in life, everyday is a new day. Even if we are married to the same person for twenty years, we are always re-marrying that person. Being married is a process which needs to be renewed on a daily basis.
3. We never re-marry the same person. The person whom we marry will change over time. He or she will change through age, through difficulties, through the ordinary course of life. Part of our commitment is to walk with this person through his or her changes. And part of that person's commitment is to walk with us, too.
4. Marriage is nourished by faith. There is a spirit of creative transformation at work in our world which is God's presence in our lives. "God" is another name for the Life in whom all lives unfold. As we re-marry day by day, this spirit takes the form of fresh possibilities for re-marrying. These possibilities come in many forms: possibilities for tenderness, for forgiveness, for adventure, for respect, for shared suffering, for laughter, for intimacy.
5. Marriage is intense. The lure of God in our lives is not for harmony alone, but rather for meaningful approximations of harmony and intensity. Sometimes our marriages are more intense than harmonious, sometimes more harmonious than intense. There can be beauty in the intensity as well as the harmony.
6. Marriage is a greenhouse for love. One purpose of marriage is to us learn how to love and be loved. At every stage of a married couple's relationship, there is an opportunity for learning, and the process can last a lifetime. In this life we may never complete the process, but we can improve. Even after death there will be a need for marriage.
7. Marriage is not an end in itself. While it is true that a successful marriage requires a commitment of one another to the relationship; it is false to say that the relationship itself, understood as a self-contained unit, is an end in itself. Marriages are successful when they are not self-centered, when they do not focus only on themselves. Successful marriages are those that find joy and purpose outside the marriage: most particularly in helping others. The others may be children or family or friends, but it is important not to make gods of the extended family and close friends. Ultimately a marriage is successful when it adds beauty to the extended family of life and the Life in whose heart all lives unfold.
8. Marriage needs humor. It is important to share suffering in a marriage, but it is also important to share laughter. Without humor, without playfulness, a marriage becomes stagnant. Humor opens up space within the heart and mind, so that married partners can experience common joys and not take themselves so seriously. Married couples need to tease each other.
9. Marriage needs mystery It is also important for married couples to recognize and honor the private side of the other person: the side of the other person that cannot be known and need not be known. This private side, this unknown side, is part of their beauty. Every person has a private side, a celibate core which transcends the relationship.
10. Marriage is a sacrament. A sacrament is a finite reality or relationship which simultaneously functions as a window into God: that is, the Life in whom all lives unfold. A committed, loving, and trusting relationship between two people can indeed be such a window. It can be a place where they find God. One important purpose of marriage ceremonies is to help people recognize and affirm, in public, their own hope that their marriage will become a sacrament.
In a process context these ten ideas are relevant to all marriages: gay, lesbian, straight. They may be built into wedding vows, but even more importantly they can be built into the private vows that married couples make to one another by simple acts of kindness in daily life. Marriages that succeed are those in which these and other vows are renewed, sometimes publically but often privately. In the renewal itself there is a beauty. The renewal is a sacrament, too.