Ten years ago today, Wes asked me to marry him.
He already knew I was going to say yes. We had already talked about marriage, had agreed that we would serve God well together, and had promised that there would be no one else for either of us, ever. We had a wedding date. He’d bought a ring. We’d already started making plans.
Yet, still. We weren’t “official” in our minds until Wes went overboard with a proposal. We dressed up super fancy and looked nothing like our real selves. He booked a meal at a restaurant that was totally not us, where I picked at an entrée I couldn’t easily identify. (Duck, I think.) He drove me there in an expensive, borrowed car full of roses. (And he kept making comments about he was scared he was going to wreck this borrowed car.) He sat there at dinner, sweating and looking sick, with me trying to pretend that I didn’t know what he was going to ask.
Yeah. It seemed kind of silly. And so I said, “This is silly. I know what you’re going to ask, and you know I’m going to say yes, right?”
He nodded, still looking very sick. “Yeah. I’m still nervous, though.” Then, after finishing off his third glass of tea in fifteen minutes (anxious much, Wes?), he said, “I keep checking my pocket to make sure your ring is still there.”
“You could just give it to me now,” I said. “Then, we could actually enjoy the rest of this meal.”
“Oh, no,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve got it all planned out.”
And he did. And it was sweet. And while I appreciated what lengths he went to in an effort to make this the best proposal ever, we both concluded after we got back to his parents’ house, changed into our regular clothes, and spent what was left of the evening lounging around on the couch together that… well, that we’d made the proposal a big deal when the commitment that we’d already made to one another was the REAL big deal.
And then… we planned a wedding. And silly just got sillier, y’all.
I won’t bore you with the details, but we were engaged for nine months because to my way of thinking? You needed a lot of time to plan a big wedding. (We didn’t really need that much time.) And while that big (for us) wedding was beautiful and wonderful, I’ve looked back and wondered if we would be just as married if we had done what we wanted to do so many times during our long engagement and just gone before the church, simply and plainly, and had a small, covenant ceremony without any of the extras.
We would be just as married. Just as married without a huge wedding. Gasp!
I’m being countercultural. I get that. But I’ve had to ask myself lately, as the definition of marriage changes in our country… well, what is marriage, really? I know it’s not the big, fancy wedding. It isn’t even the small, simple wedding. I would’ve told you, years ago as we were getting married, that at least part of it was having that all important government license signed.
But now? I’m thinking it’s none of those things. If marriage doesn’t belong to the government and it isn’t about what we’ve made it culturally… then, what is it? Is it simply the covenant made between a man and a woman before God, in a community of believers who will support and encourage the couple as they enter marriage?
I think it is. Gasp! It’s so simple it can’t be right!
Wes has said, more than once, that when our girls’ days come, it’ll be different. That because of all that’s changing in our world regarding the definition of the institution, real, biblical marriage will mean something more profound than all the extras, that simplicity will be its hallmark, and the celebration will be in the community that gathers around couples as a new family is made. He’s even gone so far as to suggest that the best setting for a wedding is on Sunday morning, as part of the church service, as a living example of what’s to come with Christ and His bride.
I’ve told him before that he’s absolutely nuts for thinking any of this, and that our girls — oh, yes, OUR GIRLS — are going to have the biggest, most ostentatious weddings we can afford.
But as we watch the world around us change and as we discern what makes a lasting commitment between a husband and wife… I think he may be on to something. Just like our commitment to marry one another wasn’t forged on wearing itchy clothes, eating expensive food, and drinking a gallon of tea (for real), a commitment as deep and meaningful as marriage shouldn’t get lost in all that our culture has made of it.
As the culture around us clamors to “save” marriage, I hope it encourages us to take a good, long, hard look at what we — the church — have made it into and that we rally together to bring it back to its simplest, most profound, covenantal blessing, created for the edification of the church and the glorification of Christ, that it was meant to be.