July 15, 1972
Hard to believe. Fifty years. Seriously? For me, it seems like yesterday. I know, people often fall back on the well-worn cliché, “time flies.” Not me. Not today. If I have learned anything during these fifty years of marriage it is “time reveals.”
Come back with me to the beginning. Mary and I were married in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee at the First Presbyterian Church. Founded in 1792, the church has a long and storied tradition. Our brief, twenty-minute wedding service on a hot July afternoon, may not seem like history in the making but trust me, time stood still. Time did not fly. It revealed love, excitement, joy, and a trust that would grow into a deep and abiding faith—over time.
Mary has a long line of Presbyterian ministers in her family including the Rev. Frank McCutchan for whom our second son, Robby, gets his middle name. Point being, we honored the past, but we were clueless as to the future. We wanted a church that stood the test of time. Yet, we were two young kids. Standing, before an altar, exchanging vows, making a life-time commitment is a moment of sheer vulnerability. Marriage needs all the help it can get. The church provided us with a shelter of blessing for something new, fragile, and untested.
As I looked over my shoulder, I watched Mary walking down the aisle. She was gorgeous. Even though I was pinching myself, at the time, it was apparent we were both floating in the surreal beauty and joy of the day. The day of our marriage. The day of a foundational shift.
Here is what I learned: we were no longer two individuals. We were about to become one. The bible puts it this way, “they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Matthew 19:6). Granted, such thinking today may seem old fashioned or quaint. Many look forward to time as a way of building their own identity. The idea of becoming “one flesh” seems like the future is foreclosed. What I have learned is time reveals. Becoming “one” means becoming united.
It is not about being co-dependent. It is about working together. The two are a team. The two are bound and interrelated in love. The two pulls for each other. Here’s what time reveals:
“I take you, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse…” Stop right there. The two are holding hands. The two are holding each other. But don’t you see? The two are also holding better and worse. At the time, it is easy to hold hands with all that is better.
But we know, time reveals hardship, sadness, and grief. It is never expected nor imagined. The beauty and grace of marriage is that we are “one” holding on to each other, holding hands with those times that are both for better and worse. In looking back, and looking forward, the shelter of blessing the church originally provided in marriage, continues to lift us and open us to the fullness of life and the spiritual quest revealed in each new day. The two become one. By holding all time, the vows speak to this commitment of long ago by revealing and celebrating a new miracle of “being transformed from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).