Saturday, October 27, 2012

Of Anniversaries, Radical Love, and Sacrament

My parents celebrate their anniversary today: 50 years together!

I think about their marriage as an example of radical hope.  The days leading up to their wedding were also the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). My dad was a young officer in the Air Force, and up until just about the moment they got married, they weren't sure if my dad would actually be there, or if he might be called back to his unit. In later years, as I've realized how close to nuclear war the world came during that month, I'm amazed that they actually pulled it off--I'm amazed that we're all still here.

My mom and dad have only recently begun to talk about their wedding in the context of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I can't imagine my mom, as a young bride-to-be, planning the last details of her wedding, while watching world leaders huff and puff. She's rarely talked about that.

I can imagine how I would feel: terrified. I might wonder what would be the point of marrying and pretending that life would go on as normal.

And yet, here we are, 50 years later, with life going on as normal. If my parents had cancelled their wedding and lived as if nuclear bombs would rain down at any moment, they'd have spent 50 years living that way. They'd have missed out on the joy of marriage and raising two children. They'd have had no grandson (my sister's boy). They wouldn't have travelled or gone to back to school or had all the joys they've had.

I, too, have been haunted by the prospect of nuclear war, as have many people of my generation and older generations. I've noticed that younger generations just look at me, baffled, when I ask if they worry about the possibility of nuclear war.

Oddly, they're probably more at risk than I ever was. At least when the Soviet Union was intact, we knew where the nuclear weapons were. Now, many of them have vanished--but we know they're out there, somewhere.

In the meantime, I hope that we can all continue to make gestures of wild hope, during these tough times, the way my parents did, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. What would that wild gesture of hope look like, in this time of global warming and pandemic flu?

Love is always such a gesture. To commit to another person, to love others, even though you know they will disappoint you in ways that you can't even imagine--that's a radical act of life-affirming hope. We love, even though we know that all we love will be lost if we live long enough. Even if we don't have the dramatic backdrop of a international standoff that would likely end in nuclear war, to commit to love in the face of all that would erode that love is a such a bold act.

And since this is my theology blog, let me remind us that our best example of married love points us to the love that God has for us; in fact, in some traditions, marriage is a sacrament for just that very reason.

I feel profoundly grateful to my parents for demonstrating the benefits of married love.  I feel grateful to my church for finally widening the marriage circle to include same sex couples who are deeply committed.  I feel that miraculous relief to realize that God loves me in similar ways to my spouse:  both God, my spouse, and my parents have seen me at my worst, and they love me anyway--and more, they believe that I can be better.  And through that belief, I am able to move towards becoming a better human.

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