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I can't help but thumb through the marriage service when I pick up my Book of Common Prayer. I'm particularly infatuated with this portion of the service:

Let us pray.

Eternal God, creator and preserver of all life, author of salvation, and giver of all grace: Look with favor upon the world you have made, and for which your Son gave his life, and especially upon this man and this woman whom you make one flesh in Holy Matrimony. Amen.

Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy. Amen.

Grant that their wills may be so knit together in your will, and their spirits in your Spirit, that they may grow in love and peace with you and one another all the days of their life. Amen.

Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other's forgiveness and yours. Amen.

Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair. Amen.

[[Bestow on them, if it is your will, the gift and heritage of children, and the grace to bring them up to know you, to love you, and to serve you. Amen. ]]

Give them such fulfillment of their mutual affection that they may reach out in love and concern for others. Amen.

Grant that all married persons who have witnessed these vows may find their lives strengthened and their loyalties confirmed. Amen.

Grant that the bonds of our common humanity, by which all your children are united one to another, and the living to the dead, may be so transformed by your grace, that your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven; where, O Father, with your Son, and the Holy Spirit, you live and reign in perfect unity, now and for ever. Amen.


To unpack it a bit:

Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy. Amen.
Wisdom and devotion. The mind and the heart working together in the ordering of a common life. Sometimes it's about knowing what to do, and other times, it's about what you feel. The challenge, of course, is to strike a balance between the two.

The idea of a common life is something I totally blew in my first marriage; I had my life, he had his, and they weren't especially related to one another. Recipe for disaster? Ooooh, yeah.

Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other's forgiveness and yours. Amen.
Note that we use the word 'when' here...again, something I've really blown in the past. It's so obvious to me now...yes, when something is wrong, deal with it head-on, admit your part in the conflict, ask forgiveness (and, as part of that, you have to be willing to forgive, too) and keep going.

Yeah, I'm bad at that. I love what Annie Lamott said once - not forgiving is like eating rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die. I'm waiting for a lot of rats to die. The rats, of course, care very little about this, but here I am with lots of poison in me. I'm pretty sure God has me in the Badly in Need of Grace rolodex.

The thing about seeking God's forgiveness, of course, is that it is freely given, and then who am I to hold onto my own sense of guilt and shame? No wonder that's such a hard part of the process!

Give them such fulfillment of their mutual affection that they may reach out in love and concern for others. Amen.
This always reminds me of Ryan and Jon. Their relationship is one that I try to use as a model in many ways. This is one of them - they always seem to have so much love kicking around, there's always plenty left over for whoever needs it. I like to say that they are the ones who first made me believe in the possibility of a loving God, which is amusing because they're not at all religious and that certainly wasn't what they were going for. But, they took care of me at a point when I couldn't do it for myself, when I wasn't able to give anything back at all. I don't think you can do that if your own bowl of love isn't overflowing. God loves us like that, too, but I couldn't wrap my brain around that perfect love until I'd experienced it in a human, imperfect version.

The aspect of love that always gets me is how much more able to love I am now...not just Dennis, but the whole freakin' world. I can give and receive love in such a different way, because of having that base to build on. I think I'm FINALLY starting to have an inkling of what "love one another as I have loved you" is all about. Love has softened me a lot, smoothed out some of my rougher edges. Thanks be to God, and to a few of His agents.