by Maria L. Evans
“God, the holy and undivided Trinity, bless, preserve, and keep you, and mercifully grant you rich and boundless grace, that you may please God in body and soul. God make you a sign of the loving-kindness and steadfast fidelity manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, and bring you at last to the delight of the heavenly banquet, where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.”–from “I Will Bless you and you Will be a Blessing” liturgical resources, p. 13
Confusion alert: It’s going to sound a little weird for your steadfastly single author to wax poetic on the joys of marriage, but read on…
Recently, I attended and participated in the wedding of my friends Lauren and Judy, and words don’t do justice for the amount of love that was in the air for weeks on end. What’s interesting is that the two of them have been together in their life and ministries for at least 40 years. One might think this wedding was a mere formality, but it turned out to be the biggest source of palpable joy in a lot of lives, not just the happy couple’s lives.
In some ways, this marriage came about as a result of the stress of the maladies that plague people in their elder years. Judy had been hospitalized, and Lauren had difficulty getting access to information for Judy’s care. Anger, frustration, and fear were the tipping points for two people who, in another time, might not have seen themselves as “the marrying kind,” and until recently it wasn’t even an option. In other ways, well…it was clear they were already married for a long time, in the way the cared for each other and had a comfort to their life together.
Marriages like Lauren and Judy’s are opening us up to a new way of understanding chesed–loosely translated as “loving kindness”, but that’s a huge understatement. Chesed is more aptly described as the special kind of love God had in the Hebrew Bible for the Hebrew people–steadfast, fiercely faithful, and never ending, despite a lot of holy head-shaking and face-palming.
The reality is, chesed declares itself. When chesed happens in the deep and loving relationship between two human beings who choose to spend their lives together, we tend to muddy it up with the trappings of human civil and religious life in the form of marriage licenses and rites of the church. It creates the illusion of control–that we can somehow control who is and isn’t capable of God and the state’s blessing on a form of loving kindness that’s in front of our very noses. Marriage isn’t the only place where we can find chesed in our life and vocation–but it puts a human form to it.
Marriage equality–and the new ways we are acknowledging that in the church–is simply a reminder of just how wild and unpredictable, how headstrong, yet gentle, chesed is.
To paraphrase the old saw about love, ain’t chesed grand?
Maria L. Evans is a surgical pathologist in Kirksville, Missouri, a grateful member of Trinity Episcopal Church, and a postulant to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. She occasionally finds a moment to write on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid.