Sunday, February 8, 2015


Saturday evening (2/7) Father Dan McLellan and I co-officiated Sarah and Eric's wedding ceremony at the Westin Poinsett in GreenvilleSouth Carolina. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

Friends, our shared traditions embrace lifelong learning, and learning from everyone. So, whenever I officiate a wedding, I ask myself, this couple being unique individuals, what can I learn from them, what are they, consciously or maybe even unconsciously, teaching me, and indeed us?

Frankly, the best thing about working with Sarah and Eric, I feel, was just that. This was a couple that you could really learn from. I mean, one of the first things I ask every couple is how they met. How many couples answer that they met at a think tank?! Well, with apologies to Eric for the unscientific method, based on my anecdotal evidence, so far only about one in 260! Seriously, though, every time I spoke with this erudite couple, the conversation was fascinating.

Indeed, you get the sense from listening to Sarah and Eric talk about each other, that the thoughtfulness and wisdom they each found in the other was mutually attractive. So, even though Sarah admits that the first thing that drew her to Eric was, "his good looks," she says that over that summer interning in DC she "had several of what she considers the deepest conversations of her life." Of course, what Sarah leaves out, and Eric fills in, is that that summer there were several guys chasing her. So, and looking at her on her wedding day makes this obvious, she is only telling half of the story when it comes to good looks fitting in to the narrative! However, what to this day remains the most attractive thing to Eric about Sarah, is her ability to thoughtfully and existentially focus inward on what really matters.

One of the most interesting aspects of their thoughtful relationship has been how they think about their similarities and their differences. To wit, Eric says, "We might appear different but we are very much the same and this is why we clicked and this is why we work."

However, Eric also says, "I am a bit quiet and reserved and she is out-going and sassy. I tend to take my time and scrutinize every piece of information before making a decision whereas Sarah goes with her gut." Sarah says, "He challenges me because he has different opinions and feelings about things, and isn’t afraid to have open conversations... It’s hard for many women, including me, to find men who are strong and confident enough to express opinions that refute their own. So I will never be bored."

So, clearly, Sarah and Eric understand that though we seek out a partner who we are "on the same page with," having differences, though challenging sometimes, can be tremendously enriching. Of course, that begs the question, how do you harness your differences to enrich your life as a couple, rather than allow them to separate you. Here is where this couple's answer is the deepest. In speaking of perhaps the greatest difference they have, Sarah says, "We connect on a spiritual level that transcends religious divisions."

How do you transcend? Something Eric told me about his childhood, reminded me how. Eric celebrated his bar mitzvah in one of the caves that surrounds the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Now, here is the interesting thing about that place, considered the holiest place on earth to our shared traditions. The mountain itself is mostly artificial. You see, King Herod built huge walls around the mountain, and then poured earth in to create the huge platform we see today.

However, if you go deep enough into the caves that archeologists have carefully dug into the area surrounding the Temple Mount, you eventually reach the original mountain and hit bedrock. You can TRANSCEND the artifice, reach out your hand and touch the actual Mount Moriah. You can touch the very site, where according to legend, both the creation of the world, and the birth of our shared Abrahamic tradition began.

What Sarah and Eric have been able to do in their deep relationship is just that. They have been able to reach that depth, where though their differences remain very much intact, they have touched bedrock. They, like many wonderful interfaith and intercultural couples have figured out what really matters. What really matters, what causes different characteristics to melt away is a shared value system, that holds on to what really matters. What really matters to these two is being kind, curious, thoughtful and loving to each other, and to family, friends and strangers alike. That, when all is said and done, is the bedrock, which they hold firm to. This is how they have transcended their differences, creating a whole new world in the process. Let's hope we can all follow their example. The world will certainly be a better place if only we can.

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