Sunday, November 6, 2016

Friendship, Forgiveness, Compromise, Sacrifice, and Love

Saturday evening, I co-officiated Kelli and Jeff’s wedding ceremony, with Reverend John Sorrell, at the Travis Park United Methodist Church, in San Antonio, Texas. Here are the words I shared with them and their guests:

Even if you try to put yourself in another's shoes, it is impossible not to see the world mostly from our own vantage point. This is why many times, clergymen will begin speaking by asking a question, regarding a theological or textual point, that seems extremely intriguing to them, but that the average person could care less about...

So, now that I have pointed out the folly of such an approach, allow me to do it anyway, because this is really a juicy item. In the Talmud, the foundational book of Jewish Law, on the first page of Tractate Sotah, an ancient rabbi makes a fascinating statement: "Forty days before the creation of a child, a heavenly voice issues forth and proclaims, the daughter of A is for B."

What does that mean? Kelli, in writing about her relationship with Jeff, elucidates this Talmudic passage: "I have grown up believing that fairytales really can come true and that God has that special person already picked out for you. Some people find that person quickly and for others it takes more time. I am so grateful God led me to Jeff when he did." I assume by "quickly", she means people like her, Jeff and her mom, who were in 6th grade, when they met their soulmates, and by "others take take time", she means late bloomers like her dad, who was in 8th grade...

Jeff backs up what Kelli says, and agrees that this seems like a match made in heaven: "Kelli and I have always been very compatible... We truly do operate under the same principles and belief system. We have had similar types of friends, we each study hard, we each work hard... The list goes on and on."

Now, the same Talmudic passage quotes another ancient rabbi, who says, "They only pair a woman with a man according to his deeds." Now, that would seem to contradict the other rabbi's statement, that the match is made before you even come into being, and the Talmud suggests a somewhat simplistic resolution. I would like to suggest though, that there is no contradiction.

It is entirely possible for one to find his or her match quite early, just as this couple did. And you may believe that this match was made in heaven. The question is, what do you do next? Do you sit back, and say, "OK, God, you made this match; now make it work"? Or, do you accept this match, as a gift of potential, a sketch for what might be, and get to work, to make it into the best relationship possible, by constant learning and self-improvement?

Well, I think you know which option I am indicating might be a better bet... Listen to Jeff expound on that: "We have been there for one another through thick and thin and experiencing so many of life's challenges with her by my side has taught me so much. Interestingly enough, I think it has taught her a lot as well!" Kelli agrees when she says, "We have experienced some of life’s sweetest milestones and toughest trials, celebrating, laughing and crying together along the way. I have learned so much about friendship, forgiveness, compromise, sacrifice, and love..."

And they both understand that marriage is the next step, where you double down on your commitment to learn and grow together. As Kelli says, "Marriage... represents a daily promise to one another to continue to love and accept, support and care for each other. Marriage is saying that, without a doubt, there is no one in the entire world that I want to experience life with." That is why Jeff can confidently say what is mutually true, "I’m so incredibly blessed and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with her."

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