Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Good Things Take Time

Saturday evening, I officiated Emma and Ivan’s trilingual English-Spanish-Hebrew wedding ceremony at the Biltwell Event Center, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Emma and Ivan’s story is certainly atypical to say the least. Culturally Jewish American girl from Chicagoland meets Devout Christian Guatamalan boy in Columbus, Indiana might get sent back to you marked, “Rewrite, lacks believability,” if you wrote it into a screenplay. If you had the chutzpah, the audacity, to write in that screenplay that they met in a kickboxing program, you might get the screenplay thrown in your face. Truth IS at times stranger than fiction.

Ivan describes this very real “boy meets girl, boy tries not to get kicked in the face by girl” story, “My initial plan was to try something new, but to my surprise, this was the very place where I met the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Emma joined this program way before me. Lucky for me, she decided to come back just for fun… We started a beautiful friendship outside kickboxing. After a while, I knew I was ready to let her know I was in love, with her personality, transparency, honesty, and beauty. However, she was cautious and decided to take things slow, but I knew I needed to be patient. I told myself, ‘Good things take time.’”

Here's what Emma says actually happened in the beginning stages of their relationship, “I told him time and time again when we first started seeing one another that we would not be a serious relationship.” Ouch! She explains, though, “On paper, we have very little in common.” It is hard to argue with that.  So, how did they get here, after all? In one word: character. 

Emma elaborates on that seemingly neutral statement of Ivan, about good things taking time, “Ivan has the most amount of grit and tenacity I've ever seen in someone.” Interestingly, the more we learn about the science of the mind, we learn how central these traits are to success in life. Sometimes, however, the experiences that grow these traits in us can leave the individual callous. This is why what Emma adds about Ivan is key. She says he has, “a truly kind soul. I admire his thoughtfulness, his empathy, and his ability for identifying,” with the other. 

In these descriptions, Emma exhibits a deep awareness she may not even be fully cognizant of. Unfortunately, most of us in America do not describe people first and foremost by speaking of their character. Emma does. What stands out to her, what eroded her initial very logical resistance to Ivan’s persistence was her recognition of his character. This, in turn, shows her true and genuine character, which drew Ivan to her in the first place, creating this virtuous cycle. 

This is why Ivan says, “Although we both come from two different worlds, we always have found a way to put everything aside and see each other for who we really are… Even though we have only known each other for over three years, I feel I have known Emma all my life.” This is why Emma says, “He is really my best friend and partner and I am so excited to share this moment with our loved ones!”

Do I Feel Lucky?

Sunday afternoon, September 19th, Dr. Elmar Sakala and I co-officiated Becky and Larry’s vow renewal at the Wildwood Canyon Park, in Yucaipa, California. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

This might sound odd, but there is an argument for incorporating one of the most famous lines in cinema history into every wedding ceremony I officiate: “You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’”

Now, I am not saying that getting married is like looking down the barrel of, “a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world,” wondering, “Did he fire six shots or only five?” It’s actually harder than that.

Marrying someone is the ultimate wager. It’s easy to say that the you of today wants to be with the them of today. What’s harder is to bet that your love is so strong that you of tomorrow, of a year from now, of ten years from now, will still want to be with the them of tomorrow, of a year from now, of ten years from now.

This is why in the Christian tradition, weddings are centered around vows, which classically invoke the idea that you’re in it for the good times and the bad, and that you will stay strong by the other person’s side for richer or for poorer, which we have some control over, and most importantly in sickness and in health, which we have much less if any control over.

This is why I love the idea I have heard from some Christian ministers who ask all married couples to use the time that the marrying couple recite their vows to recommit to each other. Because that is what marriage is really all about.

Don’t get me wrong; I love weddings. I have, after all, officiated about 500 of them. However, the wedding should really be seen as one of those free trial offers you get for 14 or 30 days. The marriage is not calling back to cancel the after the trial offer period is over.

Now, I am not saying that a marriage is like an Apple TV subscription. Apple TV never turns to you, when you are minding your own business, to ask how a particular body part looks in those jeans. (Guys, please, the only legitimate answer is that it looks great. Stay safe out there!)

Marriage is about the wonderful experiences you have together, but marriage is also about the not so wonderful experiences you have together. Hopefully, the balance is with the former, but it might be the latter, that if you play your cards right, binds you even tighter together. That is, after all, when you need love the most; that is when the love you give counts the most.

This is why every couple, really, should follow Becky and Larry’s example, and go on a ten year renewal tour like today, as their friends have been urging them to do. Every couple should take a moment, in front of their family and friends, and say once again, I’m in it for the long haul. I’m in it for good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Reach Our Full Potential

Sunday evening, Father Bruce Nieli and I co-officiated Lauren and Rony’s wedding ceremony at the Hotel Van Zandt, in Austin, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

Lauren and Rony met at UT and became very close platonic friends. Now none of us gets to choose how we meet our spouse, but if you manage to luck into this type of situation, it can make your future relationship incredible. As Lauren says, “I believe those years of friendship leading up to our relationship gave us a really solid foundation whenever we started officially dating, and it’s still something that’s so important in our relationship today.”

Here is where things get really interesting and go deep. Rony says, “Along the way… our relationship changed from platonic to romantic.” Why, because they deeply deeply care about each other. 

As Lauren says, “Rony… takes interest in my job, my friendships, what I did on my day off of work, etc. This may seem so basic, but as my friends have also grown and confided in me about their adult relationships, I’ve realized how valuable this really is. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a partner who takes an interest in their lives the way Rony does about mine.”

Rony agrees, “I love that Lauren and I communicate not only about the major things in life, but also the minor, seemingly inconsequential items, because we care about each other’s opinions and genuinely want the other to be intertwined in our lives.” Full disclosure: Rony did also mention something about realizing Lauren is out of his league and her not recognizing that, but don’t tell her.

Now, despite all of this, and even though they were clearly madly in love, Rony says, “Generally both of us had excuses for why we likely weren’t going to be in a long-term serious relationship together. Based on our spiritual and cultural upbringings… All the while, our friendship and romance continued to evolve, but we weren’t quite ready yet to set the excuses aside…”

Eventually, Lauren says, “We came to the conclusion that we’d rather be together and face the challenges that come with being an interfaith couple versus not being together.” Rony confirms this, saying, “Ultimately my feelings for Lauren got to a point where none of the ‘excuses’ mattered anymore – I just knew I wanted to be with Lauren.”

What a wonderful lesson for all of us in the fractured world that we live in today. Let us strive for a world where we all follow Lauren and Rony’s example, and not allow religion or culture or faith to stand between us, so that we may all reach our full potential. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

One of Those Meant-To-Be Kind of Loves

Saturday evening, I officiated Lindzie and Eli’s wedding ceremony at The Olana, in Hickory Creek, Texas. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests:

They say truth is stranger than fiction. If Lindzie and Eli were fictional TV characters, and you wrote the script for the episode about how they met in the way it actually happened in real life, it wouldn’t fly. It would be returned with a note that said, “not realistic enough.”

Check this out. Lindzie says, “Eli and I met in a bar of all places. Considering Eli doesn’t drink it was pure luck and/or fate that we met at the Shark Bar in the Power and Light District of Kansas City that night.” Eli says, “I asked for her phone number, saved it as “Future Wife” in my phone, and texted her that night, hoping she got home safely. She didn’t respond for eight days…” Lindzie confirms this and adds, “After playing hard to get for 8 whole days I finally gave in and that’s where we begin the story of Eli and Lindzie.”

With that incredible story, it is probably unsurprising that Lindzie says, “I guess our relationship has always been one of those meant-to-be kind of loves.” In this she reflects a common Yiddish word and idea, Beshert. Like many Yiddish words, it has rich multiple meanings. It means meant to be, but also soulmate.

However, it goes much deeper. Rabbi Yisrael Pinson and Becky Hurvitz tell us, “The concept of beshert, for those who believe in it, is much more than finding love by being at the right place at the right time. It is, in essence, fulfilling your personal destiny, thereby playing your part in the destiny of the world.”

Destiny is a pretty heavy word. As an existentialist, I believe that fate happens to you. You randomly meet in a bar in Kansas City. Destiny is what you do with that fateful encounter. You turn that random encounter into a beautiful love story that culminates in today’s wedding.

This is reflected in Lindzie and Eli’s choice of today, specifically, to cement their relationship. Eli says, “I picked the date to ask her to marry me on the 13th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. My desire was to grow something beautiful out of the worst tragedy of my life. I couldn’t imagine anyone more perfect to spend my life with.”