This past summer my family and I traveled to the countryside of France for my brother’s wedding. He and his bride gave me the honor of not only walking my beautiful niece down the aisle, but also of speaking to what I know of marriage. My hard-earned wisdom on the subject came as the following.
As a point of reference, my brother’s name is Nicholas. Born to different mothers, perhaps our father knew somehow that he could not provide us the stability most siblings share, so he gave us names so closely related in order to thread us together the best he could. My brother is one of the great gifts my father has given me and I’m so very grateful that our families have come to know and love each other.
Love coming in a way that is unexpected and, yet, just the way it is supposed to. That, in itself, is marriage.
Nic and I have had an unusual vantage point when it comes to marriage. To say we grew up without a traditional model is probably an understatement, yet for whatever reason both of us have chosen faith over fear. I did so very young and with reckless abandon; Nic has done so thoughtfully, reflectively, and with great intention. He may be my younger brother, but often times and in many ways, he is far wiser.
There are many cliches about marriage–the journey not the destination, the marathon, not the sprint…and they are all true. However what I’ve come to understand after being married almost 16 years is that each marriage is unique to its participants.
So rather than speak about marriage in specific terms, I will share a perspective. In very general terms there are three ways to view a marriage. There is the romantic version of marriage that lasts about five minutes and, while wonderful in the moment, is destined to end in disappointment. And there is the institutional version of marriage, an agreement between two people to create a practical set of mutually agreeable routines that guide their days. Then there is a third version of marriage, one I see already blooming between Nic and Nejma, and that is one of spiritual partnership.
From this perspective the two people involved consciously view their roles as partners in an evolutionary process. Sometimes this can take the form of nurturing support. When one of us is afraid the other is there to guide, ushering us through doors we know are right but we are afraid walk through on our own. These are the kind of times when gratitude comes easily and love flows freely.
Choosing a spiritual partnership, however, means accepting the reality that the lessons we are on this earth to learn are not always easy and that our greatest teachers are also the source of our greatest frustration and pain. Everything we avoid in life comes to pass again and again until we learn the lesson but when that lesson comes haunting in our marriage it can make our partner almost unrecognizable.
This is disconcerting and can be deeply frightening because in our marriage is where things are supposed to be most safe. When we remember our purpose for one another, however, built on a strong foundation of trust and clear intentions, then we can be vulnerable enough to stop defending ourselves against this stranger in our home and instead ask ourselves what lesson our love is trying to teach us.
Choosing learning over fear isn’t easy, but it is as simple as making the choice. It is a choice made day by day, sometimes moment by moment, and it is a gift we give to one another in love and for love. And it is this love that will sustain and grow us into the people we are meant to be.
Learning to lean into marriage as our greatest classroom and our partner as our greatest teacher is where true Love resides. Nic and Nejma have crossed this threshold and to you both I say, welcome home.