This week my husband and I celebrated thirteen years of marriage. A few friends asked me what romantic plans we had, and I found I had to do some explaining. You see, twelve years ago, on our first wedding anniversary, we found ourselves at an impromptu family reunion. At the time, we reasoned that we would just celebrate our anniversary some other time. But a few days later, as we talked about the reunion, we realized something. Our wedding was a celebration not only of our love and commitment and the covenant we were entering into, but also a celebration of the community who was vowing to hold us to our covenant – to support us, love us, and encourage us in the good and bad times. In that light, it seemed completely appropriate that we would celebrate our anniversary in the same fashion as we celebrated our wedding – surrounded by the community that holds us accountable to our vows.
Ever since the first anniversary, we have made a point of celebrating our special day with others. Sometimes the gathering has been large; sometimes quite small. Sometimes we have celebrated with family, and sometimes we have celebrated with friends. We have celebrated our anniversary with people who did not even know us when we got married, and we have celebrated with people who knew us before we knew each other. Each year, the celebration reminds us of the blessing of friends and family in our lives and how we could not grow and thrive in marriage with the support of a lot of others.
What I like about the tradition we have developed is that the tradition pushes against secular expectations. Secular expectations tell us that we should have a dreamy, romantic night with expensive gifts exchanged (don’t get me wrong – I am all for date nights and presents!). Secular expectations would tell us that marriage is private. But that is not what the Church tells us. Sacred expectations are that marriage is blessed within the context of a community. Sacred expectations are that the community should ask how marriages are going – not just to gossip or vent, but to continue to live into the vow that the entire community takes to help marriages thrive.
So today, I ask for your prayers: prayers that my husband and I might continue to find joy in one another, might continue to find love and support in our marriage, and might glorify God in our life together. In return, I lift up prayers today for all my friends who are married: those who are in those first years of wedded bliss, those who are struggling with all sorts of marital challenges, and those who are just treading water. I also lift up prayers for those who long to be married, but have not found a partner; for those who have lost their spouses to death; for those who are divorced; and for those who long to be married legally but still live in places where that is not an option. We are all the community of faith, and we all need one another. I thank God for all of you today!