Well, its wedding season.
Being a pastor, for better or worse (no pun intended), I have become a necessary part of most people’s idea of a successful wedding. That means that over the last 8 years and the 20-some odd weddings I’ve officiated, I’ve been able to have an inside look at this relatively new thing that’s called “The Wedding Industry.” Weddings generate about $50 million a year in our economy. What in the world are we spending all that money on?
Recently, I read a great little book called You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith. In it, Smith paints a pretty spot-on picture of a stereotypical wedding in our culture today:
“Tis the season to make weekend forays to events that will light up Facebook and swamp Instagram with a deluge of sepia-toned photographs. Years of hopes pinned on Pinterest will become a reality as we dance long into the night. It’s not Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo: it’s your cousin’s wedding. The excitement has been building ever since that first Facebook post – the one with the video of him proposing to her against the industrial-chic backdrop of the Brooklyn Navy Yard while a band whose members have beards and lots of banjos “surprised” them with a serenade. The video went viral, of course, so the bar was raised for the wedding itself. The invitations arrived encased in 1950s cigar tins and featured overlapping images of their tattoos on handmade paper, complete with vintage postage stamps for the RSVPs. The wedding reception will be catered by Korean taco food trucks, and the band from the engagement is going to play an encore, only with more mandolins, under candlelit canopies draped with hops as everyone enjoys the groom’s craft beer. The wedding has its own tumblr and, of course, its own hashtag. And everyone goes home with their own mouth organ inscribed with the bride’s and groom’s names. No one will forget this day, mostly because it will be scrupulously photographed, posted, shared, tweeted, and uploaded. And we all know: the internet never forgets.”
So, does all this prove that our society values marriage more than ever? Not exactly. In fact, the revenues of the divorce industry closely follow those of the wedding industry.
See, its not that our culture really values marriage. I think the very opposite is true. The truth is, we love the spectacle of the wedding. We love for our weddings to be seen. We need our weddings to be novel, exciting. Super-trendy and special. We want people to remember our weddings…for all the wrong reasons.
Most of us, at some level, want people to remember our weddings for our sake, for our glory. We want our weddings to stand out from the crowd so that people will say, “that was a spectacular wedding.”
We see our weddings as spectacles, so the people we invite are spectators instead of participants. The people at our weddings are there to witness our vows, with the intent that they hold us to our vows when the marriage gets difficult and we want out. Unfortunately, we invite people to “watch our weddings”, but rarely to “participate in our marriages”.
We are begging people to look at the spectacle of our special weddings on every avenue of social media we can find, while behind closed doors—when our marriages are failing -- we’re saying, “Stay out of our business.”
However, God’s design is that your marriage is very much so everyone else’s business. The most important statement on marriage in the history of the world is found in Genesis 2:18-25. It shows us that…
Marriage is public mission, not private feelings.
God’s design for marriage is very much a public thing. Though feelings are involved, they are not at the heart of marriage. The heart of marriage, from the beginning, is mission. Remember, God created man with a purpose. To work and keep. To make culture and ensure that it glorifies God.
This first marriage is not created for Adam’s feelings. Its not created to fill a relational hole he has in his heart. His heart is full. He is with God and God is with him. Notice, the woman is created as a “helper”—a helper to cultivate and protect, work and keep. And, as Genesis 1 says, God wants them to “be fruitful and multiply” God’s image across the earth.
God does want the man to have feelings for his wife, to be excited about their relationship, but he wants him to want marriage because she will finally be a partner he needs for this global mission to love God and love others by cultivating and keeping.
Likewise, as marriage partners on a mission, we are to go about creating culture that benefits others and shows off God’s character. It's a public mission. Husbands and wives should be cultivators working to bless others and show off God’s love instead of consumers simply seeking to drain their communities of its resources to please themselves.
This means that you’re not mainly satisfying feelings when you get married—you’re looking to serve others, and serve our society as a whole. So don’t close off your homes. Don’t tape up your wallets. Don’t shut the garage and avoid your neighbors. Your marriage is for your neighbor’s good. And that means that our marriages are each other’s business, because when your marriage is healthy…its good for me, and when mine is healthy, its good for you.
Let your marriage out into the public. Bless others through it. Let others speak into your marriage. Don’t hide sin. Don't put up a perfect front…on social media or otherwise. Instead, find people that see marriage as a part of God’s mission in the world…and ask for help.
For more on this topic, listen to our sermon on marriage here.