Marriage, Relationships, and Personal Growth
Two weeks ago I was blessed to attend the wedding of my beautiful, charming, and intelligent niece, Dara. The rabbi who officiated at the ceremony delivered a moving homily, some of which I want to share with you here, along with my personal commentary on a section of it.
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. You cannot promise one another a life of sunshine, nor can you promise one another riches, wealth or gold. You cannot promise one another an easy pathway. While all of us here pray that your marriage may bring you all the exquisite excitement marriage should bring, we all know that, in this world, where love brings delight, life also can bring disillusionment and disappointment.
So we pray that you will know these blessings: Love — so that you may enter into the mystery that is the awareness of each other’s presence which is no less spiritual than it is physical. Joy — in one another’s accomplishments. Understanding — that your interests and desires may not always be the same. Courage — to speak of misunderstanding, and to work on a solution before the setting of the sun. Compassion — to comfort one another in pain and sorrow. Foresight — to realize that rainbows follow rainy days. Imagination — to keep as part of yourselves the child each of you used to be. Mirth — keeping your sense of humor. Awareness — to live each day with the knowledge that there is no promise of tomorrow.
When frustration and difficulties assail your relationship — as they threaten all relationships at one time or another — remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. For, in this way, you will be able to ride out the storm when clouds hide the sun. Remember: even if you lose sight of it, the sun is still there.
Of course, the words above apply not just to people joining in marriage, but to people in any close relationship: friends, lovers, siblings. They are words of wisdom. The only section of the homily that troubled me somewhat was the following (in bold), which happened to be the opening words of the ceremony:
In marriage, two persons turn to each other in search of a greater fulfillment than either can achieve alone. Marriage is a going forth, a bold step into the future; it is risking what we are for the sake of what we yet can be. Only in giving of oneself and sharing with another can the mysterious process of growth take place. Only in loyalty and devotion bestowed upon another can that which is eternal in life emerge and be known.
The process of growth is indeed mysterious, but it can come in a wide variety of ways, not just in close relationships. Sometimes growth comes through tragedy, jolting us into a different perspective on our lives that may lead to unexpected pathways. Sometimes growth comes through study or contemplation of, or meditation on, the fundamental issues of life, revealing aspects of the human experience that may have remained hidden to us. And sometimes growth comes through cultivation of faith, providing strength that has hitherto been absent, Many of my clients long for the intimacy that relationship can bring, and intimacy is certainly a goal to be treasured. But to believe that it is the only route to growth and true fulfillment is to unnecessarily narrow the road to personal development. Heed the rabbi’s unbolded words and your relationships will flourish. But be open to, and actively seek, other paths of personal growth.