You Always Marry the Wrong Person

An attendee at my wedding said, “You always marry the wrong person.”

I wonder if this is something like what Jesus communicates through Luke in chapter 14 (verses 25-35). I don’t think the speaker was trying to say that marrying the wrong person is grounds for divorce, but that the cost of the commitment a married person makes at the altar is always higher than you’d bargained for.

Surely an army commander, no matter how wise in warfare, can never know for sure whether his forces are equal to the opposition, and though I haven’t done much remodeling, I do know that building budgets are notoriously unreliable. The price is always higher than you’d bargained for.

A worthy vow is always tested; those which are not a commitment that takes fortitude are hardly commitments at all. It is when we are stretched, perhaps even to the breaking point, of a promise that we’ve made, that God works his transformation in us. More than our hobbies or passions, our work or our desires, people are formed by the relationships that we undertake and carry throughout our lives -- the relationship into which we’re invited with Jesus Christ being the greatest.

The other half of the pronouncement from our wedding guest, which my husband is always quick to add, is, “you also always marry the right person.”

My husband and I have moved five times in our seven years of marriage. We’ve always lived at least 9 hours’ drive from any immediate family. Neither of us has lived in our home state since leaving for college half a lifetime ago. He was raised among many cousins, aunts and uncles, and even more fringe-relatives. I was raised an airplane ride from any relations (outside my parents and brothers) at all.

Not only is one’s relationship with Jesus Christ the defining characteristic of a life, of an identity, and the foundation of transformation, but this relationship orders all others. Rather than the biological or family of origin being one’s primary bedrock, the church and its members takes pride of place in the heart, life, and work of a Christian disciple.

Our parents often tell us they wish we’d “move back home” and that we’d “settle down close by.” Of course, it is difficult to live away from the people and places we grew up with, the beloved relationships that nurtured us into existence and then into adulthood, but my mother understands -- she and my stepfather raised us to follow the call of God in our lives, regardless of where that might send her children. It has scattered us to the wind, across time zones, but we are living the lives to which we’ve been called, and they visit often.

Jesus calls his disciples to a life and mission which they could never fully account before they begin. We don’t know what lies ahead for us in the way of the cross, or the full repercussions of the commitments we make in following the God made known in Jesus Christ, but we do know that whatever valley we traverse, we do not walk alone. Whatever wilderness we wander, we are not without nourishment or support. The price is astronomical, it costs all that we have and more, but it is the way of life.

Following God’s call halfway across the country and back -- and then back again -- has shown my husband and me the great glory of God’s Kingdom throughout our home country, the United States. I trace my spiritual family from the county where my biological parents were both brought up, to the font in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I was baptized, to the little wooden church in Durham, North Carolina, where I was confirmed; the grand old (decrepit) stone cathedral where I was deaconed, the sparse Franciscan-style parish where we were married; back and forth across the country, now vicars at a red-carpeted church in the southern part of Dallas. More than the buildings, of course, the people and our relationships with them have transformed our lives. The spiritual family which we’ve had the honor of growing with has revealed God’s glory and grace in our lives as we’ve traversed the highway system, the encouragement, and even more, the wounds, we’ve suffered, have maintained our “salt” as we’ve wandered the wilderness and sat by the well.

The eyes of our faith may always be bigger than our stomachs -- our commitments are much more wild than we even imagine, but our heavenly Father provides the family to surround, support, and sustain us in the midst of it.

Stanley Hauerwas;

Posted by The Rev. Emily Hylden with

Priests from throughout the diocese explore religious topics with depth and nuance.