sojourner, hearer, & follower of Jesus

Tag: Marriage

Very Married: A Review


The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast.

Gabriel García-Márquez

The music begins and the couple walks proudly and anxiously towards the future, a future together. Decisions have been made, preparations completed, and now it’s time for covenant making, vow taking, or maybe just contract signing. No matter what, life together begins.

As one who gets the joy of witnessing and officiating at these public/private, sacred/secular, end/beginning type of events I’ve often wondered if there is something that can prepare the couple for this momentous event. Would this couple take vows if their future life together was revealed to them? Would that vision help them discern or prepare them?

Maybe it’s best that Hallmark cards, romantic comedies, Instagram pictures, and the wedding industry monopolize the marriage press! Or maybe we were just waiting for Katherine Willis Pershey to provide us with the revelation that all engaged and married couples needed, a revelation of the beauty and trials of married life.

Very Married: Fieldnotes on Love and Fidelity is not for the faint of heart. Pershey’s poetic prose leads us openly yet carefully through the landscape of married life. As she aptly tells us the “agony, ecstasy, and tedium of wedlock.” (18) This is not the stuff that we are used to hearing about nor the kind of journey that we expect from one who is both married and who officiates at marriages. Yet Very Married is the book needed to awaken all of us to the beauty, reality, and poetry that is life together.

Very Married sets itself apart in how humbly it speaks to those of us who have ears to hear. Pershey’s tone is rooted in the Christian practice of testimony, the humble recognition of God’s presence in the midst of life. This testimony is not just an individual encounter with God but the result of living life in covenant with another. Her vulnerability and honesty are palpable as she guides us through the inner life of one who desires to live life together with another yet found herself ill-prepared for the reality of what that meant.

As she tells her story we quickly realize that all of us come to life together unprepared and yet it is there, in our willingness to recognize the mystery, that grace comes visiting, that blessing becomes activated.

My favorite part of the wedding ceremony is the blessing of the marriage. As I wrap my stole around the hands of the couple I invoke the Spirit. I ask for the Spirit to make them fruitful, to make them one, to help them recognize, like Pershey, that “I know now, and I am known now, in marriage.”

This knowing comes with joys and sorrows. It tests our capacity to be faithful, to stay attentive to our chosen over the long term. It tests our capacity to forgive, to reconcile, and to begin again. It also tests our capacity to love another as we live life with them.

There is yet more for us to know of each other, physically, spiritually, emotionally. And as husband and wife we have the incredible freedom to explore each other without hesitation or shame.

Katherine Willis Pershey in Very Married: Field Notes on Love & Fidelity, 94

The struggles of life together challenge our self-centeredness, immaturity, and desire for control. God uses this way of life to transform us, or as my United Methodist tradition calls it, to “sanctify” us. Pershey’s willingness to share with us her journey in grace allows all of us to identify the God moments in our own relationships and to recognize that “even a family’s sorrows give way to gratitude, eventually.”(164) Pershey’s candor reminds us that perseverance, tenacity, and humility are key components to becoming very married.

Katherine Willis Pershey does not shy away from the difficult topics connected to married life. From pre-marital sexuality, infidelity, and submission to same-sex marriage, divorce, and death, Pershey guides us with humor, humility, and understanding. Like a faithful pastor, she shines a light behind the closed doors of covenant life. Along the way she gives us hope that in the midst of the many challenges that marriage faces today “[t]here’s no shame in needing covenant to live.”(210)

So take up and read! In Very Married we are gifted with an invitation to a new-old way of living life together. Pershey gifts us with a faithful blueprint to the daily rebuilding of this thing we call marriage. Now is up to us, letting our very married life end daily by making love and following the blueprint to rebuild it, again and again, before breakfast!

Thankful to Herald Press for providing me an advanced copy of the book for this review.

Bible in 90 – Day 2: Covenant

Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!’

Genesis 28:20 (TANAKH)

In a recent post I spoke about being attentive to three important communal covenants that I have made: baptism, marriage, & ordination. These are key relationships that continue to shape me by being means of grace in my life.

As I continue to read Genesis I’m struck by the continual reminders of covenant. God is a God of covenant making with Adam & Eve, with Noah & his family, with Abraham & Sarah, with Isaac & Rebekah, with Jacob . . .

At each step of the way God reminds all of them of a covenant made and the promises that accompany that covenant. Their mistakes, their unfaithfulness, the struggles of life do not negate the covenant instead the covenant serves as a continual guide and reminder of God’s intention for those with whom the covenant has been made.

In baptism I entered in a covenant with God to be part of the community of faith with Jesus as our Lord. In marriage I vowed to live in partnership with another and only that other for the rest of my life. In ordination I joined the community of the ordained to be about leading the Christian community towards kingdom life.

I wonder if we realize how important these covenants are? Do we recognize in making them that “surely the Lord” is in them?

Sometimes we make covenants without realizing their importance and what it means to live in them. In order to recognize their importance I think we need to do a better job of formation in what it means to be part of these covenants. We also need to learn the great story of faith, for our covenant making is the continuation of God’s story in our lives.

Even when we don’t realize it, God is present in our covenant making. Part of our task as God’s people is to shine a light on that presence, to proclaim the good news in the covenant making, and remind those who are entering these covenants that the promises made are means of grace in their lives.

I continue to be surprised by what I encounter each time I engage the story of faith. I look forward to this continued journey!

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