There are several issues in this particular mix:
- A brittle, if not already shattered, social landscape
- A somewhat “old-fashioned,” even passe, rite
- A resurgent nativism–politicized beyond imagination
- A couple captured by an unlikely love
- Three innocents who melt hearts and bring smiles to even cynical faces
I had no idea what the marriage ceremony would be like. I attend so few of these (at my age). I had a sense that my very creative and thoughtful daughter would put together a simple, yet meaningful and thoughtful ceremony. And I was not disappointed on that score.
But it was more than thoughtful, more than meaningful. It pointed a way forward out of the brokenness of our times and gave me hope. For, despite some of the issues named above, and, perhaps because of some others, the event turned into a time of true wonder at what might be if we can stop taking positions and merely agree to be human with each other.
In the simple, even spare, space of the East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church, a group of people, so diverse, so different, so differing, so unlikely, met to celebrate the marriage of a young white woman and the undocumented father of her three children.
The diversity was political, social, ethnic, racial, sexual orientation, theological, age… This was, quite frankly, lion and lamb stuff.
People who would agree on very little; people who would not normally break bread (or tacos in this case), with the other folk present sat side by side smiling, singing, reflecting, eating (and later drinking and dancing) together.
Aware of the differences I could only sit and marvel at how this event–this traditional, age-old ritual–could act as a catalyst to unity. For there was unity present. At the end of it all we joined voices in affirming our commitment to this improbable couple. We found our agreement in the simplicity of a promise to support them in any way we could.
Let’s pause on that point for a moment: we, in all our diversity, all our latent disagreement, all our commitment to excluding the “other;” we found a way through the morass of that which divides us and AGREED to give ourselves to this couple in order that they might succeed.
This gives me hope…
There is a post-script to this happy event and it is the place of three children in making it all possible. Because, at the end of the day our differences remain. We can easily enough retreat to our positions and our commitment to mutual destruction (at least of ideas), rather than back down and continue to humanize the other. But what we cannot do is ignore these children born of the implausible partnership. Because while the commitment to the couple could be perfunctory and somewhat pro forma, our exultation in the simple goodness of these children could really know no limits.
They were the reminder that difference can and does yield a beautiful outcome. In their innocence, they took us to a place where our anger and narrow commitment to “principle” could only seem petulant and small. They reminded us of the depths our love can attain when we are committed to protecting and caring for the powerless in our world. It was the children who helped create the space for the enlargement of our hearts and the melting away of all our fears.