A week ago in church my bishop (similar to a minister or preacher) spoke. It was his last Sunday as our bishop as he was asked to serve in a different church position (in my church we have a lay or unpaid ministry - people serve voluntarily in many different positions over their lifetimes). He wanted to leave us with some words of wisdom - to share a few of the things that are most important to him. I will preface this retelling by saying my congregation is made up exclusively by single adults and we attend this congregation by choice for many different reasons including the hope of finding a spouse, making friends and/or joining with others who have a similar life situation. His words were so touching to me that I wanted to share them with others along with some of my own thoughts.
He spoke on two main topics (or at least this is what stood out to me): choice and marriage. In the most straightforward of ways he said, "You choose who you want to be. You choose your life. Be the person you want to be. No one, no thing, and no situation determines your life and your choices. You choose who you want to be.
"You choose who you want to love and who you want to be with. People wonder how in a dating situation, one person can feel they've received an answer from God saying, 'Yes! This is the right person to marry!' while the other party in the relationship feels they have received just the opposite direction from God, 'No! This is not the person to marry.' Will God tell people opposite things? No. The simple truth is we interpret what God tells us and we make a choice and then look for reasons or signs to support our choice."
His words gave me pause and I reflected on my own relationships. How have I interpreted God's messages to me? When another person is involved you sometimes have to live by their choices regardless of how you feel moved to act. The difficult part is learning how to live joyfully and to continue in faith when things don't work out as you hoped, thought, planned and prayed.
On the subject of marriage he said, "I have been married 36 years. If you would have asked me 36 years ago if I would help you quilt or would be interested in attending a quilt show I would have told you no, emphatically. Quilting wasn't even listed on my top 100 things I'd want to do. Yet, today, I have crossed the country and spent hours at quilting shops and shows. I've walked up to quilting displays and said, 'My, look how those points match up. They're almost as good as mine!' Why? I have learned to love quilting because the person I love loves to quilt. There is no better place to learn how to be selfless and to learn about selflessness than in marriage."
Several years ago, in a combined men and women's church meeting we were discussing marriage. At that time I had been divorced for maybe 2 years. I raised my hand to share some thoughts on the subject from my own viewpoint. I felt the spirit of God confirming the words I shared and had many people - from the congregation and from the local and stake leadership - approach me and thank me for my comments. I share that with you not in hopes of sounding oh so special and spiritual but because I have felt from the moment I got married, through my divorce and up to this very day how important, beautiful, and sacred is marriage. As a child I remember making everything into a family, I would fashion a family out of clay - a mom, dad, and kids. Even the dinner table was not spared as the knife was the dad, the spoon was mom, and the fork was a child. Everything represented family to me. And, still does. I get so excited when I see two people dating - and I hope and pray for the success of their dating. I mourn for the divorces of friends and strangers.
My biggest fear was that I would get divorced. Well, I have lived through and survived my biggest fear. And it was brutal. The one thing I had always wanted - hoped and prayed for - a best friend to marry and with whom I could create a family - slipped away. And though I was devastated I never lost my firm unwavering belief in the truthfulness and beauty and sacredness of marriage.
Here are my own thoughts on choice and marriage:
I heard the story of a group of 19-21 year old missionaries who were traveling in a car with an apostle of the Lord. They thought to pick his brain and get some advice on how to find a spouse when they returned from their missions. Upon asking the apostle how they would know when they found "the right one", he said, "You will find your answer in Doctrine & Covenants 88:40." The missionaries quickly looked up the scripture, which says: For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth widom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgement goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.
The apostle explained how the scripture would help the missionaries to find a spouse by saying, "You will attract who you are. If you wish to marry someone intelligent - become intelligent. If you wish to marry someone truthful or wise then become those things. Become the person you wish to marry for that is who you will attract."
Marriage can be so sweet. There is nothing quite like locking the door at night knowing you are at home with the person you love more than anyone else in the world. Laughing at inside jokes, notes left on dressers or washing machines expressing sentimental trivialities or love. Holding hands while watching television. Goofy date nights. It is learning how to make room for two lives where before there was just one. It is creating memories for future retelling and reliving. It is finding the best in the other person and trusting that they are finding the best in you. It is believing in someone's true potential while enjoying who they are at that moment. Marriage is all about choice. It is choosing to be with someone and then making that same choice each an every moment of every day for the rest of your life. That sounds daunting and if we focus on the difficulty we lose out on the miracle of putting someone else first and realizing that in doing that we have actually made our own lives happier, better, and more enjoyable. Marriage is hard work. It is tears, it is aching hearts, it is struggle, it is sacrifice, it is giving up what we thought we wanted for what God wants for us. It is realizing that what God wants for us is really what we wanted all along.
I want to marry again. I am not ashamed to say that and to work for it and hope for it and pray for it. There is no fear great enough to persuade me to give up that hope. I am grateful to a wise Father in Heaven who somehow helped me to see and feel this truth even when my own marriage died. It is worth the struggle and sacrifice.