By Kim Illig and Dennis Mead-Shikaly
Marriage is when a community comes together to witness, support and bless a couple who have made the intentional decision to spend the rest of their life together.
Marriage always has been a sacred institution cross culturally. More recently however, its social significance, structure, and meaning have undergone radical inquiry and change, particularly in our culture. Statistically, the sanctity of it is no longer held in as high regard. Some marry and find themselves unable or unwilling to stay when they realize the amount of work that it takes.
The truth is, marriage is a challenge. Commitment, time, fidelity, vulnerability, honesty, accountability, truth telling, raising children, aging and dying; these are hard. It takes courage to take a deeper look into the shadow side of marriage and at the same time access the necessary humor, lightness and beauty that brought a couple together.
The pathway to this choice point is not easy for a couple to travel. Working with a spiritual advisor can help them choose to keep their eyes open. Part of that advisor’s task is to, every step along the way, ask the hard yet necessary questions:
– Do you realize the hard decisions that you will be asked to continuously make along this journey?
– Will you welcome and work through the inevitable conflicts that will arise between you?
– Will you be accountable for your own mistakes and forgiving of the other’s?
– Do you each choose to balance togetherness with individuality?
– Are you willing to take a stand for each other, no matter what may be said about you?
– Are you ready to consciously confront the challenges that might arise in your marriage that spring from the different cultures you were brought up in; within you, within each other, within your families, and particularly as you bring children into the world?
– Are you willing to lay down the ego-driven power struggle and be vulnerable and accountable?
For being happy with each other does not mean that everything is perfect. It means that you have decided to look beyond the imperfections. And apologizing does not always mean that you are wrong and the other is right. It means that you value your relationship as much as you value the preservation of your individuality.
As a spiritual advisor I walk the sacred path with a couple, guiding them through the surface illusions of the romantic perspective. I do this with the hope and prayer that the resulting reality will bring them to marriage standing together, naked and vulnerable, knowing the work it will take to make a marriage succeed.
In this deeper romantic reality, they do not suffer any illusions. Yet, in spite of the uncertainty, they choose to say yes because their hearts are open, trusting that their love and truth will guide them. It is tricky territory, as there are not many relevant modern models to follow and there is no simple formula.
But the words of the great Indian poet and mystic Khalil Gibran offer us a glimmer of The Way in his essay on Love from The Prophet…
And with a great voice (the Master) said:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth, so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed.
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say: ‘God is in my heart’ but rather, ‘I am in the heart of God.’
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.