Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker


Number 370
May 29, 2000

"Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar"

The rustic church in the small New Zealand coastal town was crowded for the Sunday morning service. Many lively young adults were present and I thought that here was one church which had not succumbed to today's institutional malaise. However, over tea and cookies, I discovered that the young adults who had gathered that day did so for the baptism of their friends' baby, as well as for those same friend's wedding the day before.

Back in Houston, a friend described a recent upscale wedding at which, during the reception, slides of the couple's honeymoon in Tahiti (from which they had just returned) were being shown.

Non-traditional weddings are not a recent phenomenon. I remember how unconventional was my own wedding (mid 1950s). My wife and I wrote our own service, involved two ministers, spoke the vows we composed from memory (rather than repeating after the minister), and used Bach, puzzling  for those who were steeped in "Here comes the bride." Of course, what at that time was unusual-to-radical seems a bit tame in comparison with the weddings described above.

Attitudes toward marriage have changed as well. The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University finds 83 percent of high school senior girls and 72 percent of high school senior boys saying that having a good marriage and family life is important, but only 64 percent of
girls and 59 percent of boys felt it was very likely they would stay married to the same person for life. Quite disturbing were figures in the Report showing only 30 percent of the girls and 40 percent of the boys agreeing that people who are legally married are happier than those who stay single or live with someone.

"Premarital sex" itself is becoming outdated because sex is not connected with marriage: the gap between the time young people become sexually active and when they get married has widened, the number of out-of-wedlock births has risen, and many now live together outside of marriage. Marriage is no longer a rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood.

Yet, people continue to marry, even if they sometimes take unusual or strange paths to do so. Why? Though he spoke cynically, the eighteenth-century Englishman Samuel Johnson was right in his comment about a man who remarried shortly the death of his first wife (it was a very unhappy marriage): "It was the triumph of hope over experience."  There is the hope within all of us that married love will quicken the life of two into a vitality that far exceeds what each partner might attain alone. There is the hope in the future that is born anew with the birth and nurture of children.

Robert Frost, on the occasion of his daughter's wedding, wrote a sonnet which articulates well such expectation and hope.

Two such as you with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

--Robert H. Tucker
29 May 2000
© Robert H. Tucker, 2000.

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