Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you.
Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.
May the God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.
–Book of Ruth 1:16-17
On Saturday, September 19, 2015 I married two of my best friends Andrea and Cindy in holy matrimony in Appleton, WI. Having been ordained since 2009, I truly never thought I’d ever get the chance to use these credentials until they asked me a few months back. Although my answer was an automatic yes, I sought to make sure that my homily and the words of advice I gave them on their special day were something unique, not always heard at wedding ceremonies.
When they had their commitment ceremony years ago, they asked me to write a poem and recite it during the ceremony. I subsequently sought to discover and write about a truth I hold very close to my heart: love. I did the same when I began writing my homily, but this time instead of trying to define love like I did with my poem, I decided to write a short story about love.
I’m happy to share it with you here today because at the end of the day, no matter what political pundits are saying on the campaign trail or what new horrible thing is befalling the LGBTQ community, love truly did win on June 26, 2015 and nothing can or will stop LGBTQ people from committing themselves to each other in legal wedded bliss.
A Short Story About Love
Now it is my turn to impart a piece of monumental wisdom upon two individuals that have impacted my life and whom I consider not only friends but also family.
It isn’t everyday two of your best friends ask you to say something at their wedding but then it also isn’t everyday they then also ask you to marry them too. So, true to form and like with all good things that are supposed to have a meaning behind the meaning, I’m going to start with a story of two married fish.
You see, there were once these two married fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way. The older fish nods at them and says: “Morning! How’s the water?” And the two married fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over and says to the other: “What the hell is water?”*
A few years back, I wrote a poem about love; like with all poetry and creative forms of expression, it stemmed from a real place, a memory, and feeling. The one problem with that poem though was that I tried to define, pinpoint, and label what love was supposed to be.
We often forget that we don’t live in a vacuum. The real world has a stark and sometimes-cruel way of reminding us of what’s around us and sometimes the world that we thought we knew isn’t the one that we see. However, the one thing that becomes blatantly clear here is the choice we are all given and have to seek out and change the world we see.
As gay people sometimes we’re lucky enough to have a family that is open and accepting and then sometimes we’re not. If the result is the latter, we each then have a choice to seek out and see a world that feels unaccepting and make it into something that is filled with love, laughter, and of course a dance partner that we both choose to love and build a family and life with.
Upon finding your other half, you begin to build a life, create a family, build a home, have children, and a career; perhaps that career changes but you begin to move and mold not only yourself but now also your partner and family that you’ve built as a result and you work on defining what love means to you and your family. You begin to go through the motions each day: waking up, going to work, coming home and doing the countless other tasks that often take up a majority of our time but in the end aren’t really the things in life that end up defining us or the families we’ve built.
When I asked you two to describe one another Andrea said Cindy is her protector and Cindy said Andrea is the strength that holds their family together. I first met Andrea at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater when she was my assistant hall director and I subsequently met Cindy while she was a police officer for the university. Andrea represented strength from day one, being a Wells West Hall Director will do that you and Cindy, being a police officer, well need I say more about her penchant for protectiveness. As the years went on I saw two individuals who both represented what they saw and wanted in a partner but also two people who became models for the way in which I, and many others, started to define how we wanted to live our lives and therefore define our own versions of love.
That’s the funny thing about love: you never know where you’re going to find it, how you’ll define it, or where it’s going to take you. Love truly is fleeting and at times, as the years go on, it is easy to forget that in your marriage, in the bond you have both here today and for years to come, that you have to remind yourself of the love you felt when you first saw each other through the mass exodus of Whitewater students as they crowded out of the residence hall at 3:00 am thanks to that ever constant fire alarm that rang in the middle of the night. Then ten, twenty, and thirty years down the road when Cal and Cooper are older and out of the house and you two are left, swimming along together again as partners in life and love.
It’s easy to get bogged down; to forget that a marriage is living bond that grows and expands each day as you two grow together. It’s easy to forget that the world we exist in and fashion is full of love and that it is present within the person and family you’ve created around you, even if you forget or become complacent with the world around you. Staying aware of the real value of marriage is the bond of love that you create here today and that it will always surround you and that you will have to remind yourself each day to immerse yourself in it or you’ll run the risk of forgetting why you chose each other other in the first place.
Remind yourselves about how you define love is the real value of a real marriage, which is why it almost never has nothing to do with a contract or religious dogmatism. Awareness of what love is in a marriage is the key to success, remembering what is so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over again, much like the two married fish swimming along together, who have grown unaware of the world around them, that the water in which they are swimming in, is the world, the love, and the lives they once created but perhaps had forgotten along their journey. When we’re married we have to remind ourselves that the vows we take is the love we want to see both in the world and in the eyes of the other individual you are vowing to love until your last day: If we forget this, we too run the risk of becoming the two married fish unaware of their surroundings.
It is unimaginably hard to this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet again that the grand cliché turns out to be true: your marriage really IS the job of a lifetime and it commences now.* Start reminding yourself today that this, what we have here right now, is love; say it to yourself, in your head, or carry it in your heart each day so you know that no matter where you may travel or what may happen in the future that the greatest gift in life is to be loved and love in return.
Andrea and Cindy, I wish you way more than luck: I wish you love.
*Foster Wallace, David. “This is Water.” Metastatic. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <http://www.metastatic.org/text/This%20is%20Water.pdf>.
*Foster Wallace, David. “Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commenc.” Kenyon College. May 2005. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/DFWKenyonAddress2005.pdf>.
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989, the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation and the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association and the Vice-Chair of Public Relations and Social Media for the Stonewall Democratic Club. When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter @JErickson85
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