Friday, May 29, 2009

New Beginnings

Last Friday, in Help for What God Intended, I wrote about weddings. Since we have weddings again this weekend, it's good to say a bit more on this subject.

At most wedding rehearsals I do a brief devotion based on something I learned back in seminary from Bill Smith, professor of pastoral care. He suggested that we use a Bible text to talk with the families about how important it is for couples to "leave" their parents in order to "join" with their new spouse.

Of course, they leave physically. Most young people moved out from their family homes quite awhile before they get married. But, in an emotional sense, many families are overly connected with each other. But scripture makes it clear that marriage is a time for LEAVING! Part of my role is to help couples do that.

In pre-wedding preparation we use a resource called "Prepare-Enrich." One part of that resource helps couples look at their "family of origin" (the family they grew up in) and think about what about their families they want to carry forward and what they want to leave behind.

Professor (and pastor) Bill Smith talked to us at seminary about how important that "leaving" is. Individuals, he said, who do not clearly separate from their families of origin cannot successfully make a new family with their spouse. If they don't make a clear break, they will try to make their two individual families happy. This inevitably pulls the couple in at least two different directions.

A married couple will need to make their own decisions. The most important thing is for the couple to agree with each other, not to make peace with the families they are "leaving." Certainly a couple should continue to honor and respect their parents, but the number one priority, other than a person's relationship with the Lord, is their relationship with their new spouse. At least at marriage, if not before, independent young people are no longer bound to obey those who gave them birth.

The fact is, when children grow and go off on their own, their parents, friends and other family members will at times be disappointed. To pick a simple example, holidays will not be the "same" any more. Choices of who to spend the holidays with and how that time will be divvied up need to be made by the couple, and the couple will need to support one another in those decisions.

So, it's my goal to help couples be their own people in preparation for their weddings. It is they, the new husband and wife, who need to be the most agreeable with the plans. At the wedding rehearsal, because it's a chance to do it with everyone present, I share a devotion based on Matthew 19:5 where Jesus quotes Genesis:
"...a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh..."
I use the rehearsal devotion to talk with the parents and other relatives, and the gathered friends. I urge them to support, as the number one priority, the couple in their life together. I urge them, when there are challenges, to encourage their son or daughter to talk with his or her wife, instead of "taking sides." I encourage them to accept a new kind of relationship with the child they have raised.

This growing and changing happens in the life of every young person, and marriage is not the only time when leaving happens. But it is a time when special attention can be given to accepting, and blessing, the new reality and the new beginning in their grown, independent children's lives.

*At the rehearsal, I also mention the issue of abuse between husband and wife (or later, with children), and how the family and friends need to help their loved ones get help if this happens. I know it's not pleasant to think about, but it's such a prevalent problem in our world that it needs to be mentioned. I'll write more about this in the future.

1 comment:

  1. As a recent recipient of the rehearsal devotion I would like to point out that Pastor is right on.

    Extended family is extremely important. I still have strong ties to my father and siblings. Becky told me she was never really worried about traveling back and forth to school because she knew that if something happened and she could reach mom or dad, she could call grandpa or an aunt or uncle, and someone would be available to help or have a couch for her to crash on.

    However, if they are going to survive on their own, and we won't always be here to prop them up, ya gotta let 'em go. Who knows, they may do a better job than we did.

    Tim Robbins