Last week I sat in a metal cylinder with a little over a hundred other people. After a brief wait and some preliminary safety instructions nobody paid attention to, the metal tube shot into the air and floated across the country, suspended between earth and space, no struts, no strings, no legs. Inside, we ate peanuts and drank various liquids out of tiny plastic cups, like it’s perfectly normal for something heavier than air to leap into the sky and stay there.
The weirdest thing was, it really was perfectly normal. Normal, and actually within the laws of physics.
I was flying out to a friend’s wedding in California. I’ve never been further west than Tennessee in my recent memory, so the western, desert landscape I landed in fascinated me. I was unashamedly a tourist. Everything was brown, tan, ecru, taupe, and dust with the whole expanse of sky stretched out like a canvas above it. It was flat—determinedly and definitely flat. Even in the flatter parts of my current Southeastern state of residence, there are lumps and bumps, but this place looked ironed.
In the distance I occasionally saw a hazy outline of a mountain through the smog, but I didn’t pay much attention to it until I left for LA and actually drove into them. They leapt straight up from the ironed earth with no preliminary foothills, great big lumpy mounds, towering over the interstate. They were bald of trees, just bare, dusty grass and rock outcroppings, and they were beautiful.
And none of the people with California license plates were driving along with their noses pressed to the window to see them like I was.
In between those two experiences, as I mentioned, I went to a wedding (actually, in the process of writing this, I went to two weddings, but I’m just talking about the first one for symmetry’s sake.). Weddings are anything but boringly normal. They’re (hopefully) once in a lifetime events, magical, sparkling days. There’s The Dress and The Man and The Cake. They mark two people committing their lives to love each other; a picture of the supreme love relationship, the relationship between Christ and the church he died for. The one I was privileged to be involved in had all the sparkle and excitement a good wedding should have. We sent my friend off that day with her new husband, to embark on life together.
Actually, I would guess that over half the people at the wedding were married. We didn’t get excited about them. After the magic of the wedding day, it seems like people have a pretty low view of marriage. The institution of marriage seems less and less important. Many couples live together before getting married, turning the marriage ceremony from a celebration of new life to just a big, elaborate party. I love the T.V. show Chuck, but it makes me cringe when, after two of the secondary characters get married, the very first episode they reappear in, the wife is bemoaning how their relationship has lost its sparkle. That’s what pop culture frequently depicts marriage as—the end of the road. No more fun and games. Boring.
But if our eyes glaze over with boredom at the idea of huge metal tubes flying and massive, bare mountains rising out of the ground, we aren’t good judges of what is truly estimable. Marriages are normal—and also fantastical. Two sinful people making daily choices to put their spouse first, to seek reconciliation when wronged, to maintain a friendship over decades of daily irritations and drudgery—that’s an epic tale. And on the flip side, two people whose love and commitment get eaten away by sin and selfishness—that’s a tragedy to weep over.
And you know what? I’m going to play the I’m-very-pregnant-and-it’s-late-at-night card, and just leave that there for you all to think about with no proper concluding paragraph. Sorry.