Creating a story arc . . . and a marriage

Ancient text, Turkey, 2013.

When people find out I am a minister, they will often ask me, “What’s your favorite scripture?” Even though this is not the first time I’ve been asked this question, I often fumble to find an answer. My first response is to quote something from Harry Potter, my favorite text. In fact, I was asked the same question in my final assessment for ordination. I knew better than to quote Dumbledore! I am sure it is no shock I fumbled: I am a better writer than speaker in many ways. I deliver beautiful weddings. But remember, in those moments I am not speaking off the cuff. I have carefully planned and written the wedding ceremonies. Nothing I say is a surprise to my couples.

Even now, my favorite scripture? Not sure. I suppose it depends on the day. Some days I need a good lament from Psalms or Lamentations. Other days, I like a quippy piece of wit from Ecclesiastes. I might be a bit of an outlier among my colleagues, but I love Paul, and Peter annoys me. And of course, digging into the Gospel is always a good chance to challenge my way of being in the world, and ask myself some hard questions. Some days I am game for the challenge, and other days I try to dodge the Gospel (at my own peril).

But overall, it’s a story arc I love. Or interplay among stories. For example, I love the story of the magi. It has long been a favorite of mine. But I don’t love the story in isolation. Rather, I love what the story became for me when I read T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” at a critical point in my teenage years. I love the journey from Jerusalem to Rome in Acts of the Apostles when read alongside the epic journey Odysseus makes from Troy to Ithaca. Or the trio of Ron, Harry and Hermione next to the Ramayana’s Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita. And the women nestled in the texts: Mary, Lily, Hermione, Penelope, Lydia, Sita, and Hannah. They beckon me to listen to the rests between the musical notes, to the voices in the back of the room, to the whispers, or even the silences.

Now, what does this have to do with marriage you might ask? Well, an awful lot. Marriage is a story arc. There is a beginning. There is or will be an end. And there will be favorite chapters, painful chapters, hard chapters, easy chapters, and boring chapters. If we write our marriage story well, it is a story that will no longer belong solely to us. I hope my marriage story is one that other couples will read alongside their story. Even more importantly: my husband, Joe and I hope our story is one that our children will use to shape their stories, and tell their children. I hope our story is long story, and one where the ending chapters are not even written by Joe and me.

Part of my job as a wedding officiant and a minister is to equip my couples to enter a story arc. I try to help discern key themes in their dating, and use those themes to anchor the couple’s narrative. Or maybe it’s that I help articulate a thesis statement for them – something they see in themselves, and something they wish to become. I try to help narrate a movement that is marriage; from “you and me” to “we.” I want their favorite verse, their favorite chapter, their favorite story to be . . . them!