Freedom

 

In marriage do we give away our “freedom”?

There is a context to the question which gives away too many details, but even in that short question I wonder what it tells us about how we view marriage of any gender.

I’ve been married for nearly 22 years, and at no point have I felt that my freedom has been removed.   My feeling is lack of freedom happened with the arrival of children, and even there freedom was not lost but instead responsibility established.

Giving away our freedom in marriage plays into that notion of the other person as your ball and chain.   It sees marriage as a prison, a place we cannot escape from.   It becomes a room in which the corners never change, as we pace the floor in desperation knowing that the door is in front of us and yet we cannot get out.   We end up longing for time off for good behaviour, and an early release from the chains that we perceive to bind us.

My understanding of marriage is about gaining freedom.   We’re freed to be the person we truly are because we know love.   The doors of our personality and capabilities are opened because we have the support and encouragement to explore our whole selves, without bowing to social convention because we want to be liked or loved.

Of course that understanding of marriage extends to the best of friendships and to the relationship with the divine found in faith.   Finding we are loved by God opens up the possibilities of our lives to be our true selves, for in God our whole person is already revealed and so there is no escaping that which we would hide from others.   But our best friendships should also allow us the freedom to be ourselves.   Not the perfect, polished, careful, clean self, but instead the self that snorts with laughter; that sometimes says the wrong thing; that dresses unusually; that holds a contrary opinion.

No marriage is perfect, but in binding one to the other it becomes a place for security and growth.   We find ourselves better with, than better without.

And perhaps there lies the gap for when marriage becomes the prison of harm and abuse where our freedom is no longer offered.   It is a place where we should be better with, than better without.   That is the hope of marriage and sometimes experience does not always match the hope.

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Getting Names Right

With less than a week until the holidays begin for me and the children, I’m beginning to feel the tiredness to which my brain had already given some indication. Within the last month, I’ve managed to call one child the wrong name prior to baptism, fortunately the mother caught me before we did baptise. At a wedding, I announced the same hymn twice. Then as we were to admit new members, I got two of the young mens’ surnames mixed up. That one wasn’t helped by the fact that six people joining were meant to sit in alphabetical order as that was how I had written them down.

I find myself getting annoyed at trying to get things right. Getting names right is particularly important to me, as I know my own frustration at people getting my name wrong.

My first name uses two names to create my one name. For some reason this means people sometimes only call me by the first half and I am not that name. Occasionally I can look rude because if you say that name to me, I don’t respond because I don’t recognise it as my name. There are those who get them the wrong way round, and it sounds quite nice but still not me.

People writing my name also try to complicate it. But to put it simply it is not hyphenated but all one word with a capital letter in the middle, and there is no “e”.

Of course I recognise my own error in writing peoples’ names. I know too many Claires and Alistairs that I have to think about how each is spelt.

However recognising my own frustration with the use of my name makes me realise how much of our personality and identity can be packed into a few letters. It is in those letters that we find ourselves precious to someone.

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Principles

Recently I was asked by another minister if it was okay if they conducted a marriage within my parish boundaries, to which I responded “yes.” Coming from a larger Presbytery where I had had a couple of hotels and a potential wedding venue, I am not used t0 being asked for permission. In the big city boundaries tended to be to ensure that funerals were covered and it didn’t seem to matter who did the weddings. So it was good to be asked if I minded, and a reminder that within a smaller community there was a possibility that news of another minister in the area would have travelled my direction.

The wedding is to take place in a local hotel, and the minister mentioned that they had been a little surprised by this as the couple were forming connections with their church community. When they had invited the minister to be part of their day, the minister had assumed church. For some ministers this might have been considered a problem as there is a tendency to see the church as the place a marriage should take place.

In this new place, weddings will probably take over most of my summer (although I have help) and all of them at the moment are in church. However the being in church has never seemed particularly important to me, because, you know, we as a Christian community understand God to be everywhere and that whenever we gather in worship the Holy Spirit is active. The Divine doesn’t need a special building!

Historically the Church of Scotland had a practice of not marrying within the church building and prior to the late 1950s/early 1960s many marriages took place in manses and hotels. The movement to a church wedding was something that, if I remember my history correctly, happened post the Queen’s marriage being televised. Perhaps that move towards a church wedding has also encouraged people to spend more money, and make the day more of a big event. Many people now want to be a princess for the day, with the beautiful clothes, lots of guests and the celebration. And I count myself in that.

However perhaps in these financially less secure days we should be encouraging those who want something smaller in hotels, vestries and manses again.

In my first charge I can remember on two occasions having to ensure that the dining room was clean and tidy as we welcomed two couples who asked to be married in the manse. Both were small affairs of under 10 people, and it was very special to offer them an intimate place to be married. They still publicly declared their love, and headed off to celebrate with those who mattered more to them in local restaurants.

As ministers and as churches we need to be willing to offer the relationships God calls humanity to in their varying forms. And for some that may be in all the trappings of celebration, while for others it may be in the quiet, still moments shared with those to whom they are closest.

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