Expectations

One of my favorite truths comes from a break-up scene in Sleepless in Seattle. The gist of it: “Marriage is hard enough without going into it with such low expectations.”

Last week my niece Kristen married Jay. Parents, children, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, and more cousins than I could count toasted the bride and groom and shared a meal. Since the last wedding six years ago, death and divorce took a few names off the guest list; births and remarriages have added a few. Especially difficult, the death of Kristen’s cousin – a young mother who left behind a grieving family. Yet, here we were, celebrating the beginning of a new marriage, catching up on where life has taken us. Those of us who’ve seen a few years managed to dance enough to embarrass our children, and the children were gracious enough to join in for a song or two. Then midnight came, the reception was over, and everyone returned to their homes and lives. Until the next wedding, birth, or death…

Some say that having high expectations for a long and fruitful marriage is naive, even ignorant. The odds for and against are about the same these days. But I don’t think it’s really a matter of odds: it’s a matter of deep, abiding faith and hope. Living a shared life, a common life, is an extraordinary adventure. No one does it perfectly, and everyone falls down. The big question: will Kristen and Jay help each other get back up? If love of any kind – for family, friends, strangers, and God – bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (ICor13:7), I expect so.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Expectations”

  1. Amen, Sister! Leave the odds to speculators. C.S.L. in Mere Christianity: “And ,of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I’m in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love. A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or alway to feel hungry.”

    1. In “Two-Part Invention,” Madeleine L’Engle wondered why it was her husband in particular that she loved in a way she didn’t love another. Perhaps love goes way deeper than like or emotion, but I think we move into its depths through such likes and emotions – at least at first. It’s a mystery and a choice, perhaps…peace, Johnna

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