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The “Glue” That Holds, the Tie That Binds

The announcement in the church’s Sunday bulletin read: Congratulations to Jerry and Sally who were married yesterday in our sanctuary, thereby ending a romance that began in high school.

Nothing like a wedding to spoil a romance.

Maybe fearing the same explains why so many people just bypass the wedding. Back in the day when I officiated at weddings, nine of ten couples were already living together without (as we said) the benefit of clergy (and the tenth—as I said—was lying). Psychologically, spiritually, certainly physically they were very much married, but without having a certificate to show for it.

Obviously, at least for some, the piece of paper seems not to matter, but at the same time, its absence is something like assembling a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle that has only 299 pieces, which is to say, the missing piece is just that … missing and so hard to ignore. Maybe it’s not enough for two people just to say they are committed to each other. Maybe some stronger “glue” is necessary for the tie really to bind.

This often unspoken but nonetheless vital ingredient—the glue—is a defining covenant that gives shape and durability to the most intimate human relationships, like marriage and family life, as well as the everyday encounters that comprise our daily lives. Actually, we live by thousands of these agreements, some as basic as “we covenant to stop for red lights;” taken together, these countless agreements make civilization itself even possible. They are indeed the glue that bind us together in communities as small as home and family and as large as nations and the entire Global Village.

The marriage covenant probably feels the most familiar to most of us. Two people face each other and repeat the familiar words: I, _____, take you, _____, to be my wife/husband, and I promise to love, honor, and cherish you … and to be with you in all things as becomes a loving husband/wife, forever.

Nice words, although it’s the “forever” part that gets me, and that’s what is missing in those marriages that skipped the wedding, formally acknowledging the “forever” quality of marriage. Of course, there is no guarantee that saying “forever” will create “forever” anymore than agreeing to observe red lights when we sign our Driver Licenses keeps intersections safe when the light changes. Obviously, we can and do turn our backs on any number of covenants, but formally establishing a covenantal relationship changes, strengthens, and deepens the quality of that relationship. As we move up the ladder, we embrace wider and wider levels of life in the wider world. When civilization begins to feel a little shaky you can be sure quivering covenants are the root cause.