Every time a couple gets married, two single people die.
Leslie Knope-Parks and Recreation
People in the town I live in (Salt Lake City) will use the word “show” to describe multiple events, usually only two or three of which are actual “shows.” Movies, concerts, plays, poetry slams, etc., are bundled up in the title of “show” as an all-encompassing “event.” So, when last summer I found myself attending more weddings than a Mormon grandmother, I found myself thinking that in true Utah fashion, I went to a lot of shows that summer.
My roommate Mike was marrying his girlfriend Dani after nearly four years of dating. My friend Josh ordained the wedding and I was a groomsmen along with a few others from our church. That wedding marked the first of many for the summer. I’d already been to one in April, then another couple was getting married in Portland, another in New York in early September, and I had two other friends who are getting married in other parts of the country.
Oh, to be in your twenties!
Weddings when you’re single are the happiestloneliest of times. You are happy, excited even, but sometimes, not all the time, you feel a slight twinge of loneliness because you are not married, maybe not even close.
Mike’s wedding was held at The Point, a ballroom on the sixth floor of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which is remarkably, shaped like a point. The room’s walls were made of glass and offered a near three hundred and sixty degree view of the entire Salt Lake Valley. The whole room funneled into a triangle shooting straight between the Wasatch mountain range on your left and the Great Salt Lake to the right. At first we all thought it was eerie to have a wedding on the top floor of a cancer center. It felt disrespectful, irreverent. But maybe dark places, places of death, can also hold places of light and life. Maybe the people who built the Huntsman Cancer institute knew this. Or maybe they just wanted to make money. Either way, the view was incredible. As I stood with a drink watching the sun set upon the Great Salt Lake to the west and bits of pink splash the white tops of the mountains to the east, I realized I had never been happier to live in this city.
I hang out with a lot of people who disagree with the very concept of marriage. They have no desire to get married. They’ve seen their parents’ marriages fall apart and sometimes even their friends and feel that marriage no longer works. Some think of it is a failing traditional moray or archaic family structure. Some think of marriage as a social construct, unnatural to the natural world.
But if we do want to enter into a relationship with another person, we want someone who is solely committed to us, which is why marriage can be a beautiful thing and why it should also be made available to all. I guess the question turns to whether or not we really do desire intimacy, like deep down in the subways of our soul, and if so, then marriage seems like the best option to achieve this, even if with it brings exclusivity and therefore, jealousy.
In the Old Testament God is portrayed as a “jealous” God. Something I understand but has never quite sat right with me. Sometimes reading through the Old Testament can feel as if God is a God who forgot to take his medication. In the Old Testament we see an angry, jealous God reminiscent of Al Pacino on PCP. This is the God who smites Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, okays genocide, and wipes out entire nations of people. He is wrathful. He is powerful. He is Zeus with lightning bolts. A God who smites those who get to close to the ark, who makes people wander around deserts for forty years. A God who wipes out humanity with a single flood and decimates all who get in his way.
In the New Testament we meet a God who is loving and gracious, forgiving and compassionate. This God loves sinners and hangs out with outcasts. He accepts you for who you are. Both of these Gods are one and the same. The Just and the Loving. The Jealous and the Gracious. It can be hard to make sense of.
Some people preach a gospel of the righteous, indignant God. These are the street corner solicitors, the proud pissed off preachers. They push God into your jugular because God is angry with you and you are going to hell. God is a God of fear, awe, and respect. He must be appeased. You are sinful and if you do not repent you will go to hell.
Others preach a gospel of love and grace. They hang out with the disenfranchised doubters, the scandalous sinners, and speak that God is love. God is a friend and Jesus a lover of the broken.
And both are, to some extent, accurate views of God. God is righteous and loving. It is a hard paradox for me to accept. It seems like God was a little angry, had a few, and then got real friendly with us. When did God transform from a dictator to a peacenik?
My old roommate’s stepdad was an alcoholic. The guy was a jerk, but when he drank, he would just get real friendly and start handing out money. It seems that God is the same sometimes. One minute he’s drinking and the next he’s handing out money.
But I guess we all know that if my friend Mike came back with another woman from his honeymoon, we wouldn’t just say, “Well, that’s Mike!” And when Dani, came back, fuming eyes-on-fire-sort-of-angry we would support her in her wrath.
The only form of jealousy I can conjure up right now is that everyone in this wedding party is all coupled up. I always feel horribly selfish when I start thinking about myself like this at weddings, yet here I am, to celebrate someone else’s life, and all I can think about is how none of the bridesmaids are single. Really? None of you are single!
At weddings I find myself getting nostalgic about my past relationships. In high school relationships seemed simpler. You liked someone, they liked you. There was no conversation about what your five year plan was, your past relationship baggage, or where this relationship was going. Or no, scratch that, you knew where this relationship was going—it was going to last forever! That’s where it was freaking going.
When I was a junior I dated a girl named Becca. She lived in Evergreen. She had long curly hair and made purses out of Capri sun packs. We would make out all day in parks, like one of those disgusting teenage couples you probably snicker at now. When she left at the end of the year to move to Hawaii with her family, I thought I might die. I didn’t, luckily, but I remember the next time I saw her and how different it felt. We both went to college, had life happen to us. A year and half later when we caught up I realized that things would never be like they once were, both of us flying through the summer night air as if we were invincible. We were adults now.
As we all left Mike’s wedding that night a summer in the past, you could feel the summer air start to roll in off the desert. It reminded me of the first night of summer, the first night of the year when you can stand outside in a t-shirt and feel comfortable, warm even. I am glad that God gave us seasons. And I am glad that Salt Lake has them.