Saturday, August 30, 2008

Did It Make a Difference?

An amazing summer is coming to a close. We took a Friday afternoon off to enjoy the Minnesota State Fair with some friends. (Glen had never been!) Thursday we took the afternoon off to attend the orientation/open house at the new high school where Glen will be starting this coming Tuesday. But the event that really gave closure to the summer was a small wedding reception we held last Saturday.

It felt somewhat crazy. With the big trips to California and Memphis, and all the chores we had to accomplish in between travels, trying to organize a big fat party at the end of summer at times felt like the one thing we just didn't have the time and energy and money for. We originally had had the intention of sending out a hundred printed invitations, and we ended up just settling for phone calls, emails, and in-person invites to come celebrate with us.

Göran had always complained about the fact that the first time we got married (in 1995), I had never bought him a wedding cake. As we were gearing up to go to California, he continued to bug me about it until I finally promised him, Yes, this time you will have a wedding cake. So the one preparation we had to make was to schlep over to Wuollet Bakery in Uptown during a lunch hour the week before our party. When I saw how much it was going to cost in a size that would be large enough to feed all our potential guests I experienced momentary panic. We've had a lot of expenses this summer, and I didn't realize how much a cake could cost. But I steeled my resolve with memories of my promise, and we paid for the cake in advance, cash on the nail.

I'm glad I did, because when all was said and done, that one extravagance reminded me that there are times when celebration is a necessity. The cake was exquisite (and delicious!), the weather was gorgeous (we held the party outdoors, at nearby Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis), and our friends were truly gracious. We couldn't afford to pay for much more than the cake (and some sparkling non-alcoholic drinks), so friends helped us celebrate by bringing food. One of the best presents was being united with an old friend from grad school whom I'd lost track of. A mutual acquaintance brought her! There are few joys compared with seeing someone again whom you haven't seen in ages!

Speeches were made, stories were told. We wore the wedding outfits we wore at our 1995 celebration. We showed pictures from our travels, told stories about the reunions with families, out west and down south. There was laughter, eating, lots of big hugs. I had the deeply satisfying experience of being able to introduce a few friends of mine from the ward who had come to celebrate with me to friends from the other parts of my life.

I was so happy! The party helped me to move on, to set all the momentous events of recent months in perspective, to remind myself of what is really important in life. But when all has been said and done, now, a week later, that all the dust has settled, does it really make any difference? Did it matter, going to California to get legally married?

As I have posted elsewhere, it at least gave me pause that shortly after we had solidified our plans to fly out to Riverside, the First Presidency of the LDS Church sent out a letter to all of its California wards asking members to do everything within their power to stop same-sex marriage in California. I know some people will be furious at me for admitting it, but I have had moments even since our California marriage when I've wondered, Could it be true that it is it wrong for us to get married? Why is it that so many people seem so sure that this is a travesty of marriage that ought to be stopped at all costs?

All I can say is what I have observed spiritually. I first asked Göran to go with me to California to get married because from the first moment that opportunity presented itself -- in the wake of the California Supreme Court ruling -- the Spirit spoke to me in a clear, persistent, undeniable way telling me that this was something I needed to do, a commitment I needed to make. It was clear to me that the best and the highest covenants we enter into are often covenants we make in steps. We first have to prove our willingness to make sacrifices for something. We have to consider the costs and the consequences, and then we have to stand up and say, Yes, I will do that. I will commit myself. And it was clear to me that even though temple marriage is not available to us, even though we cannot be sealed by priesthood authority, the thing to do was to make this promise, show this willingness to put my life and my possessions and my sacred honor on the line for this commitment. My eternal soul depended on it. So we did this. And we did it in faith. We did it seeking such blessings of God as the Spirit promised me we were justified in seeking. And the Spirit was richly poured out on us at each step of the journey.

In my prayer life since then, I have noticed a difference. On numerous occasions I have knelt to pray, and have experienced a clear, unmistakable presence of the Spirit ratifying and blessing the commitments we have made. Our Heavenly Father is very, very pleased with us; delighted that we have made these promises to each other and to him. Our relationship is recognized and blessed by him. And there are more and greater blessings and covenants ahead if we stay true to these. It is now for us to continue to grow in this commitment (as we have already grown from lesser light to greater light for the last 16 years of our relationship), to put our lives on the line every single day of our lives to make the world that we live in a better place, to share love and hope with others less fortunate, to walk together in the path of Christ, to become Christs to those around us.

And the Spirit has also made clear to me that in consequence of doing as God has asked us to do, there are spiritual riches I can draw on to bless and strengthen my family. I do not hold the priesthood, but I can pray as a husband and father, I can ask for help and for guidance, and receive strength and spiritual blessings and access to the Spirit that I would not have had available to call upon had I not made these solemn commitments. We have a teenage son to raise, so we need all the blessings we can get!

As I pray, I am reminded that it is not right for me to ask God to make me do what he wants me to do. It is for me to discern what needs to be done, and to commit. So I ask for guidance of the Spirit to help me discern. And then, once I have understood, I must commit. And then, once I have committed, I -- in my weakness and in my humanity -- ask God for the strength to live those commitments. And I can, and do, and have received strength beyond my own, and just as much wisdom as I've needed.

I feel blessed!

8 comments:

MoHoHawaii said...

You are blessed.

Congratulations again.

Bored in Vernal said...

That's a gorgeous cake, and I looooove what you two are wearing!!

J G-W said...

The cake tasted even better than it looked!

We bought the outfits at a little Nigerian store in Minneapolis (that is no longer in business). When we explained to the store owner (a native Nigerian) that we were getting married, he offered us a 15% discount!

The wedding colors were purple (my favorite color) and green (Göran's favorite), which were the colors we picked for the wedding cake too...

A.J. said...

congratulations! You both look very happy in the photos. I am partial to purple too. loved what you both wore.

Maraiya said...

I'm glad you shelled out the bucks for the cake. Little things like that can mean so much.

I, too, am uncertain how to reconcile the FP letter and my own thoughts, but I do think that you are making every effort to make the best choices you can and I believe firmly that such attitude and conviction please God. You are a blessed man.

GeckoMan said...

John,

I am so happy for you. Congratulations to you and Goran.

I'm glad you followed through with your convictions, and I hope the Spirit will continue to guide you both in your marriage.

santorio said...

what a year, and if it can just end with a november victory for you know who, and a defeat of you know what, then maybe things really will never be the same

Beck said...

What an incredible summer! Who would have imagined such things would have happened from when we met just a summer ago.

You remain as ever an inspiration to me.