On Monday, I arrived home from a wonderful trip to Austin, TX (where I took part in my brother Tim’s wedding). Judith officiated and I was the best man. I’ve heard literally hundreds of best man toasts (the good, the bad, and the ugly), but never had a chance to deliver one, so that was fun. I have to say that it is also good to know that my brother has found his soul-mate in Wendy.
My brother shared with us the night before the wedding that he has a favorite sculpture at Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach, SC. Fashioned by Hermon A. MacNeil, it depicts “the sculptor” as a female angel, sheltered under the sweep of her wings, with her face turned into the block, holding a chisel in one hand and a mallet in the other, carving herself out of the stone. “Into the Unknown,” as the sculpture is titled, is about the mystery of artistic creation. But my brother helped me see that it is about something more.
There are places, Tim told us, that the angel sculpting herself cannot reach. Those places require the assistance of someone else to help complete. Marriage to the right partner can be like that. It can help reveal who we were meant to be. It can bring out the best in us. Our partner can help us get to the places we cannot reach.
Of course, good Reformed theology would posit that none of us is self-made, that God is the creator, and that God is continuing to work on us. At the same time, we do play a role, through the hammer and chisel of the choices we make, in shaping our own lives. And yet, there are spots that need the hand of another.
It occurs to me that my brother’s insight applies not just to marriage, but to the idea of Christian community (and community, period, for that matter). Our identities as disciples (more universally, as human beings) get shaped in community, not in isolation. The conversations we have in person and on-line, the experiences and insights we share together, the comfort and challenge we provide to one another in congregations (and in a presbytery, and elsewhere) help us get to the places we, by ourselves, cannot reach.
That’s why I’m so glad to be a part of a number of small groups, including my Sabbath Renewal group. That’s why I’m glad to be connected to a number of you on Facebook and elsewhere; to be an active participant in the life of a congregation; to have a spiritual director; and yes, to be married to a partner, in Judith, who is my soul-mate and colleague in ministry. You help me get to the places I cannot reach on my own. And for that, I am grateful.
May it be so for you, too.