I’ve occasionally used this blog to write about my mom and her family, my dad and his family, and my children. But today I’m going to break with longstanding tradition and devote an entire post to my wife Katie. (But knowing how much this will embarrass her, I’ll try to keep it short. Just over a thousand words…)
You see, our wedding was ten years ago tonight. I think the decade has treated us well, but judge for yourself.
Time would fail me to tell of all the reasons that marrying Katie has proven to be the best thing I ever did or will do. Or of why I love and admire Katie so much — not just as my wife, my best friend, and the mother of our twins (and, too often still, as my professor of parenting), but as a daughter to her parents, granddaughter to her grandparents, sister to her siblings, occupational therapist for hundreds of kids, and now as our church’s children’s ministry director.
But I think the common thread tying together all of those relationships can be found in the New Testament text we chose for our wedding:
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phi 2:1-11)
Truly, without hyperbole: I know no one else, living or dead, who comes closer than Katie to living out Paul’s impossible exhortation that those who follow Jesus Christ have “the same mind that was in” a Lord and Savior who “emptied himself.” Katie’s capacity for self-emptying is enormous: “selfish ambition and conceit” are unknown to her; to a fault, she “regards others as better than” herself and looks first “to the interests of others.”
Know that whenever I use this venue or others to celebrate the virtue of humility, I’m thinking of my wife — certainly not of me.
That passage has been much on my mind this month, both because of its role in our wedding and because I’m writing a chapter on the importance of Christian unity for my current Pietism project. Indeed, I’m going to begin that chapter by talking about our wedding. (Sorry, honey.) It starts, tentatively, with our other wedding text, then continues with Philippians 2:
Besides being a great song of worship and thanksgiving, [Psalm 100] contains a profound statement of who we are, and Whose: “Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps 100:3). Especially at the wedding of one to another, the accents land on the plurals: he made us; we are his people.
And that should remind us that God made humanity in a particular way: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness… in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:26,27). This claim has helped inspire a widespread belief in the equality, dignity, and freedom of every single person alive. But Christians should not see only individuals in the Imago Dei. People were made, for God and for each other. Humankind was created like a God who is not solitary but united: Three-in-One.
So we bear this image most fully when we are together with others: distinct, yet unified. Or as our second wedding text put it: “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phi 2:1-2).
I go on to lament that, for the Church past and present, “’making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4:3) seems like the easiest platitude to mouth and the easiest conviction to set aside.” But if I have any hope of Christians actually learning to bear God’s image as a Body of Christ that is “distinct, yet unified,” it’s not only because I think my particular religious tradition offers helpful resources. It’s because ten years of marriage has taught me that it’s not an impossible ideal. Impossible to perfect, no doubt, but not impossible to experience.
Most of what passes for Christian unity in this life is fleeting, but marriage — as a “bond of peace,” initiated by vows and sustained by grace and forgiveness — offers a more enduring vision of what “being in full accord” looks like. Not uniformity, an absence of conflict, nor any other counterfeit of unity. But a model of “reconciled diversity,” and of what I’m calling in the chapter “an ever-deepening intimacy, with Jesus Christ at its center.”And if I’m right that Christian unity is a task for Christian formation, then marriage is indeed a “school of sanctification.” And yes, that’s from Martin Luther — in honor of my favorite Lutheran. He knew what he was talking about, having chosen to marry a Katie.