marriage for the whole

Peonies-4
“marriage consists not simply or even primarily of a personal relationship. rather, it crystallizes the love of the larger church community. the couple is not just two-in-one, but two together within the whole, with specific responsibility for the whole… They must persevere in love, because the community needs to see God’s love actualized among God’s people.” –Julie Hanlon Rubio

the above quote comes from an article by lauren winner that i was just re-reading. i printed it off from Christianity Today years ago and just unearthed it today in an old filing drawer. I have always liked Lauren for her tell-it-like-it-is modern orthodoxy. i appreciate how down to earth she is about marriage and sex in marriage (advocating that we “create an eros situated squarely in the household”).

at the time that i first pulled out this article, and read her book called Real Sex, which contains similar themes, i didn’t really get the communal and corporate flavor to Lauren’s perspective on marriage. but now i’ve been living in rather intentional community, with great transparency and a spirit of adoption, for over a year and i can read her words differently. i can read Hanlon Rubio’s words differently.

for tim and i, our entire relationship unfolded in the context of community. when we met we were both living in intentional community houses centered on Christ and the practice of prayer. this meant that there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy in our budding romance. for a while, before he was ready to unveil his interest in me to a houseful of loving and sometimes nosey friends, tim had a habit of sneaking out of the house in the bitter cold to talk to me on the phone. as for me, i often talked aloud through all of my processes with my housemates. they saw me both crying with longing and giddy with new love at different stages in the journey.

i fell for tim after watching him interact with his housemates one weekend and noticing his father-like heart and the way that people leaned into his strength and leadership. and when tim needed assurance of my character and health, he only had to come spend a long weekend at my house, watching me with my housemates and hearing how they spoke about me, to reassure him that i was as good as i seemed to be on the phone.

and some of my roommates and some of his were deeply touched by our love story, saying that it revived their hope in the perfect plans of God and the possibility of real love. and we started to notice that as our communities were allowed to see our relationship lived openly before them, and as we invited them in to participate in our affection for one another, it was impacting people… it was ministering to them. i started to see that my relationship (and soon, my marriage) could be like a salve on wounds, could be a spot of warmth on a cold day, could be a testimony to the intimate love of the Father.

this blows me away.

now we’re going to move out on our own, no longer so deeply embedded in the holy chaos of community life. but we’ll still be around, and we’ll frequently invite that holy chaos through our front door. because we feel that weight of responsibility for the whole. i think we understand that our relationship is richer and more whole within the context of our People, and that our People get a taste of a divine love by being in the shade of our love for one another.

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