“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song of Solomon 2:10).
Those are wooing words, words of invitation, words of possibility, words opening to a future. And somewhere along the way, between that first meeting on a kickball field and this evening, you spoke those words to each other; maybe not those exact words but words like them, words that were wooing. Maybe it was all those times, Claire, that you asked Jordan, “Where are you from? What do you do?” Woo, woo. And Jordan it may have seemed that she wasn’t listening to you because she kept asking you those same two questions. But you know what? You kept answering them. Woo, woo.
That mutual and ongoing wooing was a call, an insistence, an urging for the other to be present to you. Claire that wooing was your urging Jordan to be present to you, and Jordan it was your urging Claire to be present to you.
I’ve seen that in other couples and I recognize it in my own marriage. Cyndy is always urging and wooing me to be present: to give myself to her, to commit and recommit, to love her as myself, to think about what she is thinking, to carry her concerns and priorities as mine, to cherish her dreams as much as she does, to make her needs as important as mine, to hold her joys and sorrows, to celebrate her life, to move forward with her even when the way is uncertain. And that’s true for me as well. That’s my wooing and urging of her. It is as if we are saying to one another, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” And I think that’s what you want and have found in each other. I hear that when you talk about each other. I see it when you are together.
Those are not demands we make on each other. They are gifts we offer each other. And with a true gift there is no holding back. It’s all or nothing. If there is a measure of your marriage, it is love, and the only measure of love is love without measure (St. Augustine).
So you must always keep your ears and heart open to the urging and wooing of each other. It just might be the urging and wooing of God. Because if “God is love” (1 John 4:8) then the wooing of love is the wooing of God.
And it is that continued wooing, yours and God’s, that has brought you to this moment. But let me be clear about this. As important as today is, it is only the day of your wedding. It is a beginning, a new creation. What we do this evening is not the culmination or completion of that wooing.
Your marriage will never be complete. This incompleteness, however, is not a failure or an imperfection. It is, rather, a testimony, a declaration, that there is in each of you an excess. It is the promise of more to come. This incompleteness is not a loss but a source of endless novelty, surprise, and discovery. This incompleteness is not a hole to be filled but an openness to the future. The future is always coming to you, always asking something of you, always bringing you something. What that something is, I don’t know and neither do you. But I know this. It is a “beautiful risk” (Emmanuel Levinas). And that’s a pretty good way to describe marriage and what we are doing here, a “beautiful risk.”*
This incompleteness, this openness, this “beautiful risk,” is at the heart of the vows and commitments you are making this evening.
The vows that you make to be husband and wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, to love and to cherish; your “I will” – your declaration to live together in marriage, to love, comfort, honor and keep, to forsake all others and be faithful; those vows and declarations are your yes. Yes to each other, yes to life, yes to God. Let that yes be always on the tip of your tongue. Jordan let your first word to Claire always be yes. And Claire let your first word to Jordan always be yes. Yes, yes. Always a double yes.
That yes, yes is not just a yes to the one standing next to you now and your life as it is in this moment. It is also a yes to whomever the one standing next to you may become. It is also a yes to come-what-may. It is a yes to your future, as individuals and as a couple. With that yes, yes you are taking a most “beautiful risk.” It is the risk to love and to make yourselves “of God.” “For God is love” (1 John 4:8) and “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7)
I think that’s why we love weddings so much. It’s why we celebrate, smile, and laugh. It’s why we cry. It’s why we want to be here with you this evening. We come here to give you our love, prayers, and support in this “beautiful risk” you are taking, and to be moved by your faith in each other to remember and step into the “beautiful risk” of our own lives.
So when you hear the wooing – woo, woo – that voice whispering, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away,” there is only one answer: Yes, yes. Risk it all. Hold nothing back. Yes, yes.
*The ideas and some of the wording in this paragraph are from John D. Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2007), 45.