Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sixteen Years Today

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Which is to say, in my case, that the Lord determined that I should not be utterly Ruthless in this life.  So He fit me with just the right Ruth for me.  And so it happened that on the Vigil of the Dormition of the Most Blessed Virgin, in 1994, Ruth and I were wedded in sacred matrimony, in a little church in the middle of the farm lands of North Dakota.  The wedding was administered by my father in law, the Reverend Erno Szedlak, at Saint Paul Lutheran, outside of the town of Saint Thomas, North Dakota, one of the oldest Lutheran parishes in the state.  (Just three are older: Saint John, Crystal; Trinity, Great Bend; and Saint John, Hillsboro.  All four, however, were begun within just about eight years of each other, from 1875 to 1882.)  It was a beautiful day, in beautiful country.  North Dakota graciously endured the company of a bunch of Milwaukeeans for the occasion, a couple of which, however, can never go back there. 

A Pastor's kid from rural North Dakota, Ruth has been remarkably adept at adapting to situations very different from that which she knew before she met me.  After she was taken in marriage, she was taken to the inner city of Milwaukee.  We moved into the flat above my father on 31st & Cherry on the North Side.  I of course assumed that everyone lived with fire truck sirens and gun shots and yelling in the street.  Ruth was braver in those days than I appreciated.  Before long, we moved to the university community of the East Side, and lived for a few years under the same roof with Father Stephen Wiest and his family.  That, for me, for both of us in many ways, was simply the ideal situation.  The intellectual, theological, and liturgical atmosphere I breathed in my years with Father Wiest and the campus ministry then in place at ULC-Milwaukee was far more than informative; it was formative.  It was a rich soil, like unto that around which Ruth lived in North Dakota.  It was a "minor" seminary, richer in some ways than seminary itself would prove to be.  Then, for reasons I do not yet appreciate, our path brought us to Fort Wayne for several years.  What does the future hold?  I know even less about that.  However, through it all, Ruth has been with me.  And for that I am grateful. 

A thought on the wedding ring.  It often happens, probably more often than I am fully consciously aware, that my eye's gaze will drift to the ring on my left hand.  This is a great example of what tradition, in liturgy or in devotion, can do for the Christian.  It can help guide our meditation, our thinking, our mindset, and our heart's inclination, even when active cognitive participation falls behind.  The sign of the cross does this for us.  So does, I suggest, the wedding ring.  The cross and gift of Christian marriage, which at once occasions and brings to light my sin, and also is the context for the profound grace of God in Christ, the holy Spouse of my soul, is, one might say, the one great element of value and weight in my life, apart from which my sinister side would be left by itself.  So it is fitting that on my sinister side, that is, on my left hand, there is this ring, always there, reminding me of the high calling of marriage, and of the grace which is displayed in the person of the one called to the same calling with me. 

Therefore, I think of the wedding ring as a devotional aid.  It can be of use to the Christian as a sacramental.  By this I do not mean that it is sacramental, in the adjectival sense.  Rather, I mean to say that it is a blessed object, which serves our prayer and devotion, as would a crucifix in its own way, or a holy card in its own way.  A man generally does not care for his ring as a woman cares for hers.  It is not very important that it remain shiny, etc.  Yet I do urge Christian husbands, new and older, to consider your ring a thing of great spiritual value.  You carry a heavy responsibility, one of which you are not worthy, and one which itself occasions many opportunities for forgiveness.  Let the carrying of your ring remind you of such weighty things.


Michael L. Anderson, M.D. said...

What blessed thoughts these are!

The discourse on the man's wedding band and his chirality, calls to mind the wisdom of St. Paul, in which he notes the laudable act of giving honor to what is weak, or lowly, or to that deemed "dishonorable." To the weaker hand (for us "righties," the "sinistral"), goes the high sacramental reminder of an earthly bride, and a solemn promise.

For most, the right hand swings the hammer; but the left carries a promise, and reminders of a graced existence, where two are made one in God's sight ... not to be sundered, by man's visions.

As you point out, the sign of the cross carries with it a reminder of a Baptismal Promise, of a God who declares that He has called us by Name ... we are His ... He will never let us go (Is 43:1).

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

I like the way you think, Michael.