Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Marriage Is About the Bond

One of my favorite Bruce Cockburn songs, which I've always wanted to sing at a wedding but have not, is "What About the Bond?"

What about the bond?
What about the mystical unity?
What about the bond?
Sealed in the loving presence of the Father.

Cockburn's song has a great groove, and represents the historical meaning of marriage. To marry is to vow something to the other person. One says, "I will never, ever, abandon you." That...  is very powerful... During a wedding ceremony I have sometimes asked the couple, "Do you really mean this? Are you a man, and a woman, of your word?"

A vow is different than a contract. With legal help we may be able to get out of a contract. But to vow is to make a bond. Like a welder joins two pieces of metal together. (See "A Wedding Is a Welding") A welding creates a bond that keeps two pieces of metal together, forever. If one tries to tear away from the other and succeeds, great damage is done to both.

In King Lear, when Cordelia told her father that “I love your majesty according to my bond, no more or less,” she was expressing the idea that "filial love arises out of a bond of obligation." (Harold James, in Robert George and Jean Bethge Elshtain, eds., The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, & Morals, Kindle Locations 1341-1342) Today marriage has become contractual rather than covenantal. Harold James comments:

"Some go as far as to suggest that any other picture of marriage must be a sign of insanity. According to the Princeton historian Hendrik Hartog, “Today everyone understands marriage as an individual life choice, and as an event within an individual life. Though marriage continues to offer the fantasy of continuity and permanence (till death do us part), all sane people who enter into it know that it represents a choice to marry this person at this time and that if living with this person at a later time no longer suggests the possibility of happiness, that you are entitled (have a right) to leave and to try again.”" (Ib., Kindle Locations 1338-1339)

When I married Linda, I spoke vows to her that I wrote, and she to me. On that day we were welded together in the presence of our Father. Today, as our 39th welding anniversary is two months away, the bond holds. We're in full agreement with James, who writes: "marriage is a particular kind of relationship, which is not affected by the current or subsequent feelings or emotions of the partners, but which lasts until death." (Kindle Locations 1330-1331)

What about Cockburn's song? Citing Genesis 2:24 almost verbatim, “man and woman / made to be one flesh,” the artist appeals an understanding of marriage rooted in nothing less than the order of creation. This is a covenantal bond, a mystical unity that goes beyond social conventions. This is a bond sealed in the loving presence of the Father that cannot be abandoned glibly in the name of “moving on.” Life is indeed a journey, one involving near-constant change, but this is not change for its own sake. Change, if it is to be healing, must be rooted in and directed by a “love that will abide.” The bond must be maintained or all is lost, all is wasted..." (Walsh, Brian J., Kicking at the Darkness, Kindle Locations 3208-3212)

If you're tired of the all-too-human idea of marriage as a weakly held contract and desire something more, like a life partner, e-mail me and I'll be very glad to show you how to head in that direction. (