The following is an excerpt from reflections delivered at Anna Stork and Bart Kloosterboer’s wedding, August 13, 2016, Zeist The Netherlands.
I know that it is customary in a wedding to talk about love but I would like to talk to you about friendship. The word love can cause confusion. When used in the context of a relationship the word love is heavy with different kind of expectations. There is the expectation that there are certain feelings that should be felt when one is in love and if they are not felt all the time then maybe there is no love. There is the expectation that the person we love should fit an image of goodness and perfection that we carry in our head. There is the expectation that he or she love us unconditionally despite our own imperfections.
Compared to the complexity of love, friendship is refreshingly simple. A friend is someone you like to spend time with. Sometimes a friendship is founded on shared interests and sometimes a friend respects the interest of the other friend even he or she doesn’t share it. A friend is someone you trust and feel comfortable talking about anything. You also feel comfortable being silent together. There is a connection in friendship, but there is also a sense of freedom that exists between friends. The ties between friends are not chains. They are threads and if they are not broken it is only because the friends do not want them broken. The ties that bind friends are renewed and chosen again and again, every time friends decide to spend time together. Friendship is, when you stop to think about it, a very delicate balance between separateness and togetherness, between holding on to someone and letting them go.
I talk about friendship not only because our images of friendship are clearer than they are about love but also because I want you to remember this. When the hard times come, and they will come, just be friends. Find your way back to friendship. Peel away the expectations that you have about love or marriage until you get to the core of friendship that is the nucleus of your relationship. When things are hard, act toward the other the way you would act toward a good friend and go from there. Of course, marriage involves ties that are different than the simple ties of friendship. But you should always keep in mind that the ties of love are in addition to the ties of friendship and not instead of.
And what are the additional ties of love? Mutual need and mutual responsibility – those are the ties that require special promises made in the presence of others. A rite is a special day, like today, and it is special because of the seriousness of the ties are being re-affirmed in the presence of the people that you love and that love you.
Recognizing that you need the other is not the same as saying that you can’t live without the other. What it means is that you recognize that you need the other person to help you be the person, the full and complete human being, that you are capable of being. Each of you needs the other person to help you fulfill an individual and separate purpose. Needing each other does not mean that you are traveling on the same path, much less that you are traveling the same path on the back of the other. It means that you are traveling side by side on your own individual paths giving each other encouragement and picking the other person up when they falter. I have a purpose that only I can fulfill but I need your help to get there. That is the tie of need that exists in marriage. And the tie of responsibility is this: I will be next to you as you travel the path of your purpose and I will wait for you if you fall behind, and I will pick you up when you fall and I will encourage you when you lose hope and most of all, I will remind you of your purpose, when you get distracted or when you forget it.
You must, each of you find your own purpose. I’ve discovered that for a purpose to be life giving it must have three qualities. It must be useful to others. It must make you a kinder person and finally, it must open you up to mystery. Your purpose must not be so narrow that it leaves out the invisible, which is to say, the realm of the spiritual. It is the spiritual, all those things in the universe that we know to be real but cannot see or touch or sometimes even understand that will open windows and bring fresh air and sunshine to your marriage. And so my hope is that your ties of friendship and love, which are invisible but real, be a living force of grace always recognized as present by your heart- for all that is essential is invisible to the eyes.