The Good Race(s)

There’s a little sore spot on my heart that gets re-bruised every time I hear one of my married friends say things at a wedding like “Congrats! You've joined the club!” to the happy couple. It fulfills all my blackest fears about friends getting married, joining some club, and not being able to really be friends anymore.

This weekend I went to another wedding of a very happy couple…a wedding that has been long-anticipated and is a loving and wise union. I stood in the reception line, chatting with lots of different friends. I have known the groom since middle school, and the bride was a co-worker in my department at work for the past 3 years. In the reception line or when you are in the wedding party and sit near the bride and groom at “dinner” (where they never get to actually take a bite, due to the steady stream of well-wishers who keep approaching the table) is when you usually overhear these little barbs. This time though, I was near another old friend (going on 20 years now), and his wife. I hugged the bride and groom said congratulations-and-you-look-gorgeous-dear (as the reception line was already 30 minutes overtime) and started to walk away.

As I turned to join the line for cake, the old friend shook the groom’s hand and said “Congratulations! You made it to the starting line!” They laughed, and I found myself smiling as I walked away, because saying it that way put the idea in a very different light. Marriage shouldn’t be thought of as a club you join, but as a marathon…a race you prepare for and then consciously choose to enter into.

I think back to another friend who once told me I was giving singles a bad rep by making singleness sound like a disease, something to be avoided. The funny thing about that comment is that I--obviously--haven’t avoided single life. I have dated a small amount, and am all kinds of social, but I have not run from being alone. I’m honest when I say it’s not the life I expected or would have chosen off the shelf at the department store, but I’m doing my best to run “the course laid out for me,” as the author of Hebrews put it.

When I belonged to a health club (this was before the Wii fit), I would run on the elliptical machine. Being a person highly concerned with comfort, when I chose a “course” to run through on the machine’s digital screen, I would cycle through the options, looking for one that looked moderately challenging with no long hills, because the one time I did choose a course with a long hill, I nearly died. Ok, not really, but I hated the thing all the way through to the end, and hated my wimpy muscles for a few days afterward. Maybe people who actually run real marathons, like outdoors, can tell me that if they have certain courses or parts of courses that they hate while they are running them.

I think it’s ok to question or even hate parts of your circumstances while you are in them as long as you still trust that those parts of your race are there for a reason; that they are indeed part of the larger picture and that you may even be glad of them one day. I mean, it may seem weird when part of your racecourse seems to include a dry desert or a thorny forest or an impossible, stony mountain. You may question why YOUR course includes those elements. Hopefully you’re checking for the course markers so that you don’t get off track with the wrong choices, and you’re stopping for a cup of water and a bit of rest when you need it.

I can’t help but hope this particular long hill has an end in sight someday. Preferably it will lead me top of a hill town in Tuscany. But if it doesn’t, I’m still going to stay the course. I wouldn't want any other life.


sara said…
Thanks for your honesty in posting this. I'm struggling with having a right perspective on my own time of singleness, especially recently. I think I'll save further thoughts on the subject for when we get to talk face to face. :)
Beth said…
I very clearly remember one particular engaged girl announcing to some newly engaged friends at a singles Christmas party once some years back "Come sit at the COOL ENGAGED PEOPLE table!" I haven't liked her very much ever since, though I am sure she is probably a lovely person. (Maybe I should take care of that in myself :P) Anyway, marriage isn't a club, it is a marathon. True and very lovely words.