I was recently asked to give a speech at a wedding. I had several requests for a copy of that speech. I provide that here. The speech is written so that those getting married remain anonymous, I will refer to them as A and B. It is also my best effort to reconstruct it, as it was not written down. It likely varies slightly from the original except for the quotes. The speech started with some personal comments and a joke or two and then it transitioned into this:
Families can be complicated. As the Dalai Lama pointed out:
If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your family.
Families aside, we live in a world that sometimes feels cruel, cold and in conflict. That’s why it is so powerful when two people come together and build something. A and B are building something. A sanctuary. A place where they can be safe, where they can express their true feelings, where they can expose their true selves.
What am I saying?…. I’m saying A and B are in love!
Now I don’t actually know what that is, but Dr. Seuss described it once as:
You know you are in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.
In another book that I admit I haven’t read much of, but is quite popular, we have John telling us that,
God is love.
The point, I think, is that love is not just a state of being. It is a choice, it is an action, it is a power that exists as a synergy. Something greater than the sum of the people who make up its parts. But at a basic level, love is commitment. Commitment is a choice. A choice to honor the idea of love.
Because a relationship will not always be pink fluffy dinosaurs, rainbows and moonbeams. Its like a river. Sometimes surging after rain fall, other times flowing mildly and still other times dried up in drought. Therefore, true love is the commitment to work through the drought. To admit that those loving feelings are not there, but to honor and cherish the partner anyways. To have faith that it will return.
Its maybe like one of my favorite authors, bell hooks, describes it:
Love is an act of will, both an intention and an action…the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.
Therefore, it seems like what A and B have experienced in their 8 years together, and what I’ve experienced in my 13 years with my wonderful partner, is the transformative power of love – as in the commitment to nurture love through thick and thin.
Eleanor Roosevelt said:
It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know
A and B sit here with confidence because they have experienced this purifying fire, and are ready to experience it again and again. I see and honor their commitment tonight.
I see them create what is described by the Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:
For life to have personal meaning there must be people who matter to us, and for whom we matter, unconditionally and non-substitutably.
And their efforts are not just for them. This act of commitment to love is also a commitment to contribute something to the world that is good. That makes it just that much better for the rest of us. That nurtures humanity. As the Rabbi Amanda Greene pointed out:
We must build this world from love.
All of that! All through a commitment to love. All through love as a commitment. A commitment to love unconditionally, to fall short of this perfect ideal over and over, and to keep trying.
For this beautiful act I salute you and I love you both.