“And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.'” Genesis 24:58 (NRSV)
There is a new television reality show that is set to begin shortly about couples who let a matchmaker work to bring them together. The matchmaker interviews each person, and I’m sure they fill out a questionnaire of some kind to help in finding the right two people for each other. The catch is that the two people only meet on their wedding day when the bride comes into the place where they will be married.
Actually this is sort of what happened to Rebekah when Abraham sent his faithful servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Abraham was adamant that Isaac should not marry a woman from the land of Canaan so the blood lines would remain “pure.” The servant traveled back to the area of Haran, and after a test he made up through praying to God for direction, Rebekah showed up at a well and passed every question on the exam.
The servant stayed at the home where he relayed the story about how he found Rebekah and how he knew she was the right woman. Apparently, the patriarchal leadership in Bethuel’s household included consulting with the women-folk because when the Abraham’s servant wanted to leave right away, the women begged him to hold off for a month. However, they consulted Rebekah, and she agreed to go immediately.
Imagine the courage it would have taken for her to say, “yes” and then to leave her family knowing she would probably never see them again! Yet, she apparently was a strong-willed young lady, and she was traveling with her nursemaid as well as other servants, so she wasn’t totally alone in her new destination.
Farther into the reading, we find that Isaac must have fallen in love with her immediately. We find nothing to say how Rebekah felt, but she would have known that she had married into a wealthy family. Also, Isaac seemed to be a rather calm and gentle soul, so she at least found someone who would treat her well. Right away, he took her to his deceased mother’s tent (Sarah) and made her the matriarch of the family.
This isn’t the usual way of doing marriage in our 21st century culture, but maybe there is something to be learned from it. I have thought about this many times, and a colleague and close friend of mine often lamented that church weddings would hold much more meaning to the couple if they were married in a civil ceremony first and then were married before God. Clergy have been made agents of the state, and many couples who rarely set foot in a church insist on having a “church wedding.”
It’s interesting that most of the couples at whose wedding I have officiated have a rich and varied history together. Many of them have lived together for a while (some for quite a while) before “tying the knot,” and some have had children together. Others have known each other for years, and still others don’t know each other well enough to consider marriage, but they get married anyway.
Is there a right way and wrong way? I don’t think so. Probably half of the marriages I have performed end in divorce in spite of my attempts to counsel and work with the couples before hand. Others just go through the motions so they can get to the wedding and most of all the reception. There are often not many surprises until their journey of marriage starts to move into the challenging part – staying in love and working through the tough times.
I will be curious to see how the new reality show works out. In spite of the fact that I met my husband on an internet dating site, and in spite of the fact that we were married six months after we met, we spent a lot of time together in between before we made the decision to marry. Both of us knew that we were headed for marriage within the first week, but we gave it some time to be sure (especially before letting my congregation in on our dating!).
Would I ever marry someone sight unseen? Doubtful. Would I marry someone whom God led me to? I did. We are still learning about each other, but it was the best thing I have ever done so far in my life. I pray that couples who make the choice to marry in this day and age won’t give up too easily when the going gets tough, and that they will begin to turn to God for guidance together and build their marriage by including God in it.