WEDDINGS are changing with the times. To some people, nuptials are religious rites. To others, they may be occasions for bungee jumping. What seems right to one person may seem totally bizarre to another. Tradition for its own sake is losing its hold on us. But aren't the longevity and joy of matrimony far more dependent upon elements other than the ceremony itself? Divorce statistics present no rosy picture of marriage, and there's a dark fascination with violence and hatred in current films about marri age, whereas live-happily-ever-after was once standard Hollywood fare. Clearly, while many still respect the institution of matrimony, it may take more courage than usual to marry these days.
Solid, successful marriages have long represented a fundamental aspect of the affection and security so important to human progress and peace. So an emphasis on a dark and discouraging expectation of brutality, failure, and isolation within our homes would only heighten the despair and desperation so many families, neighborhoods, communities, and nations are struggling to overcome. Wouldn't better expectations bring better results? Looking for a deeper understanding of what better marriages could bring t oday's world, I turned to prayer and soon found an idea that set me to thinking more constructively. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy, I read: ``If our hopes and affections are spiritual, they come from above, not from beneath, and they bear as of old the fruits of the Spirit (p. 451).''
``Fruits of the Spirit.'' I thought of this when a dear friend married recently, and I wanted to send a message of love and congratulations. What lovelier theme for a bouquet of fragrant thoughts to rest on my newlywed friend than ``love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.'' These are qualities St. Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians as ``the fruit of the Spirit'' (5:22, 23). What marriage could hope to be satisfying without these powerful and immortal
Surely, diligent attention to nurturing these spiritual attributes in ourselves, and utilizing them to strengthen our obedience to the moral and spiritual laws of God, would stabilize and preserve not only marital felicity but every aspect of our daily activities.
Paul presents a notably different list in the previous verses. There he describes ``the works of the flesh,'' which only too vividly mirror the view of existence erupting into our streets and onto our television screens. These are, he says, ``adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like'' (Gal. 5:19-21).
We must take care not to allow ``such like'' into our own thoughts and experience. We need to uncover these destructive tendencies and bring them into the light of Spirit, where they can be seen as worthless. Through prayer we yield wholeheartedly to the all-power of God, of divine Truth and Love. Then, as Christ Jesus made plain in his healing and teaching, it is possible to overcome these ruinous suggestions.
I felt an inner quietness as I realized that whatever I gave as a token of my love, this prayer of certainty was a timeless gift I could give to my friend and her new husband. No matter what the tenor of the times, when we each individually make the effort to live in accord with what we understand of spiritual reality, we'll find more of ``the fruit of the Spirit'' in everything we do. And nothing can erase or obscure the glowing spark of spirituality that is ready and waiting to enlighten our hearts.