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A most important wedding guest

From the June 6, 2016 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

June is still the most popular time for weddings, and while my husband and I did not marry in June, we did meet at a June wedding reception. Bill had served in the Navy, gone to college, and had recently accepted a job in the city where I lived. I had just returned from college in another state for my summer vacation. After we started dating, my mother very sweetly alerted me to the fact that he was at the point where he was looking for someone to marry, and I sweetly commented that I was well aware of that. 

We dated during the summer, and, before I returned to college in the fall, he asked me if I would wear his fraternity pin. Being “pinned” was not a commitment to marry, but it was a commitment not to date anyone else. But before I could say “Yes” or “No” he said: “Before you answer, there is something I need to tell you. I don’t know where our relationship may lead, but you need to know that I am a Christian Scientist, and I am always going to be one. When I marry, I will expect my wife to let me live the life of a Christian Scientist.” 

Though he did not know it, I actually did know that he was a Christian Scientist. He also didn’t know that I had been studying Christian Science for over a year and had had healings through what I was learning. Nevertheless, if he had said to me, “I will expect my wife to be a Christian Scientist,” I would have walked away from that relationship on the spot—because I was nowhere near making a commitment to Christian Science, and I would not have welcomed any pressure from anyone on making such a commitment. My religious commitment needed to be left between God and me. So, admiring Bill’s integrity, and his respect for my freedom in this regard, I said, “Yes”; I accepted his fraternity pin—which later led to an engagement ring, and eventually to an August wedding.

It’s never too late for the Christ-presence to enter into any person’s experience, or into a marriage.

What this approach amounted to is that, even before we actually decided to marry—by our agreeing in advance to let God, and not human will, determine our individual religious commitments—we had invited a most important guest to be present at our wedding, and to be present in our marriage. The voice of God—the divine influence of Christ, Truth—became the prevailing presence in our individual and collective progress. This enabled each of us to grow spiritually at our own pace, with respect and encouragement from one another—but without the intrusion of human will. And I did, in the most natural way, come to make Christian Science my chosen way of life. And so it was that the Christ-presence graced our entire marriage. As Christ Jesus himself once explained, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

So, was our marriage a perfect marriage? No, marriage is a human institution; and no human institution has ever been entirely free of human imperfection. But what I’ve seen through my experience is that the presence of Christ in any human institution is a healing presence. And this is certainly true in a marriage, even when only one partner is consciously letting the loving presence of the Christ prevail in his or her own thoughts, words, and actions—especially when this is done with humble respect for the other partner’s needs.

How interesting it is to realize that the first of Jesus’ “miracles” was to turn the water into wine at a wedding! And that this was the best wine (see John 2:1–11). Mary Baker Eddy gives the spiritual sense of what this best wine is in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “WINE. Inspiration; understanding” (p. 598). And in the chapter “Marriage” in the same book, she explains the importance of having this wine present at a wedding: “Experience should be the school of virtue, and human happiness should proceed from man’s highest nature. May Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to turn the water into wine and to give to human life an inspiration by which man’s spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned” (p. 65). This Christly inspiration was the only wine present at our wedding—and that has ever been present in our lives.

Receptivity to the presence of Christ, Truth, and its influence on human consciousness, in a marriage fosters individual spiritual growth. It brings a genuine happiness that nothing else possibly can. And, of course, it’s never too late for the Christ-presence to enter into any person’s experience, or into a marriage. 

In our marriage, it was such a wonderful thing to be free to let Christ, Truth, foster our individual spiritual growth, and to rejoice in each other’s progress, as well as to feel each other’s patience and loving respect and support when one or the other of us didn’t seem to be progressing as we may have hoped. As we individually studied Christian Science, and prayed each in our own way to listen for and follow the Truth as we were coming to understand it, “experience” was “the school of virtue,” and our “happiness” did “proceed from man’s highest nature”—from our growing understanding and demonstration of our true individuality as the spiritual reflection of God, divine Love. 

Through this reliance on the Christ, instead of on any pressure of human will, we had a strong, cooperative, and loving union throughout our 49 years of marriage before Bill’s passing. Whenever a problem would come up, or a decision had to be made, our reliance on Christ would bring us to a mutually satisfying agreement on the best way to proceed under the circumstances. Also, a beautiful family cohesiveness developed between us and with our children—a family cohesiveness and love that I continue to enjoy the blessings of today. 

Barbara Vining

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