I am so, so grateful and amazed for this person standing across from me. I pray that my gratitude and amazement are not only obvious verbally, but a real experience for Kelly.
May the love that fuels this be a grounding point for me and for us as a team. I pray that love is the life-giving center that I remember to embrace and to try to embody. I pray that it becomes more important than whatever might be competing with it, that I have the right clarity, joy, and commitment when I need it.
I pray also that this love is sustaining personally and for our team. I pray that love informs how I give and how I receive, how I live into daily life in my community with Kelly, family, and friends.
I pray that Kelly finds great joy and purpose in our relationship, and that we are both present with the other even when it feels like we may not have the energy. I pray that we listen to each other’s needs and know when to give help or wisdom, or just be a gentle and affirming friend. I pray that our patterns and habits are not static, but open, wise, and joyful in the process of adapting to meet each other’s needs and the needs of our communities.
May I be responsive, engaged, and kind enough to be present in my moments with Kelly, and for our connection to exist in the present. May our memories and our hopes together help us center in that present when need be, and may our daily routines and adventures be embodied with gratitude from your loving Spirit. I pray that age and that time be embraced together for the many unique and blessed moments they bring. And I pray that our companionship helps each other to graciously accept the gift of each moment.
I pray that each day Kelly and I are blessed with whatever faith is needed to live with fullness rather than reserve or fear, whether that be faith in our commitment, faith that love is worthwhile, or faith that each day is indeed a gift. I pray that even when anger, hurt, pain, sadness, or frustration seem to put a cloud over our day, that we find our grounding in love, and that we grow stronger individually and as partners. I pray that our journey begins not with the expectation that all will always be as we wish, that things will always be easy, simple, and enjoyable. I pray rather that we find our joy in the reality that journey together is good and worthwhile, that it may look different than we expect at times but is much better and blessed when we take it together.
Life with you and David – Life with you THROUGH David – is entirely and wonderfully necessary.
Emmanuel Levinas, another beautiful creature created in your image, provides language I couldn’t possible find to describe the necessity of our love and life together:
“Love remains a relation with the Other that turns into need, transcendent exteriority of the other, of the beloved. But love goes beyond the beloved… The possibility of the Other appearing as an object of a need while retaining his alterity, or again,the possibility of enjoying the Other… this simultaneity of need and desire, or concupiscence and transcendence,… constitutes the originality of the erotic which, in this sense, is the equivocal par excellence.”
So, I again thank you for providing a window into the EXCELLENT romantic, lasting, friendly, familial, spousal, spiritual love of Yourself through my partner and best friend, David. Thank you or the opportunity to spend this life with David: to know and experience your love through his love, your unity through our unity.
God, we are imperfect, David and I – though, what David’s imperfections are, you rarely reveal to me – but our imperfection seems only to enhance the beauty of our love. Our imperfections, our perfectly brewed, unavoidable conflicts that happen as two humans go about their lives, require our love to not only be divine but to be committed and livable as imperfect beings. Our imperfect love requires growth and communication. We, David and I, need your guidance and love to correctly pursue one another throughout this life. I pray that communication and hard work be the centering actions of our intentional love together.
I pray that the wisdom spaces be fraught with trials and joys, extremes, continuous rebalancing, and things that don’t even seem related so that we may know ourselves, each other, others, and you more deeply and more lovingly than before.
I pray that we reflect your spirit within us to each other in all times – good, bad, and meh – and that we savor the moments when we do and the moments we learn to be vulnerable with one another when we fail. I pray that we learn to love the part of you inside of ourselves through the love we show one another.
I pray that I exalt your spirit in me as David’s love for me grows and shows me how to worship you. I pray that all of our interactions – civil, working, physical, domestic, adventurous, spiritual, communal – are a form of worship to you and bring glory to the loving name of God.
I pray that we build upon this loving community of family and friends who have provided for us so many times as we seek answers, struggle with life, and learn your way. I pray that this community lives in a cycle of love with us that is life-bringing and reflective of the love David and I share.
I selfishly pray that you let our love last at least the duration of our physical lifetime: that we remain mates of the soul in any way that exemplifies your love. I selfishly pray that David is always here, that I might always be a supportive partner – even if it takes me a bit of time to come to it – and that David always looks into my eyes with love. I pray that we remain as children in your embrace, spreading the warmth of your love in communion with time.
For months, we planned, we scraped, we enlisted tons of family and friends to make a wedding day happen … and then it magically did.
Our officiant, Dr. Grant Testut, a trusted friend and mentor to David and, previously, a fellow employee of mine at OC, encouraged us to think about the ceremony together and write a first draft of what we wanted him to say in effort to give even more meaning to the ceremony.
Grant is David’s mentor for a reason. Researching and writing our ceremony “script” together a few weeks prior to the wedding, then pouring over it again and again to add, cut, and edit right up until the day of the wedding connected us with each other and with our spiritual lives in tangible and near-exotic ways.
The air between us bubbled with the excitement of our early dating day, but that excitement was bolstered with the wisdom of a shared year together and a shared foundation for our wedding — and our eventual marriage.
Writing the ceremony together allowed us to decidetogether who we were and who we want to be as individuals, family members, lovers, and Christians. As we struggled with our own lack of wisdom about what it means to be married, we even decided to say prayers for each other and our marriage in place of vows and pulled wisdom from outside sources to guide our ceremony language. Together, we shared ideas of scholars, theologians, and contemplatives with one another in an attempt to bind together our love and our future into one public message.
And then, with a few wise tweaks from Grant, we heard that message repeated lovingly back to us before our friends and family and it was divine.
If there is a lesson to be had from this, I think David and I learned to connect with one another by sharing our ideas and interests in every space available rather than coasting with any “norm.”
Peace and Grace to you,
Kelly BURMEIER (!!!!!)
For my memories and for your enjoyment, I’ve shared our ceremony script below.
Marriage Theses and Ceremony Order
Life with you is entirely and wonderfully necessary
Cynthia Bourgeault, a cherished contemplative author of Kelly and David, in her sermon at her daughter’s wedding said… “It’s easy to look at marriage as the culmination of love—the end point of the journey that begins with “falling in love.” … [But] marriage is not the culmination of love, but only the beginning.
Love remains and deepens, but its form changes. Or, more accurately, it renews itself in a different way. Less and less does it draw its waters from the old springs of romance, and you should not worry if over time these dimensions fade or are seen less frequently. More and more, love draws its replenishment from love itself: from the practice of conscious love, expressed in your mutual servanthood to one another. . . .
It will transform your lives and through its power in your own lives will reach out to touch the world
… But how to stay in touch with that power? At those times when stress mounts and romance seems far away, how do you practice that conscious love that will renew itself and renew your relationship?”
Kelly and David have asked me to share wisdom about different aspects of marriage from a few of their favorite scholars, theologians, and contemplatives regarding the work required to maintain the beauty of a loving partnership, the role of a partner in a marriage, the responsibility of each person committed to love, and the importance of community.
Wisdom Spaces – The Work of Balancing the Spirit and the Physical
“[The transcendent mystery of God defies imagination and eludes all attempts at expression, but can be appreciated.] Doctrine, sacrament, virtue, and scripture are all routes to the divine life, but they are not identical to God’s own being. Contemplative practice brings us to the edge where image and mystery, action and contemplation, darkness and illumination dance together.” —Wendy Farlee, The Thirst of God: Contemplating God’s Divine Love with Three Women Mystics
Kelly and David believe marriage is a contemplative practice they call a Wisdom Space.
Wisdom Spaces, for them, are decisions, moments, interactions, and all the other little ways of life that seem to require two opposing ideas be held together in order to find a spiritually and physically functional solution or way of life. Wisdom entails a continual journey of balance and rebalance, requiring grace and care at each step.
They believe their marriage will be a Wisdom Space, uniting the present manifestation of divine love between their entwined spirits and various levels of agreed codependence to progress through the physical aspects of daily life in a way that is life-bringing and soul-filling.
“Contemplation and action, Christ’s love for humanity, and the Contemplative’s love for those around [themselves] percolated together. Through Mediation, this love flow[s] into a single river in which desire, will, and action became grounded in the divine love.” —Wendy Farlee, The Thirst of God: Contemplating God’s Divine Love with Three Women Mystics
David and Kelly embrace the Practice and Contemplation of unity and independence, service and needing, giving and receiving in this new life together.
Reflecting God to One Another
“… most people are called to marriage because we need at least one other person to be like a mirror for us, to reflect our best self—and our worst self—in a way that we can receive. The interesting thing about a mirror is that it doesn’t change the image; it simply takes it in as it is. Our closest friends or life partner hold a mirror up to us, revealing our good side and our dark side and reminding us that we still haven’t really learned to love. That’s what every healthy relationship does. When we fall in love, we fall into an infinite mystery.” — Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
As contemplative Christians, we have an obligation to other Beings to reflect God to them and show them the God that resides in us and them. We do this with animals and strangers, acquaintances and coworkers. We have ample and, at times, important opportunities to reflect God to, and know God with, family and friends.
“We come to know who God is through exchanges of mutual knowing and loving. God’s basic method of communicating God’s self is not the “saved” individual, the rightly informed believer, or even a person with a career in ministry, but the journey and bonding process that God initiates in community: in marriages, families, tribes, nations, schools, organizations, and churches who are seeking to participate in God’s love, maybe without even consciously knowing it.” — Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
When we choose a life-partner, we are choosing to reflect and know God more deeply and more regularly than we have ever committed to doing in our lives. Thankfully, this is a Wisdom Space. We not only show the God within us through attempts at wholeness, but through pain, sorrow, struggle, and failure too. We reflect God when we reach for God in our sorrow, grow in God in our struggles, share compassion even when we are in pain, and turn to God’s spirit to improve our mistakes.
“You don’t have to figure it all out or get everything right ahead of time. You just have to stay on the full journey. None of us know how to be perfect, but we can practice staying in union, staying connected. “Remain in me and I remain in you,” says Jesus (see John 15:7). It is about abiding, not performing.” — Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
‘For better or worse’ is not a mere promise to love our partners when they are at their worst, but to show God’s love to each other when we are, ourselves, at our worst. We have the capacity in any relationship to be selfish, unkind, hurt, and embittered, but in every relationship is the potential to have more grace and more growth in God than we could ever have without relationship. When people choose to love one-another in mutual reflection, we create safe spaces in God’s love to grow from failure and to love better and share in love better.
“A good intimate relationship takes away our existential anxiety. Even without any touching, true intimacy overcomes our feeling of separateness: “I’m not attractive; I’m not believable; I’m not credible; I’m not. . . .” is our desperate and disparate state. Once someone affirms that we’re lovable, that we’re even enough for them, and once we begin to deeply trust ourselves, then we can enter the gates of the temple and discover what we also desire, which is agape, or divine love. Agape is much more inclusive and all-embracing than eros. But agape builds on eros [passionate, romantic love] and even deepens eros because it hugely expands our sense of “Self.” Agape love transcends and includes all other true loves.” — Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
We are blessed, when we choose to live life with a partner: blessed to be challenged and grown in God as people who reflect God to each other in the better and in the worse – and in everything between. Our weakest moments can powerfully enable the greatests display of the God within us. David gets to reflect God to Kelly when he balances generosity with newfound assertiveness, and Kelly has opportunities to show God to David through patience in frustrating moments.
“Love bears all things.” This does not mean a dreary sort of putting-up-with or victimization. There are two meanings of the word bear, and they both apply. The first means “to hold up, to sustain”—like a bearing wall, which carries the weight of the house. . . . To bear [also] means “to give birth, to be fruitful.” So love is that which in any situation is the most life-giving and fruitful.” — Cynthia Bourgeault and Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
Kelly and David hope to be a source of grounding for each other in their daily journey together, helping and enabling each other to be filled individually, that their partnership may flourish together.
Returning Our Love Inward to the Self and to God
“[I]n the contemplative journey, as we swim down into those deeper waters toward the wellsprings of hope, we begin to experience and trust what it means to lay down self, to let go of ordinary awareness and surrender ourselves to the mercy of God. And as hope . . . flows out from the center, filling us with the fullness of God’s own purpose living itself into action, then we discover within ourselves the mysterious plenitude to live into action what our ordinary hearts and minds could not possibly sustain.” — Cynthia Bourgeault
This is hard. We struggle with self-love. We struggle with letting go of what we think is control over ourselves to allow love to fill us and change us. But, God made us — made ‘the self’ — and God, in many ways, IS embodied by us. Not to love our own selves is not to love a part of God. In marriage, a loving partner reflects the God within ourselves by freely giving of themselves and openly soliciting love, not in equitable return measure, but as they need our love. This freely-given love changes us.
“The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved. When you feel loved, when you feel safe, and when you know your dignity, you just keep growing! That’s what we do for one another as loving people—offer safe relationships in which we can change. This kind of love is far from sentimental; it has real power. In general, we need a judicious combination of safety and necessary conflict to keep moving forward in life.” — Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
David and Kelly are committed to the power of healthy love. They are committed to encouraging and loving one another as fully as possible so that they reflect the God within each other. Their partnership, then, allows them safely to love and explore the God within themselves with deep and lasting commitment. For them, this may mean meditations, prayers, working hard and sleeping enough. It means maintaining physical health and working together when health is not possible. It may mean creating a ‘rule of life’ like low-key Benedictine Monks so that they go through the processes of loving each other, themselves, and their God-selves in every aspect of daily life.
This may be the most intentional effort required in marriage. It is sometimes difficult to simultaneously be an encourager and a motivator when you feel like you yourself do not have the authority, wisdom, or energy required to do this for anyone including the self without asking for anything in return. However, Emmanuel Levinas reminds us that“Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God. It is believing that love without reward is valuable.” — Emmanuel Levinas
Such faith is the essence of a committed relationship in Christ and … Faith = Commitment [make the connection]
Turning Our Love into Community
“The beguines’ love for those they served was in a sense the same love with which God loved humanity. This circulation of love flowed from the Beloved to humanity, a stream mingling in the ocean, light in which the duality of self and other, God and soul could be radically diminished.” — Wendy Farlee, The Thirst of God: Contemplating God’s Divine Love with Three Women Mystics
When we co-reflect the God we dwell in through marriage, we build a wellspring of Love that will flow into our communities and create unity. David and Kelly’s marriage is a commitment to creating love between them, in great part, so that they may share that uniting love with others – including everyone present today.
“Community seems to be God’s strategy and God’s leaven inside the dough of creation. It is both the medium and the message. It is both the beginning and the goal: “May they all be one . . . so the world may believe it was you who sent me . . . that they may be one as we are one, with me in them and you in me” (see John 17:21, 23).
Thomas Merton wrote, “The Christian is not merely ‘alone with the Alone’ in the Neoplatonic sense, but he is One with all his ‘brothers [and sisters] in Christ.’ His inner self is, in fact, inseparable from Christ and hence it is in a mysterious and unique way inseparable from all the other ‘I’s’ who live in Christ, so that they all form one ‘Mystical Person,’ which is ‘Christ.’” 
There is no other form for the Christian life except a common one. Until and unless Christ is experienced as a living relationship between people, the Gospel remains largely an abstraction. Until Christ is passed on personally through faithfulness and forgiveness, through concrete bonds of union, I doubt whether he is passed on by words, sermons, institutions, or ideas.” — Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
There will be days where David and Kelly need this community to encourage the growth of their love, the power of God within themselves, and the faith that Love is enough. They ask that you will commit as part of their community to help them in their times of need and celebrate with them in their times of triumph; and, they ask that you open yourselves to them as helpers and encouragers to you, as well.
David and Kelly’s Hope and Prayer for Their Marriage
“To be capable of mutual indwelling or coinherence means that religion has achieved its full and final purpose. Bride and bridegroom are together just for the sake of being together! Presence is the naked language of union, of being lost and found in the face of the other, or in Jesus, the very breath of the Other (John 20:22).” — Father Richard Rohr, Daily Meditations
We are all the body of the [cosmic] Christ, and we are all Love. Today is a day that celebrates a deep and meaningful concentration of that love between Kelly and David as they learn to grow and retain love within themselves, their marriage, and their community.
David, please place Kelly’s ring as a symbol of your unity and love…
Kelly, please place David’s ring as a symbol of your unity and love…
[to audience] Please join Kelly and David in prayer for this growing love, as they have chosen to replace vows with prayers over one another.