Recently I repeatedly heard the word “congratulations.” Although I was not receiving those heartfelt greetings directly, I was touched all the same. People often say, “Praising people makes them grow.” I suggest, “Hearing people being praised also makes you grow.”
The occasion for all these “congratulations” being tossed about was a friend’s wedding. The gathering was an island ceremony for two surfers who had moved to our outcropping of land drifting on the seas of southern Japan. Friends of the couple made preparations on a grassy plot of land with a view of the ocean, and the pastor stood before family and friends as the couple exchanged their promises.
For those of us used to island living, it was a day of unique perspectives. The men shuffled nervously about in collared shirts, and the women enjoyed dressing to the nines in all the latest fashion. It was definitely a more stylish look than the swimming gear or work clothes we normally wear. Those in attendance split into two lines along the sunlit and fresh green grass. The bride, in her white wedding dress, proceeded past the guests, showered with “congratulations.”
Soon oaths were signed, vows exchanged with a curt “I do” and the veil was removed for a kiss. I noted all the ways promises were made—they were signed, spoken and expressed in action. These promises also take place in our daily lives and should we stray from the path with any of them, lies can be told and trust can be lost.
This was truly a day for “high tide” (an old Japanese expression meaning “things going your way”). Celebrating marriage means people have reached a decisive point in their lives together. A promise until “death do us part,” understanding the human existence is marked by reaching one goal and then setting out for the next, a process which continues ad infinitum. If you break it off or give up half way, you can end up in a losing cycle of blame and complaints.
As the ceremony reached its end, we guests lined up, and each presented a single flower and a heartfelt “congratulations” to the newlyweds as they made their way past. Yet the bride and groom were not the only ones confirming commitments that day. The ceremony was a reminder that we all have promises to keep, and I thought to myself, “Men and women are truly complex and blessed creatures.”