When Marriage Gets Crowded

We exchanged wedding vows under a chuppah, a word whose pronunciation I had to Google.

chuppah: [khoo p-ah, hoo puh] 1. a canopy under which the Jewish marriage ceremony is performed, symbolic of both the home they are creating and their God who will remain over it all

To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about chuppahs. I was neither Jewish nor did I speak Hebrew. I saw mention of it in a Rob Bell book once and we went for it.

Though I didn’t understand the depth and importance of the tradition at the time, I loved the imagery.

I adore it even more today, and here’s why:

For one,

chuppahs are kind of small.

(Which, if the point is to be symbolic of your new home, is accurate. Newlywed budgets are a struggle.)

Chuppahs aren’t very big, which means they really only fit about two people comfortably.

They aren’t built for the entire wedding party, they’re built for the bride and groom. It’s how they are designed.

One husband and one wife in one marriage covered by one God.

It’s really quite simple.

But also really important.

Because when we forget the purpose – the best design – for something, we misuse it. Then wonder how and when it stopped working.

Kind of like an umbrella.

Have you ever been caught in a rainstorm with a group of people? Inevitably, there is only one person who was prepared enough to bring an umbrella.

And if you’ve been in this situation, you know that the only thing worse than being caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella is trying to fit under an umbrella with several other people.

It just doesn’t work.

One inch of your body stays dry (max); the rest turns into a soggy mess of uncomfortable crowd-shuffle-walking where no one can figure out who is supposed to be holding the handle.

Umbrellas weren’t designed for a crowd of twelve and don’t work when we try to use them as such.

It’s the same with a chuppah.

A wedding chuppah covers two people, symbolizing a marriage made up of two people.

That’s how it works.

When we try to use a marriage as something it wasn’t designed for, it’s ineffective. It breaks. It turns into a soggy mess.

And it starts by cramming too many people under our chuppah.

When marriages break down, it’s generally not because of One Bad Decision.

It’s not because of One Big Fight.

It’s not because someone woke up one day and decided to destroy his or her entire relationship.

No…the demise of a marriage it doesn’t start with an immediate, rash, life-altering decision.

It starts with a lot of little decisions. Or little non decisions.

Non intentionality, which is easy to do because

chuppahs don’t have walls.

A chuppah is a covering, not a fort.

Part of the symbolism with the open air is the joy of a welcoming, hospitable home. And absolutely, yes! Come on over any time. (Bring some La Croix.)

But. A lack of walls can also symbolize a lack of protection.

The ease of which things – and ideas and people and thoughts – can enter our home grows exponentially when it doesn’t come knocking on a door first.

“Do I want to let this person in?” is a much more concrete, conscious thought than “I wonder how long that rat has been living in our attic?”

When we don’t intentionally guard what comes in and out, our marriage gets crowded really quickly.

Long before any of The Big Decisions, we make small concessions.

Long before my marriage implodes, I start degrading my husband to my friends. You start complaining about your wife to your coworkers. We don’t mean anything by it, our spouses are just…easy targets, I guess. Comfortable. Familiar.

Long before I start flirting with someone else, I binge Netflix shows where adultery is rampant but it’s ok because “Her husband just didn’t make her happy anymore.” and “That new woman is so much more attentive to his needs than his wife ever was.”

Long before I start “falling out of love” with my spouse, I turn my hoards of online acquaintances help me navigate life and relationships, instead of to the person sharing my bed. I reach for the world on my nightstand before I reach for him.

People will sometimes approach my husband and say, “That story your wife posted on Facebook about your kids was hilarious!” and he has no idea what they’re talking about. Because – oh yeah – I forgot to tell him the story with my physical words after I told the world with my digital ones. That seems like a little thing, but it’s actually quite big to me. It means my priorities are out of order, and I’m not even conscious of it.

We do this all the time.

We don’t protect our chuppah from little things.

Little choices, little secrets, little selfishness, little bits of privacy, little bitterness, little friendships, little miscommunication.

But little things build up into big things over time, don’t they?

We don’t always realize it until we look up one day and are surprised to discover that we can’t see our spouse through the crowd that has gathered between us.

And we think

How did this happen?

How long have they been in here?

Who even let that thought in?

Where did we go wrong?

I’m in an all-out chuppah purge these days.

I’m really tired of marriages breaking. Everywhere I turn – celebrity news, Facebook, my texts – Satan is attacking marriages. If he can take down families, he can cause catastrophic damage.

I’m done being tired of it, actually. I’m in full on war mode.

I’m whipping my overcommitted schedule into place, I’m surrounding myself with people who make me a better wife, I’m scrutinizing my entertainment and book choices, I’m on my knees in prayer for my man, I’m asking all of my married friends really awkward questions about their sex lives (this could be a whole separate post, really), I’m deleting my social media apps on the weekends to be fully present with my family.

I will fight for marriage.

For mine and for yours.

I refuse to let the world around us or the prince of darkness control the narrative. Nope. It’s our story.

And here’s what the author of marriage, the divine protector of covenants promises:

“The Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; all over the glory will be a canopy (chuppah). It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and the rain.”
Isaiah 4:5

When the world is made right and the redemption story is finished, God will be a canopy over all people who call on his name. Everyone. Tons of room under this chuppah.

But he has also given us a foretaste of this in the covenant of marriage. He covers our marriages. He protects our marriages. They have the potential to be shelters and refuges. They keep us safe, comforted, loved. They teach us true, unadulterated intimacy and acceptance.

So start sending out your chuppah un-invites now.

Because that kind of marriage is worth fighting for.

2 thoughts on “When Marriage Gets Crowded

  1. Karen@LightlyFrayed

    Sarah. The imagery is powerful and the truth is poignant. I have always enjoyed your posts about parenting – and now this one. I have a lot to consider this afternoon as I reflect on my uninvites. Thank you.

  2. Emily

    Yes. This. Like you mention, equally important to uninviting is inviting in the right people. My husband and I had to take a hard look at our circle of friends recently and ask “does this person help me be a better husband/ wife?” “Is this someone that I know is rooting for our marriage?” We joined a journey group at church and it has been life changing to see what positive community can look like.


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