CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
The knock on the back door of the parsonage. Helen answered. An awkward and somewhat embarrassed couple stood there. They wanted to see the preacher. I got up off the sofa, reluctantly, shoeless, and went to the door. As soon as Helen was out of ear-shot, they announced that they wanted to get married, and needed to do it quickly.
Great. Another run-away couple wanting to get married. They weren’t the first, and they wouldn’t be the last. I told them to walk over to the side door of the church building while I got my shoes on. They said they would rather wait behind the house, where they could not be seen from the street.
After I got my shoes on, they almost ran from parsonage to church building. I was hard-pressed to keep up with them. Once in my office, they explained that they had just that morning decided to get married and needed to do it before their families found out.
I said I could not marry them without a marriage license. The woman produced one out of her purse. I asked why they had a license if they had just decided that day to get married, since our state had a three day waiting period. They did not hesitate to say that had given the clerk an extra twenty dollars to backdate the license by three days. I wasn’t surprised. That was the way business was done in our county.
“Why are your families opposed to your marriage?” I asked.
“Our kids are just selfish,” they replied. “All they think about is money. They are worried about inheritance. But we’re in love.”
I was only twenty-five, and anyone over forty looked about the same to me, so I probably overestimated their age at sixty. They may well have been only fifty or so. They were nicely dressed, polite, well-spoken… and scared.
“They’re out looking for us right now, the kids are,” they said. “We’ve got to get married before they find us. If you can’t do it, we’ve got to get out of here quick and find somebody who will.”
I didn’t have much time to decide how to handle this. I’d had similar requests before, but they came from teen-agers. I felt comfortable dealing with them. But these were people the age of my parents. Surely they were old enough to know what they were doing and to have the right to marry. Didn’t love come ahead of inheritance? What right did their selfish children have to keep them apart?
Also, I’ve always had trouble saying “no,” especially to people on the run. I would have been great as an underground railroad operator.
So I got Helen to come over to witness, along with the part-time janitor, who just happened to be in the building, and stood them up in the chancel and married them. They hurried off, and I never saw them again.
I won’t detail all the problems with this event, and the way I handled it. You can figure those out easily enough. Remember, though, that you are not twenty-five and dealing with people the age of your parents. So I make no apologies. I’m sure I’d do it again, even though I’m older and wiser now.
I’m pro-marriage. Not everyone should marry, not everyone can marry, not everyone should stay married, but if you want to marry, love should come before law. Laws, and in-laws, should help people marry the one they love, not keep them from doing so.
If you want to get married, just go knock on the back door of the parsonage. Thankfully, though, I don’t live there anymore.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
I tweet as yooper1721.