Holy celebrations should focus on what is gained, not lost

February 26, 2014 

It might be more Hollywood fantasy than true life, how the friends of brides and grooms organize bachelor or bachelorette parties built around excessive drinking, borderline antics, strippers and lap dancers (of either gender) as one last hurrah before the vows of fidelity are shared.

But from conversations throughout the years with pre-marriage couples, it seems one final hedonistic blast before embracing the sobriety of marriage and family is not uncommon.

Yet it does beg the question of how such an event prepares the heart for the challenges of lifelong faithfulness and trust.

A similar attitude shows up each year within the life of the church (though many choose pancakes over beefcake and cheesecake) as Shrove Tuesday Mardi Gras celebrations occur just prior to the solemnity of the Lenten season.

Just imagine an episode of Christians Gone Wild right before they embrace the disciplines of prayer and fast for the six weeks that lead to Easter morning.

Again, what is it that has to be gotten out of one’s system before someone can make room for focused and faithful daily living?

Celebrations are meant to lift the human spirit and strengthen human community, preferably within boundaries that protect the heart, spirit and promised fidelity to both spouse and God. And, in truth, not all excesses break those bonds.

Still, both instances seem to be driven by a fear of irretrievable loss and a tendency to stress over what is being given up instead of celebrating what is being embraced.

In marriage, isn’t the promise between partners such that each will strive to bring in adventure and excitement as a balance to the challenges most every couple and family faces?

And, likewise, in the faith community, will not the joy of a deepened spiritual life work to fill a restlessness that can only be met through a relationship with the Holy?

It’s not what is lost that should drive our celebrations. It’s what will soon be gained.

Matters of Faith columnist Kim Latterell can be reached by email at latterka@plu.edu.

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