1.13.2011

On conviction.

I turn 30 tomorrow. There won't be fireworks and there won't be a gala and it's going to be a relatively quiet weekend with a small dinner party at my favorite French restaurant on Saturday. At first I wanted to go big for 30 and then I wanted to go very small and now I find myself in the middle. That feels just about right.

In other years, I've spent time thinking a lot about my birthday. In the days leading up to it, I would remember where I was the year before, how my life had changed (or not), where I was and if it was the right place and what goals did I have for the next 12 months. My thoughts during my runs this week have not been drifting in that direction, though. Instead, I've been thinking a lot about god.

One of the central questions in vowing your life to someone is who you might get to make the process official. We've been to weddings that have covered all options and then some: a childhood minister, a brother, a male rabbi-priest combo, a female rabbi, a friend. We originally sat down with a minister from the Unitarian church where I am a member, but it didn't feel quite right. On the surface it was a pretty sweet deal: we built the ceremony ourselves, we chose the readings and we chose the language of the vows. It was all in our control.

And yet, in the abundance of control, we felt an absence of conviction.

The minister that I knew growing up has since retired and I don't know his replacement very well. But there is a man from our church that I was particularly close to (his son was in my grade) and I taught Sunday School alongside him for several years in High School. He isn't a minister, but he became one of the leaders of the church and has always had a quiet wisdom about him.

Having him marry us had crossed my mind, but the issue of not knowing what we think about the big J and his clear devotion to him was clearly a barrier. Nonetheless, I called him last week to reconnect after almost 10 years and to see what he thought.

And here's what happened- he was incredibly flattered and needed to pray about it. And oddly, that was the right response. While he took a few days to pray about it, I found myself thinking about the whole ball of wax while I was running, while I was in the subway, while I was walking home from my haircut. How have I come to be where I am with regard to religion? What have I lived and experienced in the past ten years that have resulted in today's confusion?

I thought about this a lot.

And then, as I am inclined to do, I sat down and wrote about it. I wrote him a very long email in which I outlined how I'd been closed off to Christianity and opened to other aspects of spirituality. I told him that I still find solace in quiet churches and that I know some really kind Jewish and Muslim people. And that I hate how politics have twisted religion and how spending one's 20s traveling in a post 9-11 world has been an education in itself. What I'm saying is, I laid it on the line.

His response? "Now there's the Jennifer I know!" Ha.

In the past week, Chris and I have had some really good conversations that might not have happened if we hadn't considered this man as a potential to marry us. And if he decides that he is comfortable with modifying the ceremony for us, we're going to spend a weekend visiting him and his wife so that Chris can get to know him too.

We're not going to have this religion nut cracked by August 13. But I wanted to write about this because I have been very closed up tight, spiritually-speaking, in recent years. One of my New Year's resolutions was to open myself up to spirituality and it's pretty crazy that 13 days into 2011, this opportunity to reflect and dive deeper into the questions that surround this mystery has presented itself.

I feel very grateful, indeed - both for the questioning and for the wise man who will hopefully help us vow our lives to each other later this year. It feels like the right fit, as if conviction and thoughtfulness has finally come into the picture to witness our marriage.

What more could you want for 30?

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