As a newly ordained minister, it won't be long before I have to conduct my first marriage ceremony. I'm not worried about that. The difficult part will be the pre-marriage interview.
The only official interviews I've ever conducted were when I was a cop. It was easy. You hauled people in and asked them questions. After they answered, you argued at length over whether they were lying.
I can't do that as a certified parson. Instead of grilling the couple, I'll be counseling them about the importance of marriage. I'll be interested in whether they're getting married for the right reason. I'm not sure what that reason would be other than the same one for which I married my wife: love.
I loved my wife. I'm pretty sure she loved me. In fact, love is why our marriage lasted beyond the first week. Seven days was the longest I had ever completely behaved myself.
You don't have to be a genius to figure out that love is important not only for getting married, but also for staying married. As it says in the Gospel of Gump 12:4: "I'm not a smart man, but I do know what love is."
When my wife and I got married, our ecclesiastical leader gave us lots of advice about the importance of marriage, the sanctity of our holy vows and the importance of raising up a righteous family unto the Lord.
He also said something about "cleaving one to another." This seemed rather pointless because a big reason for getting married in the first place was so that we could cleave whenever we wanted.
I don't know how other ministers do it, but I've come up with my own premarital interview questions.
First question is whether the couple actually like each other. And by this I mean, do they like hanging out as best friends?
Love is nice, but lots of people who love each other don't get married. And lots of people who love each other also get divorced. You can love someone and still not stand to be around them.
Next question would be for them to name the most important person in their life. The answer should not be "my mom" or "my fishing buddy," or, worst of all, "myself." It better not even be "Jesus."
The most important person in a married person's life needs to be the one they're married to. After all, your mom can't make you sleep on the couch, you can always find someone else to go fishing with and it's impossible to hurt the Lord's feelings even on purpose.
Then there is flexibility. Nobody ends up being married to exactly the same person they got engaged to however many years ago. Everybody changes. Not always in big ways, but enough to get on each other's nerves if you aren't flexible.
Given that the human brain doesn't stop developing until the mid-20s, most young people aren't marrying completely finished products.
Conversely, older people are often completely finished products. This can be its own special form of inflexible hell.
Finally, marriage should be a lifelong love affair. It should never become a life sentence, a death march, an endurance contest or hopeless drudgery. It really ought to be the thing that gives you hope.
I'll close the interview by asking the couple if they have any questions. If they've been paying attention, they'll probably ask why I've been married as long as I have. As a minister, I'll have to tell them the truth.
"Well, there's a lot of luck involved, too."
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/notpatbagley.