Hetee and I attended a wedding today at one of our mission churches. We have an interesting little tradition at our church weddings called the "tea ritual". We had it at our wedding and I think it's pretty neat.
It goes like this: After the vows, an old cracked bowl filled with bitter, black tea is brought to the couple and they each take a sip in turn. The tea represents the suffering they will encounter as they live their lives together as a married couple. They repeat after the minister and promise that they will share in one another's suffering and therefore it will decrease.
Then a beautiful, real silver bowl filled with milk is brought out and also shared by the couple. It represents the happiness they will encounter as a couple. Again, they repeat the words of the minister and assure each other that any happiness they share will increase.
I've seen the tea ritual performed many times before but, today it really got me to thinking about how it has been true in my life. For example, yesterday I wrote a post complaining about my day and within a few hours I received encouraging notes from friends to let me know I was not alone. I felt better immediately. My "suffering" (I use quotation marks because I know the suffering I referred to in my post is nothing compared to the suffering some are facing) decreased.
What about sharing happiness? It is so true that if you share in someone's happiness it increases! Hetee and I have seen this many times throughout our marriage. We stand, always ready to share in one another's happy moments, no matter how small they may seem.
One thing about sharing happiness that comes to mind is the way Hetee is overjoyed when I eat something Mexican. He knows how much I love and miss the food so he goes out of his way to understand and feel my joy. And he doesn't make gagging noises, no matter how weird it is.
Like today, a friend brought me 2 fresh corn on the cob, grown somewhere locally. All she could get at the time was 2 so Hetee refused to have any. Instead he watched me as I slathered them in butter and chile and enjoyed them all by myself.
Then today, after the wedding, we were in the grocery store getting some snacks for the 2-hour drive home when he spotted Swiss Miss hot chocolate. He knows how much I like it so it made him really happy to be able to buy it for me. And imagine my joy when we found the green jasmine tea he had been looking all over for but couldn't find anywhere. And I can't stand the stuff.
As I sat at the dinner table tonight, next to my empty corn cobs, picking my teeth and contemplating the many other ways we have shared each others happiness and sufferings, I thought about how all the experiences we have shared in the past almost 6 years have served to bring us closer together. Childbirth, my niece's kidnapping and murder, grandparents' deaths, his brother's divorce, business failures, business successes, church and ministry successes, ah, way too many to mention.
Looking back over the years, I can clearly see how sharing the joys and the sorrows made all the difference in our marriage. Two people can be as different as night and day but when they decide to share their partner's happiness and suffering, their lives unite in perfect harmony.
Today, as I watched the young couple go through the tea ritual, I prayed a prayer that they would come to experience the joy of sharing happiness and sorrow.