When I was young and married, people felt very free to express to me their horror at young marriage. “You were so young!”, they’d say. “I think people settle down too fast. You’ve got to take time to become your own person. People change, and you don’t want to match up with someone now because they won’t match who you will become.”
By my very early twenties, I had a pat retort.
“Have you ever,” I’d ask, “seen two trees that are growing right next to each other? You can see in the whorls of the bark where one tree has overlapped the other, and then pushed back again. Their trunks are like two halves at the bottom, but as it goes up they are twisted into a seamless one. That’s how I think marriage should be. Marrying young gives us time to grow around each other.”
It is true that it silenced my attackers and put them on the defensive; to explain to me how they would one day find that tree specially fit for them. But to be honest, I didn’t feel very clever back then. My speech was born out of desperation. I hoped that’s how marriage was to be because otherwise I was a fool. I often feared I was wasting my time while my “perfect fit” ran around somewhere out there.
Friday night I worked and in the gaps I thought about where I wanted to go with my next post, and about the comments to my last post. My thoughts went something like this:
- What is marriage?
- What is marriage like?
- Well, it’s like Christ’s relationship to the Church. He is its head. What does that mean?
- Why do feminists Christians think that head-as-source means less obedience from what flows than to a head-as-authority?
- They shouldn’t. Headwaters literally in-form bodies of water. Any body of water that ceases to be informed by its head is not that head’s body of water.
- What other analogies is this like?
- “I am the vine, you are the branches.”
My canned response came back to me. I had thought I was looking at two trees planted together, but what if what I had seen–looking at marriage–was a branch being grafted into a vine? Did that make sense?
Immediately, before I had an answer, another thought crowded into my mind: Don’t be so arrogant, Caldo, as to think you are like Christ. But I searched around my thoughts and after a few seconds decided that what I felt about being like Christ was irrelevant to the facts. The facts are that I relate to my wife like Christ relates to the Church, and that I am to relate to her in the same fashion. Which is to say that, in some way, to my wife I am the vine and she has been grafted into me.
“Cleave unto her” suddenly came into sharper focus, too.
I thought again about how her sense of humor had changed over the years. Once she only laughed. Now she contributes jokes–good jokes–nearly as often as I. Had I changed to be like her, as she has towards me? I have certainly changed, but I couldn’t think of a way that I have become more like her. Perhaps I had missed something? So I texted Mrs. Caldo; who had no idea.
CC: Do you think that over the years I’ve changed to become more like you? Take your time to answer.
MC: What? No
CC: Have you become more like me?
MC: I believe that’s the more likely scenario. What is your opinion on the subject?
CC: I agree on both. Coffee?
I will think more about the idea of marriage as a process really like grafting. The “better half” comments are worse than I thought because the portrait is more wrong than I knew. If we are ever to understand and teach the lost art of marriage we must, I think, accept that marriage is not the coming together of two equals who will share their independence together. Nor is it the coming together of two equals of whom one pretends to relinquish control. It must be as the one is weaker than the other as the branch is weaker than the vine, and it is why and how the vine must nourish it as its own flesh.
These are all verses and ideas we’ve heard and discussed many times before, but the perspective of grafting showed me the matter of marriage in a whole new light. I doubt St. Paul and Peter would be surprised by any of this except that I have been so dense. There is a lot of deep knowledge lost for those of us who don’t toil in the dirt. (Though sometimes I have an inkling.)
For example: In that video the grafter cuts into the side of the stalk and it’s in that cut where the branch is grafted and becomes one with the plant. If you squint a little it looks like women appears on the scene when Adam’s side is cut, and God shapes Eve from the rib taken from it. The Church lives on the blood of Christ; which was spilled for her most effusively when His side was pierced and He died.
There are probably some earthy, common sense lessons, too. One video I watched mentioned that it’s important to graft when the branches are young. The grafts don’t take when they are too old.
The cut must be made in one attempt. Multiple cuts will prevent a successful graft.
The cambium layers, just below the bark, need to be aligned for the graft to take; which means that relative size matters, and that in a mismatch success is more likely when the stalk’s diameter is more than the branch.
Draw your own conclusions.
 Text-speak for “Can you get some coffee ready for me?”