A point d’appui

At very best, a wedding is a chance to remember all of the beautiful aspects of marriage and to be inspired to fully treasure and cultivate those things.  Last weekend, I attended the wedding of two friends from Divinity School, and it offered both of these opportunities.

Through witnessing the couple’s beliefs about and approach to marriage — as evidenced by their choice of readings, music, and rituals, as well as their self-written vows — I was reminded of a central conviction of mine: that marriage isn’t just the next step, and the act of being married isn’t an additional identity byline, or one of many hats to wear.  Being married is a petri dish for rebirth, self-discovery, courage-finding, and transformation.  It’s a point d’appui.

Technically a military term, and French for fulcrum, a point d’appui is the location where troops are assembled prior to a battle.  It’s where they rest, nourish, and educate themselves so that they are able to put their best feet forward when called to service.  In Walden, Henry David Thoreau uses the term to describe the firm, solid ground of reality, beneath the shifting and unstable “mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance.” 

Ludwigsburg, Germany

A point d’appui is a safe space, a spot of restoration and comfort.  Something I’m most grateful for in my marriage is that I have a home anywhere Caleb is — a place to be authentic, to be completely honest, to say exactly what I need, to be silent, to laugh and to have fun.  Caleb affirms me, encourages me, and challenges me, and he gives me room to replenish and rejuvenate myself through time alone and with friends and other family members. 

But to what end does my marriage provide this joy and revitalization?  As much as a point d’appui is a resting place, it is also a starting place.  In Thoreau’s language, it isn’t a foundation where one settles permanently, but a firm ground from which one takes a deep breath and then pushes off, like the wall of the pool that a swimmer uses to propel herself forward with strength and speed.

Notre Dame

I like thinking about marriage as a point d’appui because it shows just how ripe with possibility the union can be.  It’s a reminder that marriage isn’t an end in itself, something that we act upon, but instead, a place where we can be acted upon — through the love, wisdom, perspective and gifts of our partner — and transformed into the best possible version of ourselves.  Or, in the words of my friend’s self-written vows, a place to “fuel each other for the work of loving the world.” 

In other words, marriage is a place of becoming, a place where we bring our already magnificent selves to be admired, appreciated and delighted in; held, protected and comforted; buffed, shaped and strengthened; inspired, changed and transformed into our best selves.

Claude Monet’s House, in Giverny