At work today I was stung by a bee.  In the chip aisle.  I felt something fall onto my shoulder and, assuming it was some kind of debris from a shelf, I reached up to grab it, putting my finger straight onto the bee’s stinger.  He may not have survived, but I’m happy to report that I did.  (That would be a surprise to you if you had been present when I was last stung by a bee as a pre-teen.  The neighbors ran out of their houses to see if the sky was falling.)

I was a little rattled by the sting and hurried around the store, inefficiently looking for the first aid kit.  After walking two large circles I looked up and there he was.  Jaron was in the store at my moment of need.  It took a moment to realize that I wasn’t imagining things, but then almost immediately I was standing in front of him, telling him about my little trauma, and feeling almost good as new just for having his presence. He bought me water, gave me some ibuprofen, and went on his way.

When I got back up to the cash register a co-worker said to me, “Hey, your husband… boyfriend… man-person was just here.”

“Oh, thanks, yeah, I saw him.  He’s my husband, but “boyfriend” is still fun sometimes.”

That’s when a customer chimed in with a smiling, “It’s all the same thing!”

As he walked away I found myself troubled.  Not insulted or angry, but definitely feeling misunderstood.  What was it about his comment that bothered me so much?  Was I still feeling weepy from my silly bee sting?  He was an older gentleman, someone from whom I was surprised to hear such a modern perspective.  This was not a hipster co-worker, or a tabloid touting the most recent “break-up” of a celebrity marriage.

I know that marriage, practically speaking, is not what it used to be.  Commitment is in the eye of the beholder these days, so to speak.  Still, I felt unfairly judged as he chalked off my “marriage” as just one of many labels for a sexual relationship.

People of my age are avoiding marriage for a lot of reasons.  For some friends of mine, it’s a choice to be less vulnerable.  Or a statement against fundamentalism.  For many, it’s a rejection of the entanglements of family, a nod to the cynicism of the day.  We were raised in an age of divorce and have had to juggle not one, but often two or more family dynamics.  It’s exhausting.

Beyond fewer folks getting married, fewer of us are having children, too.  We don’t think the world is safe enough for our children, or we are afraid of having to take care of something, or both.  I have to admit, I can relate to these fears readily.  But I’m reminded in those moments of a very old story – the story of a group of people in captivity.  In utter devastation, the likes of which I’ve never known, removed from their home and stripped of their freedom, they did not despair.  They did not die off or lose their spirit, but rather, they had children.  They grew to great numbers and their captivity was ended.  Maybe you’ve heard the story.

One person willing to say to another, “I make you my family.”  By marriage, by birth, by adoption, our choice to be irrevocably bound to another person is a shout of hope.  In economic recession, in war, even in captivity, it is an assertion that we may be in our circumstances, but we are not of them.

Not to mention the thrill of having suffered an unexpected, painful moment, looking up, and finding family.