By now, you’ve probably seen the video, the story of Ian & Larissa, of their “momentary marriage.”
The video was watched about 86,000 times Tuesday, May 8, when it was posted online by Desiring God, which shares resources from John Piper’s ministry. By the end of that week, it had been watched more than 442,000.
It starts no different than any other couple’s wedding highlights reel, except maybe for the bride’s exquisite taste: A sun-dappled outdoor ceremony, bridesmaids in flower-print dresses, finally, the bride herself in cowboy boots, nearly running down the aisle.
Then you see the groom, and you know this is no ordinary couple or wedding or marriage.
Ian Murphy suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in September 2006 on his way to work outside Philadelphia. He and his then-girlfriend had planned to marry after they graduated college that December. Instead, Larissa wrote in a post on the Desiring God blog, they “waited four years and got married when he was sick and disabled and we were still grieving.”
Days after seeing the video, I still was trying to collect my thoughts. I watched it again. I posted it on Facebook. I “trembled with the glad responsibility” of sharing the story of Ian & Larissa with others, as Piper did. I asked them what it meant.
It seemed like a commercial for Piper and his books, one said. This Momentary Marriage is quoted and shown and characterized as important to the couple’s understanding of marriage.
It’s tricky, another said. And it is: Because of the severity of Ian’s brain injury, a judge had to approve the couple’s marriage license, Larissa wrote in a post on the Desiring God blog. But not only did he approve the license, she said, but also the judge said this:
You two exemplify what love is all about. I believe that marriage will not only benefit you both, but our community, and hope that everyone in this city could see your love for one another.”
Many more said they were challenged. They wondered how they or their spouses’ would have responded if in Larissa’s place.
I did, too.
Four years ago, just a few months after my now-husband and I started dating, I, too, was in a serious car accident on my way to work. My car rolled three times down the expressway, literally crushing around my head. And yet I walked away, swollen and bloodied and humbled by God’s sovereignty, but on my own two feet.
There is no reason my brain wasn’t injured—no reason, but God. I’ve struggled with that, and I’ve come to realize that just was not the story God was telling through my life or my eventual marriage.
That is the story of Ian & Larissa, and it’s a beautiful picture of “a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
Every marriage is.
And so to ask if This Momentary Marriage was flashed one too many times in the video, if marrying a person with a traumatic brain injury always is what God calls us to do or what we might have done if placed in a similar situation misses the point of the story.
The question is: How is God glorified in your marriage? What story are you telling the world about God?
The story of Ian & Larissa is a picture of the “covenant-keeping love between Christ and His people” Piper describes in This Momentary Marriage. It is a picture of in sickness and in health, of, Larissa wrote, one’s sickness becoming his spouse’s sickness and sorrows becoming his spouse’s sorrows as the two become one flesh. It is a picture of what marriage is all about, about love that is committed and self-sacrificing, even when that’s hard.
As the number of times the video was watched skyrocketed in the first 12 hours after it was posted online, Ian told Larissa,
I would do this (disability) all over again if I knew it would affect this many people. God is glorious.”