On Marriage and the Mirror of Erised


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the first book of the wildly successful Harry Potter series. Chapter 12 in the book is called “The Mirror of Erised.” The “Mirror of Erised” is an ornate, magnificent mirror hidden away in an unused classroom. It’s as tall as the ceiling and has claw feet. But this is more than a beautiful mirror — the person who looks in the mirror sees the “deepest, most desperate desire of [their] heart.” So when Harry, an orphan cared for by a dreadful aunt and uncle who hate him, looks in the mirror he sees his entire extended family waving at him, loving him, letting him know he belongs. His dead parents smile back at him from the mirror, large as life. And when his friend Ron, just one more boy in a huge family with nothing that stands out about him other than his flaming red hair, looks in the mirror he sees himself as head of the Quidditch team and head of the house.

You see that which you long for most of all.

And for most of us our wedding days are a bit like that. The Mirror or Erised is held in front of each couple and we look inside and we see untainted love that lasts through the ages. We see bodies that will never grow old and a love that will never die. We see joy and hope, we see plenty and laughter. While we may say the vows “for better, for worse, for rich, for poor, for sick, for health….” we don’t see those things in the Mirror of Erised. The Mirror shows us that which we want more than anything – eternal love and happiness.

And then the guests go home, the cake in the top of the freezer gets freezer burn, the money from the beautiful cards given on that wedding day runs out. We want to stand in front of the mirror again, just to get a glimpse of that beauty, that glory, that hope.

But more stuff happens – kids come along and with them nightmare tantrums and learning disabilities, weight is gained and lost, houses come and go, unemployment rears its ugly head, family and friends die. Love is tested morning and night.  Sometimes there is betrayal or wounds that are so deep you think you’ll never heal; other times it’s just life – and marriage has grown oh so old. All the while we remember that mirror in the unused classroom – but it just sits there.

In the Harry Potter book as Harry goes for the third night to see the mirror, he finds Dumbledore sitting off in the shadows. Dumbledore talks to Harry about the mirror and exposes it for what it is “….this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.”  Harry is sobered as he heads back to his dormitory room.

Today is my 30th anniversary – 30 years sharing my life, my heart, my bed with my husband. 30 years of so much good and so much hard that it defies description. And on our wedding day, we like so many couples before us, looked into the Mirror of Erised. And we loved what we saw. We wanted to stay in front of that mirror forever — a cute, young couple with adventure on our hearts and fire in our souls. It would never end. It couldn’t as long as we had the Mirror with us.

But like all couples, the mirror was wisely hidden away. In its place was a real mirror – a mirror that reflected back a couple that would grow and age, that would sometimes hate what they saw looking back at them, but keep on going anyway, keep on loving, keep on living, never giving up.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that….” says Dumbledore. Some of our dreams were realized, others were lost, but we have learned to live, really live. While the Mirror of Erised reflected wishful thinking, our real mirror reflects a brave marriage forged on hope, faith, and grace that could only come from One far greater than us. 

And today I proclaim again the truth of a life of commitment. I proclaim the truth that marriage is really very little about love and very much about something bigger. Today I speak against our Hollywood Mirror of Erised notions of magic and romance; I stand against a culture of quick satisfaction and selfish sex. I speak up for an unpopular view that marriage is so much more than two people falling in love.

For in 30 years never have I embarked on anything so costly and so worthwhile as marriage. Never have I faced the awful in myself so closely and so viciously, never have I needed the grace of God more profoundly. We do not have a Mirror of Erised marriage – We have a marriage born on idealism and hope, weathered by storms, challenged by crisis, tempered by love, sealed by God above.

Today I wish a Happy Anniversary to the man I said “I do” to. I’d do it again this side of the mirror. 

If you were looking into the Mirror of Erised for your marriage or your life, what would it show? It’s a very personal question – but a good one to ask ourselves. 


24 thoughts on “On Marriage and the Mirror of Erised

  1. Very interesting link between Harry Potter and life! :) I am not married, but I wondered if this is also applicable to TCKs and their nostalgic longing for another place and time. When is it time to let go of the Mirror of Erised and gather up courage to look into the real mirror to face life as it is? Will definitely think about it some more!


  2. Although we do not know each other, I have walked in your shoes. Thank you for your honest words. I have learned that a crisis is not over soon. I know that my finding this today was a God send. I could have penned these words……just a different ministry. Please whisper a prayer for me today.


    1. I’m so so glad you found this. We are the tribe of the wounded and we need each other for hope and reassurance. Prayers for you this moment, this day.


  3. Happy 30th Anniversary, Dear Hearts!! John and I are 15 years ahead of you, and every word you wrote rings true here too. Marriage has been at times the most challenging, painfully difficult, downright ornery but also the most deeply fulfilling, joyous, comforting, inspiring and amazing of life’s — and faith’s —- experience. I used to want to dispense with the hard parts (there’s that mirror again!), but now I believe that every moment has been worth it, in ways I couldn’t fathom at the time. May there be grace aplenty for all of us, everywhere, who commit to another.


    1. Thank you so much for this – your marriage has long been an amazing example to me – and can I say that I felt the best sort of envy when I got the family picture of all of you at the Red Sox game?? It doesn’t get better.


  4. Happy Anniversary Marilyn & Cliff:) Beautiful words to live by. You are an amazing writer and your words are so very true about marriage.George & I
    will be married 26 years in Dec and it has been exactly how you describe marriage to be. I hope to read your book someday soon. I wanted to tell you that we are Grandparents now to a beautiful little girl, her name is Emilia Olive. Love Sandi


    1. You are truly the most beautiful grandmother I have ever known! My gosh – I can’t believe you beat us to it. I think of you so often and our tall glasses of ice water at the jacuzzi. I miss you! Your ranch looks amazing and I only wish I could take a vacation there! Love to you.


  5. So beautifully written. Your words have the capability to move me every time and this time was no different. Happy anniversary to you both and may you have many more years together!


  6. Once again, you bring me to tears with your eloquence, Marilyn. Happy anniversary to you and to Cliff. May you have many, many more worthwhile years and few of the costly.


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