When Emily and Dennis sat down to begin working out the details of their wedding, one question dominated their decision-making process: "How can we effectively communicate the love of Christ for His church through our marriage ceremony?" Scripture, music, decorations, attendants....all were chosen with this thought in mind. More than one well-meaning friend told Emily, "This is your day. It's all about you!" They had no idea their "encouragement" was more prone to cause anxiety than enthusiasm, given Emily's quiet, private nature. It was pondering such comments that led me to understand my initial reaction to the idea of the "destination" wedding.
"It's all about you!" is a lie, and one that too many young daughters of the church have bought into. A wedding is NOT all about the bride, or her lover, or their romance, or the dress, or roses and candlelight, or favorite pop tunes,.....all of those things rolled into one ball would make only a single word in the wedding song, a song begun in eternity past and continuing into eternity future. The marriage of believers is about Christ and His bride - sort of a little snapshot for us while we are earthbound, to give us hope and to whet our appetites for the Wedding to come.
The Friday morning before the wedding, the church fellowship hall was abuzz with excitement and activity. Helen, Carol, and Reni - dear sisters in Christ -and Emily's little sister Martha chatted as they sorted greenery and wired rose stems. "Do you think I should use ivy or rose leaves for the boutonnieres?" "Help me make Emily's bouquet. Hold these stems very tightly while I tape them together." "Ooooh, the ribbon is a nice touch!" Helen made a lovely arrangement for the sanctuary altar - roses, Queen-Anne's lace that brother Reuben had cut from the hayfield that morning, sweet-breath-of-spring given by friend Donna, greenery from Helen's and Carol's yards. A piece of Helen, a piece of Carol, a piece of Donna....beloved friends were knitting themselves with joyful anticipation into the fabric of the upcoming wedding.
That afternoon, food began arriving. Reni brought beautiful Greek wedding cookies; Susanne made crunchy German nut corners; Alix added rich baklava; Grammy roasted pecans that had been gathered on the Kendall farm. Cousin Jo delivered the wedding cake, one of her yummy chocolate and red velvet creations. Decorating the fellowship hall for the next day's reception was another happy collaboration. "The tulle on the tables isn't working - just not quite right." "What if we scatter red rose petals around the base of the candles?" "I really like that - very simple and elegant. Very Emily."
The BIG DAY finally arrived. Teresa and Katherine and Suzanne and Shannon and others commandeered the kitchen, tending to last-minute preparations for the reception. Their loving service ensured that this mother-of-the-bride had not a moment's anxiety about a single detail. I was blessed to spend the morning with Emily, her precious friend Jenn, and Em's two younger sisters. We cinched and smoothed and combed and patted.....and hugged and cried (only a little!) and prayed and laughed, while a steady stream of friends and family popped into the bride's room to join the festivities for a few minutes before slipping out again.
Andrew, a friend from college, played beautiful music on the piano in the church sanctuary as guests began arriving. Michelle, another friend of the young couple, directed the brothers who served as ushers. Matt, who had traveled with Emily and Dennis to Germany two years earlier - before they were a "couple," stood armed with a camera, ready to document the occasion. Young Elizabeth sang about the love of God in an elven voice, while the wedding party lined up at the back of the sanctuary.
As we waited our cue to enter, I scanned the crowd of seated guests. There was the minister who baptized Emily, and his wife, my "mother in the faith." The pastor who had faithfully preached the gospel into Emily's life throughout her childhood, and the young campus minister who had so recently invested in her faith. The young woman who had mentored and gently counseled Emily through a difficult period during her teen years, and the older woman who loved Emily like her own daughter. The beautiful family that was now becoming a part of our own. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, out-laws, and a host of dear, dear friends. All waiting expectantly, eagerly, almost on the edge of their seats. "Emily," I whispered, "this room is so FULL OF LOVE." Full of love for Emily and Dennis, yes - but also, so heavy that it was almost palpable, the love of God for His children, the love of Christ for His church, and the love of His people for their Savior. This was a special occasion for Emily and Dennis, but it was also a celebration of anticipation for the body of Christ who had gathered to witness their vows.
The congregation stood and sang: "The love of Christ is rich and free, fixed on His own eternally; nor earth nor hell can it remove; long as He lives, His own He'll love. His loving heart engaged to be their everlasting Surety; 't was love that took their cause in hand, and love maintains it to the end. Love cannot from its post withdraw; nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law can turn the Surety's heart away; He'll love His own to endless day. Love has redeemed His sheep with blood; and love will bring them safe to God...." (The Love of Christ is Rich and Free, words by William Gadsby)
Singing with an overflowing heart, I realized in a powerful way that as believers in Christ we are all getting ready for a wedding, The Wedding, even in the mundane and seemingly insignificant details of our lives. Helen and Carol made boutonnieres and bouquets - and Jenny is raising children who love Jesus. Katherine brewed coffee and Shannon mixed gallons of punch for the reception - and Reuben shares his faith with his classmates and professors on campus. Gerald mowed and trimmed the church yard especially for the wedding - Nate is reading through his Bible and Thomas is learning to serve others. The list goes on and on and on .......but not forever! For there will come a day when all the preparations will cease, and the radiant Bride will stand before her Beloved.
I commented to my friend Larry at the reception, "That was the rehearsal - now I'm ready for the real wedding!" Several other people I talked to that afternoon expressed the same sentiment. Our appetites had been whetted, our eyes raised to heaven, and we were longing to be with our Husband. By God's grace and guidance, Emily and Dennis gathered the church around them and pointed us to Glory. I am so grateful for the glimpse "behind the veil" that their wedding ceremony afforded.