One of the cool things I get to do is officiate weddings. Like every man, I have always loved weddings – really, though, I suppose the thing I love is the marriage. The ceremony is just the vehicle, a beautiful doorway to the home of commitment. When 2 people decide that they have found the kind of person they have been looking for, the kind of person they don’t want to live their lives without, the kind of person they want to eat dinner with every day for the rest of forever with, the kind of person they want to regularly fight and make up with, what’s not to love about that?
It can be a very fancy vehicle or a rickety old doorway, it’s the home that matters.
And to be invited into building that door is such a tremendous honor, it gives me butterflies the size of pterodactyls. I have been to many, many weddings (I think double digits the year we were married!!) and I remember very little of them. I love the couples, and I remember so much of them, their vows, reactions to the other, but as far as what color the chairs were or what food was served or what the pastor said, not much. UNLESS, of course, something disastrous happened – like a best man/maid of honor speech that was inappropriate or embarrassing, a fistfight over the bouquet, food poisoning, something like that. Those things are much harder to forget. And from that day forward, when you look at photos, you say, “remember this? Man, that ___ was just the worst…”
In my preparation, (usually a day or two before the BIG DAY) there’s always that moment when I have to talk me off the ledge of a possible “remember this? Man, that pastor sure was terrible! He ruined that day!”
And this reminds me of Samuel and Elisha. You see, when they do things (baseball, band, basketball and plenty of other things that don’t begin with the letter B), I sit and watch – proud and terrified in equal parts. What if they fall, give up a home run, miss the shot, hit a bad note? What if they forget the words? To see them hurt, especially their hearts and souls, is absolutely the worst. And what I often think is, “If I could prevent it, I would,” before remembering that I wouldn’t. Now, that sounds awful, like I want their heart broken, them to fail, to lose, but just because it sounds awful doesn’t mean it isn’t true. I do want those things.
As far as I can figure, the only way for me to prevent their pain is to assure they never throw the pitch or take the shot. The only way I can be certain they don’t hit the wrong note is to keep them from hitting any note. Turns out, ‘to see them hurt’ isn’t the worst, to see them so consumed with fear that they never try is.
I wonder how many awesome experiences we miss because of the fear, the desire to avoid the pain, the butterflies – all mistaken for signs we should not proceed. What if they are the opposite? What if they are spiritual defibrillators, shocking our souls to jolt us back into the moment, the here and now, saying, “Wake up! You’re missing this! This is a sacred space, slow down, breathe and engage.” These opportunities to fail should be charged with meaning, should be overwhelming. If they aren’t, we’re either asleep or buried in our apathy. They are gifts for the living.
So, I married a lovely couple on Saturday, all of us fully aware and present, dancing with each other, the butterflies, and with God.