Weddings. I’ve gone to mounds of them. When I was younger all of them seemed like the same old same old. You walk like lemmings into the church lobby, wait in the amusement park-sized line to autograph what looks like a really expensive address book, then some dude takes your significant other to her seat while you follow behind. Then you wait and wait… and wait some more while Bridezilla and her already-out-of-style-minions secretly fix their mascara because it’s too gloppy for the big day.
And while you’re craftily scrolling down the program estimating how long it will be until your next bathroom break, the wedding begins. First the grandparents and parents are seated, which takes entirely too long and has you recalculating your half-hour guesstimation. Then the three year old flower girl tosses petals to the ground while trying to coax the 2 year old ring bearer to complete his 50 foot dash. By the time the girls in matching prom dresses get down the aisle, all you’re thinking is “C’mon. Nobody walks this slow in real life.” Then everybody stands for what you hope will be a bride and a Chris Brown song, but it usually ends up being a piano player plunking out something that’s either overplayed in church or never played anywhere.
The preacher talks. They light candles. You get the idea.
The worst weddings are the ones where you’re secretly trying to force your mind away from bets or predictions on “how long this one will last.” Those are the ones where iron-clad smiles shield the audience from reality, and the bride’s dad, if he’s there, is reluctant to say “Her mother and I.” It’s the one where a partner settled for another because of pregnancy, shame, or manipulation, and everybody knows it, but they won’t say a thing. It’s sad.
There are other weddings though. Good ones. Ones where the reception isn’t just a drunken attempt to forget the prior boredom of the ceremony. The good ones are the weddings where expressions teeter on the edge of laughter and tears, where receptions are celebrations of the two lives joined, and where the music and vows make every one feel like they’re standing on holy ground in between two sacred creatures being joined forever. At those weddings you almost feel the groom’s temptation to skip the reception. You can almost taste your “kiss the bride” moment be it past or future. You see the unique love of the couple expressed in everything from the flowers to the music to the first dance. It’s beyond breathtaking. It’s life changing.
The first time I ever felt like that was at Jay & Jen Horsfall’s wedding. I can still remember Steve Tucker belting out beautiful renditions of “You Are so Beautiful to Me” and other classy ballads from his piano bench. When it was Jay’s turn to read his vows, he pulled out a few Dunkin’ Donuts napkins to read them from. When he slowly explained how he would sacrificially love Jen like Jesus loved the Church, it felt like holy ground. And I literally took off my shoes to honor that moment.
There wasn’t anything special about the setting. The church’s red carpet was tacky, and the pews were outdated. The auditorium was too big for the crowd. But the wedding inspired a sense of awe that I have rarely felt. It was as if God was walking the aisles saying, “Pay attention. This is love. Open your eyes. This is love.” Even now, as I type this, I can’t quit crying. Jay, if you’re reading, I remember your wedding. I haven’t heard from you in a while, but if you ever wonder how to love Jen better, read your vows and go love her like that.
When Jo and I planned our special day, I always had Jay and Jen’s wedding in mind. We couldn’t spend the cash that they spent, but we owned it. I still ask people, “Wasn’t our wedding the best wedding you’ve ever been to?” I know. Awkward question, right? But I don’t really care about their response, because on my wedding day, even Jo will tell you, I became a new man. I promised to do things differently. And Jay, you were my example. I hope you read these vows, man. And as you read, I pray you remember yours. And maybe, just maybe you’ll be tempted to take off your shoes because your marriage is holy ground.
Two days ago I checked facebook to see if there were any funny things from our first few messages that I could use in our vows. As I scrolled through, I chuckled about how forward I was with you from the get go. In only my second message, I asked you on a date. In my fourth, I asked for your phone number. As soon as you messaged me your digits, the long pages of facebook letters stopped and the 4 hour phone calls began. On July 4, I called you for the first time and kept calling you almost every day afterward. On July 15 we met in person.Then on July 28 a curious message from me appears on facebook, It says, “I love you… and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Now the crazy thing is July 28 wasn’t the first time I had said that. I remember dropping the “L” bomb on July 17, just two days after meeting you in person. And the first time I saw you standing outside your sister’s house, all I could think was, “This is it. This is it.” You’ve heard me tell the story before, and you know that my experience of love at first sight wasn’t based on feelings of butterflies or rainbows. It was based on an instant and unshakeable confidence that I would love you for the rest of my life.
It’s the same today. I’m not marrying you to fill my desire for a romantic high. I’m marrying you because I have confidence that my love for you is more than just emotion. It’s unshakeable commitment. It’s unswerving pursuit. And it’s unwavering affection.
In Ephesians 5:22, Paul writes, “Wives submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife…”
Well, that makes it pretty clear what your role is…
The thing that I want to make sure I don’t leave out is my role… “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word…”
JoAnna, I can’t promise to be perfect like Jesus, but I can promise to love you like Christ loved the Church by doing these things:
Just as Jesus studied the Scriptures while he was on earth, I will study God’s word and pray for a deeper revelation of God’s love.
Just as Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, I will ask the Holy Spirit to teach me in all things and to speak to me, so that I will have the wisdom and the strength to love you deeply, creatively, and consistently.
Just as Jesus washed his disciples feet, I will humble myself and find ways to serve you and meet your basic needs.
Just as Jesus became one of us, I will try to see the world from your point of view.
Just as Jesus laid down his life through crucifixion and torture, I will do the painful things to love you even if it causes me physical or emotional harm.
I will be faithful as God is faithful. I have forsaken all others and my affections will never veer to the right or the left.
I will love you in word and in action.
My love will remain constant for you whether you are rich or poor. Whether you are sick or healthy. Whether you’re crying or laughing. Whether you’re grieving or partying. Whether you’re sinning or doing good. Whether you’re silent or speaking. Whether you’re yelling or whispering. Whether you’re helping or hurting. Whether you’re far away or at my side.
No matter what emotion you display or distance you choose, I will constantly be loving you even when you can’t see it.
I will be a leader worth following, and a husband worth submitting to. I will always have your best at heart.
JoAnna, thirteen days after I met you, I typed on facebook, “I love you… and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” The only thing that’s changed from those words on facebook to this moment is that today I’m making a binding “til death do us part” commitment in front of you and our friends and family. The commitment is summed up by this. “JoAnna, I love you… and today, I choose to spend the rest of my life with you… til death do us part.”