One of the fun little perks of being me is that from time to time I get to officiate someone's wedding. This is always a great privilege because I get to be a piece of the biggest day of two people's lives together. It's also awesome because I get the best seat at the wedding, I'm literally just a few inches from the bride and groom, so I get to experience every nervous laugh, every little smile, and always..... the trembling hands of the couple as they stand before everyone they know and make a lifelong commitment to one another.
In my limited experience I have learned that no wedding goes off without some little hitch. Whether it's a crazy photographer, a frightened flower girl, or a fainting bridesmaid, something will go wrong. Usually it has something to do with the unity candle. In case you're planning a wedding, make sure the wedding couple can get the candles out of the candlabra, take into account their hands maybe be very sweaty during the ceremony, who can blame them, it's a big day.
This leads me to my favorite moment of 2013. I was officiating a wedding for my friends Brian and Katelyn Hawes. It was an outdoor wedding on a beautiful afternoon in September at Martha's Vinyard. Everyone looked great, the weather was perfect, the photographer was certainly weird, basically a perfect wedding. In the middle of the ceremony I'm waxing poetic about the gravity of a wedding and the role of the guests and the attendants. A quaint lighthouse serves as the perfect backdrop as everyone in the audience watches the momentous occasion. Suddenly their erupts a loud noise. A leaf blower has just been put into action by a man next door to the hotel. It's insanely loud. I quickly determine that I can't talk loudly enough to drown it out, so I slowly turn my head and stare at the dude wih the leaf blower. Amazingly, he sees me (and presumably the entire wedding scene).
He waves back.
Repeat, he waves back!
Clearly this guy has zero sense of how loud his blower is or he's the most socially ignorant person in Massachusetts. At this point I laugh....loudly. I look at the bride and groom, they are laughing, the crowd is laughing, and thankfully a nice woman from the wedding runs across the lawn to inform the committed lawn technician that he was ruining everything. He realized his error immediately and graciously stopped with the high powered leaf reorganization.
After this incident all the tension of the wedding was gone, and everyone was very loose and relaxed. This is what set up my favorite spiritual insight of 2013. We came to the reading of the scripture and I was tasked with reading selections that both the bride and groom had chosen. Katelyn, the bride, chose 1 Corinthians 13. This passage is probably the most commonly used wedding scripture, and for good reason, it is perhaps the most perfect piece of writing on the topic of love ever penned. While this passage is not specifically about marriage, it is perfectly appropriate for a wedding. Check it out:
"1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
I've read this passage hundreds of times, and I've heard it read at at least 50 weddings. However, in the act of reading it, standing in front of 100 people, with 2 people who had asked me to participate in their wedding standing a mere foot away from me, I had a moment. Something in the passage jumped out and grabbed me. So much so, that I had to pause, stop myself from getting choked up, and keep reading. It was near the end, in verse twelve. After reading the previous eleven verses about the patience, kindness, self-sacrifice and power of love I was blindsided by this:
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."
It hit me that in the future (heaven or after I die) I will understand the depth of this love far more than I do now. Not the love I have for my wife, but rather the love that God has for us. I can talk about love now, but it is only as though looking into a really bad mirror. A mirror from the first century. I'm sure mirrors were pretty low quality back then, and it was difficult to really understand what you looked like while looking into one. That is how much I understand God right now. Like looking in a crappy mirror. But in the future it will be crystal clear. Now I only know a little, but then I will know it all, I will fully grasp how excited God is about us, and I will understand how well He knows me. Right now, we only have part of the story, then we will have the full detail. As a curious person, I am really excited to know the details. I'm also excited to know fully, beyond any reasonable doubt. Too often in this world I feel like I'm looking at God through a hazy window. All the horror, tragedy, death and tears make it difficult to see God for who He really is, and frankly I'm looking forward to getting a clear picture without any smudges or misconceptions to muddy the picture. While I'm sure God already knows me fully, I'm also sure I don't fully grasp the depth of that knowledge. In God's kingdom, we will understand how thoroughly he knows, and LOVES, us. It's enough to make one pause, even in front of a bunch of people at an inopportune time.