"Oh, I dread going to weddings," said a friend of mine this morning when I told him I was going to a wedding tonight in Dallas.
Not his thing. I explained that this was the wedding of a former student, a student I had coached, a student who has shown great kindness to my children, a student whose parents have befriended my wife and me and blessed us beyond what I understand or know. He ribbed me for going to the wedding for any of these reasons, as if I were going out of some sense of duty or obligation.
But it wasn't this. Jenna was one of my favorite students, one of my favorite players. She has grown into a remarkable young woman. I respect and admire her great character and her zeal for Christ, his people and his kingdom. No, I don't know Blake--the future husband-to-be--very well, but he is currently a colleague of mine and the more I'm around him, the more I like him. In truth, I'm honored that she and Blake and their families would invite my family and me to be their guests at their great wedding celebration. Why wouldn't I go?
Not Your Ordinary Wedding Ceremony
The wedding started well, yet was fairly typical. Though this was the case, I will say the officiating pastor (a friend of mine and a former colleague) was fresh in his presentation of the gospel and the fact that God performed the first wedding ceremony in the Garden of Eden. In addition, his friendship with the bride and her family made the ceremony personal.
But things didn't stay "typical"--at least for me--for very long. The pastor explained that Jenna and Blake were going to wash each other's feet as a sign of their future service to one another as husband and wife.
To be honest, I squirmed as the maid of honor and the best man pulled up a chair and basin for this ceremonial act. I thought, "This is going to be awkward... for everyone."
This couldn't be further from the truth. Watching Blake bend down and work off Jenna's cowboy boots (YES! COWBOY BOOTS! Surprise to everyone, Blake included--yet he didn't show it); watching Blake gently take each of her feet into his hands; watching him wash away the sweat and, no doubt, the strain of the day, with a cloth; watching him work with dignity and honor and humility; watching him show a sincere heart of true love and desire to serve this woman--all this was remarkable.
Then it was Jenna's turn. Blake took a seat and Jenna got down on her knees and did the same for him. I really can't describe the scene, nor what I felt. I was floored, metaphorically (obviously), but I literally wanted to cry out in un-utterable wonder.
I did take the picture above, and perhaps it captures the emotion of the moment... but I'm not sure it does. I'm fairly certain I can't quite put into words the sense and feel of the sight. Seeing a groom demonstrate his love with all humility and dignity of service, seeing a bride kneel and take no concern for the propriety of her dress or her person... ah, this was truly one of the most amazing and wonderful things I've ever seen.
Indeed, watching this bride and groom serve each other in such a personal way turned out to be anything but awkward. How wrong I was. Spectacularly so. No. It was as if we as witnesses and congregation were participating in the service they rendered each other. It wasn't communion, for no food was consumed and no sacred words of rite spoken. But it WAS communal. Maybe that's the best word to describe the time: communal.
It was moving, and I mean that in much more than just the rapture in my chest as I watched it occur. I have little doubt that those of us in attendance, those of us really seeing what was being done and shown, are refreshed, renewed and likely changed. This, after all, what weddings and symbolic acts can do.