marriage

Our Story, Part 4: The Un-Wedding

So…after all it took to figure out that God was indeed knitting us together as a partnership, we spent a summer falling in love. It was a strange thing, nothing like the other “in-love” episodes I thought I’d had in the past. It was totally different because this time God was doing all the work and we were enjoying Him and each other. The first day of September in 2003, he proposed. It was not super romantic. It was not how I’d always imagined in my dreams…but it was just perfect anyway! We started planning the wedding details for the following May 15th, at the little church where we had met. I found THE dress. We booked THE honeymoon. Things were moving a long nicely. However, there was something else stirring in us at the same time. Something that was not related to the wedding plans or any of that. Since we’d been spending all this time together and talking about what we wanted out of life and what we thought God had called us each to, we’d started to become a little restless. The church where we had met put a huge emphasis on the teaching of scripture and on each person’s individual committment to Christ, which was wonderful for us because we needed both of those things at that time more than anything. But it seemed as if our personal lives in Christ were moving at warp speed, and every day was a new exciting adventure to find out how we would live in this new reality that God had given each of us. We started noticing that there was a whole lot more to this being-a-Christian deal than coming to church every Sunday and not cussin’ anymore. So we started really questioning many of the things that were being said and done in that small fellowship around us, and trying to plug in and do things that we were pretty darn sure that Jesus would have been doing if He found Himself there at that place and time. Without going into a ton of details and creating readable gossip, I will say only this: our efforts to mesh with what we saw Jesus and His followers doing in the bible didn’t go over very well at that particular church. The pastor and elders apparently didn’t appreciate the “new” things we were doing and I guess thought we were rocking the boat a bit too much. So we knew that although this had been a good place for us to begin, it was definitely not where we would stay and grow. We needed a body of believers that were, for lack of a sweeter term, more consistent with what we were learning in the bible. We ended up beginning our search for a new church, and within a short period of time we had found the one. I remember walking into what would become our lovely church family, and the first thing I noticed was a guy right in the middle of the main auditorium who was tattooed completely from his neck down, to the point where I thought he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, but it was a living mural of tattoos all down both arms. That tattooed dude had his hands raised high in worship, and he was thoroughly comfortable in every way. I remember thinking, if that guy can worship here and no one is looking at him as if he’s done something utterly wrong, then I know this is the place for me. There was too much of the gotta-get-cleaned-up-for-the-Lord dogma at the starter church, and this fervent worshipper would have been asked to cover his artwork with a nice button-up shirt. Not here. This was my kind of place.

Now of course that was not the only reason we loved the place, but it was my first memory. We started attending there occasionally and sort of felt like we were “cheating” on our old church. We had planned to keep attending the old church until we got married, then we were going to officially make our move. Unfortunately some other things, more blatant things that disregarded scriptural teachings entirely, cropped up and we decided we could no longer sit under that particular teacher at the old church. So we left. We left quietly without a big dramatic production, and although a few people gave us their blessing, it was clear that we were being treated as “backsliders.” The general feeling was that most people thought we were going to another church so we could bend the rules and not hold so strictly to the laws in the bible. Um…not at all. We were going because we knew that Jesus wanted us to be somewhere with consistently sound biblical teaching and people with servant’s hearts, not to just sit being satisfied with wearing the right clothes and knowing when to say “amen” out loud. We needed more, and that’s just what we got.

Even though we had left on amicable terms and all, it was clear we were a bit on the shunned side. All communication (which was little anyway) about our wedding plans stopped abruptly. We were still scheduled to be married at the old church building and even had one of the members catering for us and everything. Then we found out that construction had been delayed to the summer because of some building inspection issues, which messed everything up for us! Here we had a nonrefundable honeymoon scheduled for May 16th and we weren’t going to have a place to get married on May 15th! I was a bit freaked out to say the least, but we started trying to figure out what we could do. There was no way to book another place within 2 months notice for a wedding, nor did we really have the money to do so. We decided to go ahead and get married in a small ceremony and move the “big” wedding to the fall, when the church construction was sure to be finished. That would allow us to be “legal” to go on our honeymoon, but allow us to still have the big wedding celebration with all of our loved ones. That’s just what we did, and we began our married, blissful life together, and we still had the big ceremony to look forward to.

Until…we found out some bad news. Actually we found it out in a roundabout way, because no one bothered to mention it to us directly. Even though the church construction had already been delayed several months, the ceremony we had planned was for late September, and the church STILL wasn’t finished. So after basically demanding to see the inside of the church (because people were still telling us not to worry, because it “should” be done in time) I went in and saw a shell of a building with no drywall or flooring. The ceremony was in 2 weeks. There was no way it could be done. By this time I was pretty livid, and there were some other things that ensued in conversations with the starter church’s staff that really lit me up. The impression I got was that since we had left that fellowship, no one felt the need to communicate with us about the fact that our wedding ceremony wasn’t happening there. Talk about feeling unimportant. So basically I had to draft a postcard that said something to the effect of “We were looking forward to celebrating it with all of you at the ceremony on September 25th. However, due to circumstances beyond our control with the location of the ceremony, it will have to be canceled. Although we are disappointed that we won’t get to share this special day with you, please know that we are happily enjoying our first few months of marriage.” Nice. Even though we tried to word it so that people wouldn’t think we had split up, we still got some phone calls from concerned friends and family. I don’t know how many times I had to say “no, really, we are fine…great, actually” and stumble around an explanation that wouldn’t end in me bad-mouthing the people the I felt had done us wrong.

For a while I was mad. Even a little bit bitter. I mean, how do you take someone’s most important life event and not even bother to communicate the issues that would certainly affect it? I wonder if any of them ever feel the least bit bad about screwing us over to the point where we had to actually cancel our ceremony. I never walked down the aisle. I never held my bouquet, which I made myself and had been safely stored away for it’s big day. I never got to cut the cake and wonder if Todd was going to smash it in my face for the world to witness (he SO would have, by the way!) My niece never got to adorn the aisle with flower petals. I never even got to wear my dress. THE dress. Sigh.

But even though I never had the chance to have my princess wedding day, the fact is that I still got married. And in fact, the marriage is the most important part, not the wedding. I’ve come to realize that too many people put a lot of emphasis on their wedding, but don’t put much thought into their marriage. So when it comes down to it, I can see that we focus on the marriage and not so much on the wedding (or the un-wedding, as it came to be) and even though I never got to be a princess for a day, I most definitely, undeniably, am living happily ever after with my prince.   🙂

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