This weekend we head to Johnson City (my hometown) for our oldest daughter’s wedding. I know what some of you are thinking – I’m not old enough to have a daughter getting married. Technically, I am. But this daughter is one born of my heart, not my body. At the tender age of 24, I married David, who had 2 small children. Ashley was 7. Most marriages signify hope, the creation of a family, the fulfillment of life-long dreams. For the children, ours was by its very nature the opposite. The ceremony itself marked the finality that their original family would never be again. Although the four of us embarked on a new chapter in life, it was one that would be cobbled together with broken, damaged lives.
Our early years were turbulent at best. I always feel a twinge of sadness when I hear the term “newlywed bliss”. Those words never applied in our home. We tried our best to stumble through life and look like everyone else. For the most part, we pulled it off. We looked like other families who seemed to have it all together – with soccer games, church picnics, trips to the beach, and smiling Christmas cards. But we all knew that we were different and longed for the “normal” family that everyone else had. It was not until years later that we grew to understand that we were not so different after all.
We’ve experienced much together in the last 17 years… a move to Charlotte right after we were married, the loss of 1 and birth of 3 more children, my early “retirement” from corporate America, the death of both of David’s parents, David’s losing his job and getting one a year later – (which was actually a good thing, not a bad one), all the while making the ongoing choice to hang in there and be “for” each other. Sounds easier than it was (and is), but you know that.
Somewhere along the line, we slowly began to learn that not only was love a choice, but that it had an unexpected cost. The more we understood and chose to lay down our shields of protection, unspoken demands that the other “come through”, and expectations of what life was supposed to look like, a strange thing began to happen. As we began to shift our allegiances from self to other, we became freer. Less energy was required to demand of the other, so more was available to give. Freedom, grace, and genuine laughter were more bountiful in our home. Our “newlywed bliss” came 15 years later. Well worth the cost. And the wait. True, abundant life really is available when we are willing to lay down our life on behalf of another.
Now Ashley is 24 and the bride, not the flower girl. This time, we’re embarking on a wedding ceremony of a different kind. Yes, we’ve learned that all families are actually cobbled together with broken, damaged lives. But the story doesn’t end there. It’s just beginning. As we’ve watched the Lord’s hand in our marriage and family, we have a glimpse of what is to come for Andy and Ashley. As they are married in the same church where we were married, their wedding is a living testimony that God does indeed resurrect, heal, grow, redeem, and bless His children. We have been given a small taste of “how wide and long and deep and high is the love of Christ”.
And by the way, not many people can say that they are the mother of the bride, flower girl, ring bearer, groomsman, and pianist. I am richly blessed.