"Mom, dad, Jordan and I want to get married here." The "here" being my parents house. A traditional red brick, English-esq home planted on two acres of land in quaint Lebanon, Ohio. The picture was complete with a white-pillar-porch and spacious deck off the back. My dad had bought the land and built the house. While it was still being built, I remember my whole family of four crowding on a few mattresses on the floor and sleeping in the unfinished home because we just couldn't wait.
Our little plot was surrounded by seemingly endless forest and fields for my younger brother and I to explore and romp in. During the summer, our daylight (and sometimes nightlight) hours were spent in those trees or at the YMCA pool--just a bike ride away. Horses stayed in the pastures right behind our yard and, as a little girl, I would watch them from my bedroom window.
As a twenty something, engaged and starry eyed for my future, I looked out to the backyard and saw the perfect aisle to walk down with my daddy: it lead to the bike trail which we always ran on and was built with his own hands and creativity. Just pea gravel and some cobblestone siding, but I wanted to be married on it. I wanted to walk down that pea gravel path with my daddy, barefoot, like all my years as a little girl, one last time before walking into a new life with my new, wonderful husband.
With much excitement (and albeit a little dread), my parents worked to make my dream come true. In just three short months, our backyard transformed into a place of Tinnin-beauty. With new landscape beds and flowers, uniquely-hewn rocks my dad had picked up from who knows where, archways (and one formally called a Moongate), and a tent big enough for the circus, my dad made our very own Shire (as we sometimes called our home).
It was with all that beauty, with some extra drapes and fanfare thrown in, surrounded by 250 people whom Jordan and I call near and dear to our hearts, that we walked into marriage.
Having been married only a month, I do not have a wealth of advice to pass on. There are just a few things that I want to share about the American wedding season and what a gift this whole marriage thing is.
The wedding and engagement season is really easy to do poorly. American brides have grown up with both the unreachable fairytale view of their wedding, but also the cynical banging in their ears:
"Thousands of dollars thrown into one day is such a waste."
"Engagement is so pointless. It's just party planning time."
"She only wears that dress once. She should at least consign it after."
Believe me, I was a hater while I was engaged. Engagement was a very tough season for me. Jordan and I were long distance the summer leading up to September 1 and we found it near impossible to prioritize dating while juggling ministry duties, premarital counseling, work, and wedding planning. More than once I thought aloud with Jordan about eloping and going through with the ceremony out of propriety just to be done with the whole thing. (I wasn't entirely serious about eloping...but man it sounded good some days :})
Looking back, of course I see some stresses from the process that could've been done away with. But, overall, I'm overwhelmed by the beauty of my wedding and first month of marriage in a way that I wouldn't trade for anything. It scares me how much of the process I wanted to bypass and how much joy I would've withheld from myself in making that choice.
If Jordan and I would've eloped (again, in a dream world :}), I would've missed a sweet summer with my housemate and dear friend of over a decade, Mindy.
If we would've skimped on the reception, I would've missed the compliments and stories from everyone who attended saying how blessed they were by it.
If I would've gotten my dress from Plato's closet, I would've been told I was beautiful that day, but I might've not felt like I'd always hoped I would on my wedding day without my perfect, lovely dress (that I wish was socially acceptable to wear daily, but it's fine).
If marriage is about covenant, then Jordan and I wanted our covenant to be made in public. We wanted it to be made before everyone who had supported us and mentored us and built us into the man and woman we are today. We've never been ashamed of our love or each other, so why do it in secret and as quickly as possible?
If marriage represents a pure bride marrying Christ, my white dress better have made me look like I was fit to marry a king. Somethings are more important than saving money.
If marriage is a lifelong, no-turning-back-now kind of deal, I wanted it to be birthed in excessive joy and not in fearful solemnity. The joy of the Lord is our strength, we have faith for that to be our fuel.
Jordan and I have both talked about and agreed that we will processing the wedding day for a long, long time. To me, too much was imparted into my spirit to take in in just a day. I think that's how it's supposed to be. When we are met with that much beauty and joy and love, it would be a shame to hold onto it for just as long as it lasted in real time. It's gone too fast. I'm being careful about how I etch it into my memory; careful to mine every hidden gem my young mind and full soul have the capacity to.
I remember the swell of joy when Jordan came to my house a few days before the wedding. I thought to myself, "The wait is over! We are hanging out forever now!" Quite the thought. I remember the peace and wholeness I felt when all my closest friends were in one place, looking beautiful and purposed to bless Jordan and I. I remember how fast the day went. I remember crying on the drive away because I could hardly handle the amount of love I was feeling from all of our friends and family.
I felt beautiful.
I felt safe.
I felt celebrated.
I felt excited.
I felt all of the things you may expect a bride to feel.
But it was maybe two days into marriage and I felt something I didn't expect to feel: I felt disappointment. Disappointment may be too strong of a word...think "absence;" a keen awareness of a hole somewhere inside. Like popping bubble wrap and realizing the last bubble was already deflated. A that-satisfaction-is-meant-for-me-but-I-guess-I-missed-it kind of feeling.
Don't freak out.
I carried that feeling with me--mulling and meditating--until one early morning on the honeymoon, I found myself in John 1.
"In the beginning, the Word already existed.
The Word was with God and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it."
Oh, how many times had my eyes glazed over this passage; Tickled at the poetry but blind to the revelation.
It hit me--it really hit me this time--that nothing has its fullness without Jesus. Nothing is satisfying without the revelation that everything is being gifted by the Spirit of God. No matter, no relationship, no dream, and no person is held together without the breath of God pulsing strength, stability, and wholeness throughout its being.
Jesus light was so blinding to me in that moment because, in my short 23 years on this earth, I had experienced every worldly pleasure I had ever been curious about. Strong friends and community, achievements and accolades, work and rest, beginnings and healthy endings, marriage and sex, beauty and awe.
And it was all hollow in itself.
It was all beautiful in itself, but hollow when experienced without the presence of God.
I can be sitting in my room and God's presence will come over me. I can feel the folds of my soul being upended and reset into a more Christlike pattern and it's clear that running down the aisle with my new husband doesn't even come close to His presence.
What I'm trying to say is that nothing compares to Jesus. Nothing satisfies except Him. Not even marriage, not even sex, nothing.
I hope that's not a disappointing truth for us to hear. I hope it's one of the most freeing. If it's true that Jesus is more satisfying than anything this world can offer (and it is very true), then we are free from an endless pressure to accumulate, experience, and consume. We already have the best thing. Everything else that comes our way in life is either a blessing or something God will turn into a blessing.
And what a blessing marriage is. I've read the books, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, Love & Respect by Eggeriches, Wild at Heart and Captivating, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13, but one of my favorite things said about marriage was by a friend who I met in Israel a little over a year ago. Myself and a few other girls were walking with this wise woman. We were talking about how all we hear about marriage these days is that it's hard and not the fairytale it might seem. I said, "I'm tired of hearing that it's hard. Tell me why it's worth it." I'll never forget what she said next: "Well, I honestly think it's hard for people to talk about how wonderful it is. It's easier to talk about the hard stuff because we have language for that. But something so wonderful as marriage? Who has words for that? Because it is so wonderful. You have a person who is dedicated to encouraging you for your whole life and never leaving you. It's wonderful."
Tim Keller might add that marriage is sanctification.
John Piper might say that marriage depicts the Gospel as perfectly as humans can.
John and Staci Eldredge might say that men and woman were made for each other and help each other become their fullness in their manhood and womanhood.
But this woman called it wonderful. I believe God does too. And I agree with them.
Jordan is wonderful, our life is wonderful, our love is wonderful, and we only have wonderful ahead of us. We've found the best thing: Jesus. And He's given us another best thing: each other.
Random advice to young brides:
1. Get time with your fiancé that isn't wedding planning or future planning. Remember, you guys love each other. Go on dates or do whatever you need to do to show that.
2. Go over the top with saying "thank you" to everyone and cultivating gratefulness--its the only container big enough to hold all the goodness coming your way.
3. Don't move on from your wedding or the wonder of marriage too quickly. Like Mary, hide it away and ponder it all in your heart. Let it birth something new in you.
4. Do whatever the heck you want on your honeymoon. If you wanna sleep for four days after the wedding, it's the time to do it. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail, be my guest.
5. Get time with your families before the wedding. You may not realize the force of tears that come when you move out to be with your husband ( ~ Yours Truly).
6. If you can, visit your families shortly after the honeymoon. Reassure them that you're still their kid.
7. Your guests' only hope for the bride and groom is that they are happy. They don't care about the decorations or the length of the reception. Do what you want and everyone will say how "you" the wedding was.
8. Soak, soak, soak. Mull, meditate, and extrapolate all the truth and beauty out of what it means to be in covenant with another human being. You'll find that you cannot help but be more in awe of Jesus when you realize that He will never leave you or forsake you, He is your best lover, and He gave you your husband so that you might know Him more completely.