God bless the broken roads

You may remember from my last post, “Wedding Woes”,  that there were some detail challenges at the rehearsal the previous evening. For instance, I mentioned that there were a couple of bridesmaid no-shows.  I knew the Matron of Honor was among the missing.  I realized later that Lori was the bride’s identical twin sister. She and the bride had exchanged some stinging insults months before. Apparently, they historically had competed for their parents’ financial support.  Not showing up at rehearsal was Lori’s “nana nana boo boo”. To end the argument once and for all, the bride was paying for this wedding herself. Lori didn’t know that until the morning of the ceremony. I guess, in Lori’s mind, she had won. I’m not so sure.

When I arrived at the barn, I was caught off guard by the ambiance. Unlike other rustic venues, this place was smaller.  It had been decorated with simple strings of white lights.  Had I seen something similar on Pinterest? I immediately checked in with the bride.  I wanted to gauge her pre-wedding vibe. In the over-sized pantry converted into dressing room, she was fanning herself, trying not to melt. Let me just say; Rose was stunning.  She looked as if she had stepped out of a bridal magazine.  Standing there, she was in full bloom, a “Great Maiden’s Blush”. If you don’t know, that is a very old rose, a European antique, an old soul, one that blooms best on the darkest pathways of the pine grove.

Even under the circumstances, Rose was calm and collected. Unfortunately, her mother kept smothering her, begging for one more hug. Her tears were leaving make up smudges on the bride’s white gown. So, after taking one more picture, the photographer found something for the mother of the bride to do.

Meanwhile, I found a bridesmaid who was willing to be the ceremony’s detail manager.  She would signal me from the back of the room, as the wedding party lined up.  We worked out hand gestures for different scenarios.   I felt like a catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Thumbs up meant that everyone was ready.  A cutting throat to me and the DJ was “Stop the music. We need more time”.  Praying hands meant, “danger, danger, everybody take cover. Something is about to blow”.

At the last minute, two more children under the age of 7 were added to the processional.  Remember the baby who would be pulled in a wagon down the aisle by a flower girl?  She was screaming. Thankfully, the DJ had plenty of elevator music to play as he stalled.  With everyone else seated, we had to wait for grandmothers on both sides of the new family to arrive.

Forty-five minutes late, the music started. I got a “thumbs up” from the back. All bridesmaids, including the matron of honor, processed down the aisle.  Then, the ring bearer walked, holding the hand of one of the flower girls.  Next, another flower girl started pulling the well-decorated wagon.  Someone had built a small throne for the wagon, covered with a soft white blanket.  She was strapped in with a seat belt, and she cooed from her chariot. Two other children came down the aisle and stood like mannequins in place.

Then the music shifted.  Before the bride turned to walk down the aisle, she paused.  I couldn’t judge her father’s sobriety from my point of view. He was quiet, yet upright. That pause caused us all to focus on the first few bars of the music she had chosen for her entrance.  Remember my last post?  “God Bless the Broken Road” was playing. Could that song have been any more fitting?

Now, as a seasoned wedding officiant, I smile widely, projecting calm. Through winks and nods, I assure the wedding party that I’ve got this.  They can relax.  I am there for them.

When the music started, I looked at the bridesmaids and groomsmen, nodding.  I winked at the mother of the bride.  I acknowledged the groom’s family.  I looked at the groom.  When he saw his bride for the first time, he sobbed.  Ugly crying is not something any bride or groom intends. Yet, he couldn’t contain himself. When he walked to the first row to shake hands with her father, he pulled it together.  He offered his left arm to his bride with strength and respect.  His father stepped back. When he did that, the bride lost it.  The groom started crying again.

I couldn’t read their blubbering. I didn’t want to embarrass them, nor quiet them.  So, I waited for a minute.  I handed them tissues I kept up my sleeve.  In my heart of hearts, I just kept praying, “God bless the broken road that leads them back to you”.

The bride and groom are now married.  They received gifts, greeted family members, and ate wedding cake.  I signed the marriage certificate and hugged my new friends. Someday I will tell those two again what a privilege it was to officiate their wedding.  That day, they gave me a gift. They reminded me what an honor it is to bless broken roads.  Ultimately, that’s a huge part of what I am called to do as a pastor. I am grateful for such an intimate vocation and those who ask me to be there. I am being church in a different way.

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