Of Weddings and True Community

Today, say the authors of Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding, "the lavish wedding allows participants to experience unabashed magic in their lives, and to spend freely to achieve that magic, without a guilt hangover the next morning." The question here is: do you really want to spend over $50,000 for your special day, when you can't really afford it, making you pay off debt for years to come...

~snippet from the website http://www.yourdreamwedding.com/

My Hannah and her Justin became engaged on November 8, 2008. We are thrilled, and we gave them our unqualified blessing.

Instantly, every latent joy and insecurity that has ever floated around in my head, lo' these last 21 years, came clamouring to the front of the line, shouting and waving, demanding my full attention. The word "deserve" was what was being loudly bandied about, by competing insecurities: this daughter of mine "deserves" the best.

So she does. Without question. And doesn't grace give us "better than we deserve"?

My first dream for both my daughters was that they walk with the Lord. God, and God alone, has given me my heart's desire. I had nothing to do with it. My very next dream was that they each marry a true man of God. I am watching that take place before my very eyes, and it is good.

But here is where things begin to get sticky. As a family who has always managed on one income, always blessed, but never "comfortable" financially speaking, I didn't realize how deeply I feared being unable to provide the sort of wedding every girl (and her mother) dreams of, and what every Godly, parent-honoring daughter "deserves".

Enter the body of Christ.

I was looking at every way we could possibly afford to do this all by ourselves, so that our whole church could simply attend the wedding and reception, and enjoy it. We could have done exactly that. We could have utilized our credit card, with its roomy, more than adequate amount of available credit, and we could have paid a few strangers to do all the work for us. We could have done it ourselves in cash, by reducing it all to the simplest terms possible, still asking very little of anyone else in Harvest. We wanted them to be able to "just enjoy" the event. That was our heart… but our hearts can be deceiving. They can be preening (overly conscious of what others think), or cultural (overly conscious of “how it is always done”), or simply non-artistic and uncreative. I don’t pretend to even KNOW my own heart completely. I am still surprising myself with what I find there.

I could not figure out why there was no peace in the "do it ourselves" plan. I could not get my brain to function in the direction of cultural norms. I found myself longing to have the sort of false affluence that could pay for a few flashy bells and whistles; all the while knowing that I am rich, in a few ways money can buy, and rich in all ways that money cannot buy.

My definitions of affluence, peace, and happiness are being re-worked completely. Transition tends to do that to a woman. Tim and I both function from a place of deep conviction. We know in Whom we have believed, and it touches every aspect of our lives. This wedding, along with all the transition in our family, and some of the conflict with our sons, their character training, and their college education - it all has forced me to look at what I really think about personal peace, affluence, and happiness.

So we acknowledged our wedding ineptitude, and our dilemma. Instantly, the body of Christ lovingly rallied - not out of any sense of obligation, but with a sense of celebration! Folks, we have ourselves an official Scottish Penny Wedding in the works!

There is peace in this plan. And the more I consider it, the more I realize: weddings (all celebrations, really) are meant for the church. They ARE the church. All of human history will culminate in a celestial wedding.

A wedding was never meant to be some cultural thing, a parade of false affluence, followed by divorce in a few years. They are not meant to be an event with jobs hired out to various bidders, and where paid "professionals" set the agenda. And here I am….a Bible teacher….I’ve taught this stuff. I've taught that every Godly celebration consists of two ingredients: 1) Remembering, and 2) Honoring

I was forgetting my own learning. Don’t we all???

Remembering. Honoring. That’s it. Search your Scriptures and see if this is not true. The manner in which a family remembers and honors is up to them….but the Atchleys cannot separate themselves from the Body of Christ at Harvest. We are them, and they are us, in a way.

Deep down, I guess neither Hannah nor I could actually conceive of a celebration that wasn’t a community thing. We couldn't make the attempt to impress our church family - we long too much to be loved by them.

We thought we were operating “in community” because we were planning on having a dear, life long friend bake the cake and cupcakes, and and another life long friend take the pictures, and one of our precious men do the videography. We thought that was community enough. But apparently, community means COM (with) UNITY (togetherness, unity)…showing the watching world how the family of God celebrates, as each one brings a part, and all who want to be a part, can be an integral, needed part.

No one will be patronized during this event. The need is sincere, and so is the gratitude. Hannah and I are to TRUST the body of Christ with all of it.

This feels vulnerable and humbling. Isn’t that wonderful? Lately, I can never get out of that place. I'm beginning to believe I don't want out.

God is teaching me, down into my depths. As usual, I promise to be very transparent about it, and communicate my way through the whole experience.
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