Love has always intrigued me as one of those divine aspects of life that is both fleeting and permanent, fragile and strong. For thousands of years Poets and philosophers have tried to define it, but to no avail. You can’t speak about love and get it just right. You have to see it in action to really know what it is.
Which is why I can appreciate the spectacle of a fine wedding.
I’m sitting in a church pew on a bright Sunday afternoon looking very James Bondish in a suit and tie. Because what I expect to see in the next fifteen minutes or so is not just a marriage ceremony, not just candles and pretty music and maids all in a row, but true love made visible.
The groom stands at the front of the church, hands folded in front of his cummerbund. He is not nervous, this man. There are no pre-wedding jitters or thoughts of a quick escape through the side door. No, he knows exactly what he’s doing. Not marrying this woman never crossed his mind.
The organist launches into a fevered rendition of “Here Comes the Bride,” and the gathered stand and turn to face the opening doors. A beaming bride and her proud father make their way down the aisle.
Hand in hand. Not just out of love, but out of necessity.
The father passes off his princess to her prince, and the two stand facing one another. I’m sure they have spent many moments over the past weeks staring into each other’s eyes, wrestling in their own way with the prospect of this moment. And though they are surrounded by God and a few hundred friends and family, I can tell that to them no one else exists. The world has been shut out and the door barred.
There is just them and nothing else. For now, anyway.
The preacher begins the standard reading of 1 Corinthians 13. I wonder how many times I’ve heard that scripture read. How many times those words have skidded over the surface of my heart but not really plunged to its core.
Love is patient, love is kind…
They’ve known one another for about four years now, this bride and groom. About a year and a half ago over a nice dinner picnic in the park, he pulled out a diamond ring along with the potato salad. Marry me, he asked. Yes! she answered.
…love does not brag and is not arrogant…
That their love was pure and true was unquestioned. God had crafted them as the only two pieces of a beautiful puzzle. It was cliché, yes, but true—they completed one another.
Both knew they didn’t deserve such happiness. But both praised God daily for allowing them to have it. And now that they had found each other, they would be together always.
…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things…
When you’re in love, everything seems possible. There are no sudden bends in the road ahead, no ruts to fall into. There are only clear paths and sunny skies. Whatever darkness your life was under is now bathed in sunny skies.
And it’s true. Everything is possible.
Not just the good. The bad, too.
When the bride began suffering headaches a few months ago, the doctors told her it was likely migraines. Don’t worry, they said. Just the stress of planning a wedding. When they continued despite medication, tests were ordered. Don’t worry, they said. Just a precaution.
She worried anyway. Her fiancée did what any man would do for the woman he loves. He comforted her, held her, and told her everything would be okay. After all, their love was meant to be. He busied her with thoughts of caterers and flowers, but he busied himself with that same worry.
A few days later, they both sat numb as the doctor informed her of the cancer eating away her brain.
…endures all things…
After the tears and the confusion and the silence, the two talked. How could this be? How can God let this happen? What can we do now?
They had no answer to those first two questions, but they knew what to do about the third. They would marry. They would celebrate their lives together as long as they could. Their love would endure.
It must. Because as I watch them staring into one another’s eyes, my attention returns to the words of the preacher. He is finishing his scripture reading, and I whisper to myself the last three words he speaks to them:
“Love never fails…”
Here this bride and groom stand, in front of God and two hundred people, testifying to those three words. They are true love made manifest. And we are all witnesses.
And now, so are you.