Saturday afternoon found me in the back pew of a church, along with a nervous wife, a rather large duffel bag full of camera lenses, and Jimmy.
My wife was once an accomplished photographer. Weddings, reunions, senior pictures, and whatnot. And though she continues to snap a few pictures (see both my profile and header shots), two children, one semi-adolescent husband, and a teaching career now take up most of her time. But when a friend called and wanted to know if my wife would be willing to shoot her wedding, she said yes. Absolutely.
I usually accompany my wife on this sort of adventure. She says she needed me there for support and guidance, but in reality all I was good for was watching over her camera bag and putting whatever film she tossed me into my pocket for safe keeping.
Not that I minded. I was glad she thought she needed me there, even if she didn’t. Because weddings were nice. Lots of joy and love. Lots of promise and hope. Just the sort of things this world needed more of these days.
I was sitting in the back pew just before the service began when an elderly man in a navy blue suit sidled up and stuck out a hand.
“How ya doin’, buddy?” he asked.
“Just fine, sir. You?”
“Well, I’ll be better once I get outta this monkey suit an’ into a can of Copenhagen. You don’t have any Copenhagen on ya, son?”
“Sorry,” I smiled. “Left it in the truck.”
“Ah,” he waved, “don’t need the stuff anyways. Least that’s what my wife says. Name’s Jimmy.”
“Nice to meet you, Jimmy. I’m Billy.”
He sat down beside me and fidgeted with his tie. “Never could get used to these things,” he said. “Always felt like I was hangin’ myself. You here for the groom or the bride?”
“Neither,” I said. “I’m here for the photographer. You?”
“Either/or, I reckon. Knowed ‘em all my life. They’re good kids, the both of ‘em.”
“They sure are. Love each other, too.”
“Yep,” Jimmy said. “No doubt about that. That’s why they’re here, huh?”
“I’d imagine so,” I agreed.
“Seen a lotta fellas and their gals get married in this church. They all loved each other, every one. Course, lot of ‘em aren’t married anymore.”
I nodded. “Happens a lot these days, doesn’t it?”
“Too much, son. Too much. Know why?”
“’Cause they think what they felt on their wedding day is what they’d always feel. That love conquers all.”
“Love doesn’t conquer all?” I asked.
Jimmy shook his head and smiled. “Nah. It covers a multitude of sins, the Book says. And it’s sure enough greater than faith an’ hope put together. But since I’ve seen plenty of things that conquered love, I can’t say love conquers all.”
“What’d you see conquer love?”
“Well,” he sighed. “Time, for one. And selfishness. Sin. Anger.”
“Guess you’re right,” I said.
“Wish I weren’t, son.”
“So how do some people stay together and other people drift apart?”
Jimmy thought a bit then said, “Yesterday I was out mowin’ the yard and I saw that my wife’s lilies had bloomed. She loves her lilies, you know. So I bent down and snapped a few off, put ‘em in a mason jar, and sat the whole thing on the kitchen table for her. Got a peck on the cheek for my trouble, too.”
“But this morning when we got up, those flowers were already starting to wilt. Know why?”
“No root. They had water and sunshine, but they couldn’t live long without their roots. Something to dig deep into and hang on against the wind and the rain. Those people who walked outta here man and wife but ain’t no longer? They had sunshine and water, too. But they didn’t have any roots. And when the winds and rains came, they just wilted and died.”
“Roots. Two people can love each other, but that ain’t enough. Not in this world. But two people who love each other and love God? Son, that’s enough and then some. You both dig deep into Him and the storms might shake you, but they can never kill you. Understand?”
Jimmy looked at his watch and smiled. “Well, looks like things are ‘bout ready to start. Nice to meet you, Billy. You seem like a good guy.”
“And you seem to know what you’re talking about, Jimmy.”
He rose and laughed. “I’d better,” he said. “I’m the one marryin’ ‘em.”