“Two are better than one.”
The woman reading scripture reads the well-known passage from Ecclesiastes with a clear voice.
“If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”
Hundreds of ceremonies through the years have used this same passage – but every time it is unique to the couple who stands before God and others, solemnly beginning a brave journey.
It is my husband’s niece, Jamie, who is getting married. Jamie who we have watched grow from tiny person to grown woman, a leader wherever she goes. In recent years our times with this side of the family have become more fun, more frequent, and more precious. When we found out Jamie was getting married we were determined to come and to urge as many of our children as possible to come. The last time we were all together like this was at my son Micah’s wedding in Chicago.
I look around and cousins are everywhere. The first meeting happens in the parking lot where we arrive at the same time as some of the cousins. The screams and hugs begin. Cousins…so much you don’t know about your cousins, yet you know you belong together.
We’re gathered together at a beautiful plantation built in the 1900s and the day is clear, beautiful blue sky overhead and colors that make a photographer’s work easy.
Like pieces of a puzzle, we’re here and in some strange way that only a master Jigsaw puzzle maker could create, we fit. Only a couple missing pieces – an amazing feat for a family this size. Grandma and Grandpa with their well-earned wrinkles mingle with the young and beautiful who boast tight skin and muscles. Those of us middle to later-aged women are still able to hide many wrinkles with good make up and happy smiles, knowing our time is coming when the wrinkles cannot hide. Yet here we are unafraid, because it all fits in this circle of life.
The hugging continues in the foyer of the building and conversations come fast and easy. People are introduced to significant others and the catching up with our lives begins. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Calvin and Susan, come to greet all of us, amazingly calm and beautiful.
Slowly we make our way to the lawn that slopes down to a small lake. A massive tree sets the stage for the bride and groom, God’s landscape.
And then we wait.
Jamie is beautiful and composed through a few tears as she walks down the pathway to Justin. They are young and lovely and full of hope, and it makes all of us full of hope as well.
In this imperfect family today feels perfect.
Make no mistake, some of these relationships have been forged with blood, tears, and repentance. Others have come easier and more naturally. But that’s family and life is too short to not cherish each other. Through it all we are too fortunate.
The verses from Ecclesiastes seem not only for the couple, but for the extended family. You can’t do this thing called marriage very well without family. Somehow the times when you’re ready to give it all up, you realize that it’s too important, too sacred, there is too much to lose. And then life gets better and, like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, you are so glad you continued to brave the journey.
The bride and groom begin their life together with communion – bread & wine, the body and blood of Christ, a reminder of what their union will represent.
And then the solemn is over and the party begins. It is as joyous and loud as the ceremony was beautiful and quiet. “You’re all dancing fools!” says my mother-in-law, but she’s right in there with us.
We live in an age where relationships end like they are candy, gone when the sweet is over. Gathered together we rejoice in the hope this couple symbolizes, we are grateful for the longevity of the marriages of so many in the crowd. We realize that we are indeed, too fortunate.
Legs aching and hearts full, the party ends. There will still be celebrations in the next couple days, times to get together before heading out to all parts of the country, but for now we blow bubbles into the air. Clear and perfect they go up, up, up until finally they disappear in the blue sky.
As we drive away, the last words of the passage in Ecclesiastes goes through my head: “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
Congratulations Jamie and Justin – you remind us that we are too fortunate and give us hope to continue the brave journey.