It was a rainy Saturday morning—disguised in the commonplace—ripped jeans, cozy sweatshirts, our favorite pizza joint and a crack at the new Back to the Future video game. These were our textures, and from the surface, it all seemed common enough, but this rainy Saturday morning was marked in the eternal–illuminating our stories, their point of intersection, raising us each up into our created purposes.
It was so close to the end… or was it just the beginning. It was the last Saturday we would spend together. I had no idea what was coming, but God did.
We turned off the Back to the Future video game we had been playing, hunger taking over, but before leaving to go get pizza, I began to talk about weddings… venting about weddings actually.
I had been to a bridesmaid event for my friend’s wedding the previous evening and all the wedding talk had me in full anxiety mode. I had heard my share of wedding horror stories, tales of stress and fights and debt and disaster that had painted the whole thing a black and daunting hue for me. I wanted to get married, I just wanted somehow to not become the victim of the tyrannical wedding industry beast in the process.
I was on a diatribe about the costs of centerpieces when I stopped myself and apologized to Ethan for getting so worked up over someone else’s choices, but felt it only fair to inform him that I had no interest in some big show-stopping wedding. At this point in the relationship we often talked about marriage, so it didn’t feel at all strange when I caught myself and said, “unless of course you want a big wedding, Ethan. I can go big if that’s what you want.”
He was silent for a beat as he tucked an arm behind me, pulling me in close, his contours fitting mine so well. I leaned in and tilted my face up toward him and asked, “what do you want, Ethan?”
“I want you,” he said.
His answer made my head swim. I kissed him, implying that the sentiment was very mutual.
Eventually we left to go get Pizza. On the car ride there, as the windshield wipers cleared away each new coat of rain drops, I finally got ahold of my senses and suddenly it dawned on me. A wedding isn’t about showing off, its something so much more than that, it is meant to stir anticipation for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. For many years I had felt something so distinctly personal about that scene in Scripture when the Messiah would sit down to feast with His new bride, dressed in white, adorned for her husband. I remember then that I wanted to know the metaphor of marriage for myself so as to know more of God’s heart. What had I been doing, being so horribly double-minded and ruled by fear? I knew, somehow, I was made to be a living, breathing metaphor of The Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
Ethan broke the silence with a mischievous tone when he asked “So…you wanna elope?” he asked, taking my hand and flashing a quarter smile my way.
I smiled at him, “yes,” I said, “I really, really do… But I can’t. And I can’t for one reason only.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I think a wedding feast is one of the most powerful ways I have ever dreamed of sharing God’s heart and His truth with others. I was just remembering how important the imagery of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is. I want to know it for myself, to see it through His eyes. It’s the only reason I think I need a wedding.”
That was not the first time Ethan had suggested eloping, but it was the first time I had given a serious answer.
“Hmm…” Ethan hummed as he pursed his lips and nodded, considering this. Then he got this far off look in his eyes and after several moments he said, “I think a funeral is also a powerful way to communicate the gospel.”
It sounded like a statement from out of left field, but I knew that it wasn’t–not for Ethan. He had been to a funeral a couple of weeks prior and the experience had opened something in him, someplace good that God was speaking into–I could tell. We had had a couple of rich conversations already that week about the new heaven and the new earth, about funerals and grief and God in it all. These conversations were never depressing, they were a place of obvious wonder and delight between Ethan and God. And I loved that they often invited me into that space, allowing me to share it with them.
“Yes, I suppose thats true.” I said as we pulled into the pizza place and climbed out to share our favorite meal together for the last time.
I hold this conversation in a secret pocket, tucked into my heart. I pull it out often and look at it, examining it from every side. It is difficult and beautiful.
It’s easy to feel regret, to wish I had never been anxious over weddings, to wish I had simply said, “yes let’s elope today, let’s not waste one more moment apart”—at least then I would have known three whole days as man and wife. I would have finally known him fully and loved him fully without the boundaries and barriers of dating. If I would have said yes, I could have grieved as a widow instead of dancing around the awkwardness of the cast-off title of girlfriend. But when it comes down to it, I don’t regret anything because I know God was speaking and I never regret listening to him.
It really confused me at first that God chose a funeral over a wedding for us. What kind of love would willfully exchange celebration for seemingly pointless grief. I’ve tried to reason with God, rationalizing that when given the choice between a wedding or a funeral, always go with wedding first, the funeral can come later. But that’s me thinking small, in my limited, human way. I’ve come to know better over the last year and a half. None of this is pointless and God can do things in any order he wants. God will never waste the life of one of his children—He knows exactly how to write the best stories. And He loves me too much to wonder if He’d short change me.
I know He was there that day with us in Ethan’s car, the Holy Spirit was speaking purpose and story and future to us. He was there in the conversation and in the rain that Saturday morning, weaving us together in ways no one would see coming.