My only daughter was married last week to a young Naval officer, a man of honor and virtue, in a beautiful ceremony at our church. The work week before was a bit more hectic than usual, and my immersion in current events as a columnist was particularly depressing in the days leading up to the festivities. As a family, we determined that we would shut the world out as much as possible by staying away from newscasts and the internet for a couple of days. We wanted to immerse ourselves in the moment and celebrate love…
The title of this article, even the scripture it is based on ( 1 Corinthians 13:13) almost seems a bit cliché doesn’t it? The entire concept of “love wins” even seems almost naïve as the world drowns in a sea of animosity, violence, and darkness. Alan Jackson even did a wonderful and inspirational song based on this verse after 9-11. It was a great song. It went platinum. Yet not much has changed in our world since then, except perhaps things are worse. It’s reached a point where one almost begins to doubt that love is greatest or more powerful.
Our festivities began with some decorating of the reception hall and sanctuary on Thursday in preparation for the Saturday ceremony. Though we stayed away from television, radio and as much as possible our smartphones, there was still plenty of buzz about Hillary Clinton and the related James Comey press conference. It was challenging to remain light hearted and happy when one considered this, the latest overt indication of America’s abandonment of the rule of law.
Then that night, family began to pour in from other states and in a rare opportunity, we all went out to eat together. One of my wife’s aunts said something over dinner that stopped me cold. During a moment of quiet at the table she looked around and said, “you guys are so blessed.”
Her simple comment stunned me. Of course my family was blessed, so why had I not been realizing that? Why had her comment seemed like such a revelation to one who prays and thanks God daily?
We were leaving the restaurant in a light mood, joy was taking over again. There was a TV on in the bar. I made the mistake of looking up at it, just for a second. Scenes from Dallas splashed across the screen. The crawler said, eleven police officers had been shot.
Friday was spent finishing the sanctuary decorations and participating in the rehearsal dinner. Everyone tried not to talk about Dallas, or Hillary, or Baton Rouge…but the national mood hung over us, like an unwelcome and uninvited guest.
One can’t escape the bad news. It’s too prolific…disseminated in too many forums. We have actually reached a point where it’s a challenge to get caught up in a vacation, the birth of a child, a wedding, a good joke, without sliding right back in to a dark mood. It’s as if your thoughts immediately go back to “yeah…that was great for a moment but what are we going to do about ISIS or the economy or the attack on religious freedom? And where the heck is the leadership going to come from because I am not seeing much of it now.” You don’t want to think these things in those precious moments, but it’s as if you can’t help yourself.
As I sat down the write this column the news of Nice was breaking. I turned the television off. I unplugged it so I would be less likely to turn it back on. I put my cell phone in a drawer. It’s not that I don’t care; it’s just that I feel I am approaching the point of not being able to take any more.
The wedding ceremony was on Saturday at four in the afternoon. My daughter had served as her own wedding planner. I had griped for weeks about the boxes of decorations stored in my home writing office. They were upsetting my feng shui. But that changed when I walked into the sanctuary and later the reception hall and both were filled with joyous people and I saw the decorations clearly for the first time. Each element had been chosen by my wife or daughter for a reason. They told the story of my family. C. S. Lewis once spoke of beautiful things like those decorations. He said that the true beauty wasn’t “in” the objects but that it only flowed “through” the objects. He said the beauty that flowed through them was but a reminder of a far off home that we had not yet visited.
And then there was the ceremony itself where by the couple’s request the parallel between their marriage and the marriage of Christ and his people was strongly emphasized throughout. In addition to being my daughter’s wedding, the ceremony was one of the greatest worship experiences of my life. Many guests approached my wife and I and said the same. It wasn’t that we had only gotten together with friends and shared a happy occasion. The day had been much more than that. There was a transcendent joy amongst us…a Holy presence. There was love.
For a few hours, and well into the next day, love won. Love was greater. That’s because the Apostle Paul’s words are not at all cliché, they are in fact timeless because they are absolute truth. There is only one way out of this mess and that is with love. And in the end, love wins.