Grace and the Flower Girl

April 21, 2008 § 1 Comment

I performed a wedding yesterday evening (perhaps a cheap excuse I’ll use for a late blog post…). The ceremony took place at a historic church in the city of Baltimore. The church is an old one – stone exterior, bells that announce each half hour to the City, a cemetery behind with headstones that predate the Civil War. The setting could not serve as a lovelier one for a wedding.

A wedding ceremony is a curious event. Family, friends and ‘others’ attend what I have learned to be more than a simple ceremony – in many cases it is pageantry. Each brings a confluence of dynamics. Men and women walk down the aisle almost as though it were a runway in a fashion show. The build-up is obvious – ‘Will the bridesmaids wear their hair up?’ ‘What color will the Bride’s dress be?’ Floral arrangements are scrutinized and gushed over. Old acquaintances greet one another with hugs and kisses. People crane their necks in the pews, scanning the audience.

And then there are the men. I have come to realize that 99% of them don’t want to be there. You can see it in their faces. They are, in a word, bored. Unfortunately I have the bird’s eye view. Don’t fool yourself – the pastor sees everything. While their wives are riveted, guys nod off, look a their watches, and read their PDAs. I’m not judging here – just reporting (not to mention that I am one of those typical guys when not performing the ceremony).

What makes the wedding ‘work’ are the Bride and the Groom – along with their families. It is really all about this ‘first family,’ and that is how it is supposed to be. Think about it – when all is said and done, thirty years after, all the couple will have is pictures (the photographers and videographers will involve another blog along with years of psychotherapy for the pastor who deals with them…). The pictures are largely of the ceremony and the families of the Bride and Groom. The fact is that the friends who attend and sit in the pews are guests – but that ‘first couple’ and their family – they are the ones who are most thrilled with the moment. They are the ones who cling to every word and nuance of the ceremony.

This particular ceremony came with all the ‘stops’ – beautiful music, classily dressed attendants, an exquisite wedding gown, sweet tears and perfect weather. The attendants, along with the preacher (that would be me), and the Groom had entered the sanctuary, and all that stood between the preliminaries and the entrance of the Bride was the flower girls. One was an older girl, but the other was a three or four year old. She was precious and cute as could be. And when she entered, she took over!

Three quarters of the way down the aisle she dropped her basket of rose petals and they went all over the place. Groomsmen, Bridesmaids and her mother dropped to the floor to help collect them. The simple task of picking them up was adorable, loud and the sweetest of distractions. When it was time for her to recess (churchy language for leaving the stage), she took over again, loudly telling her mother that she needed her basket to leave the sanctuary. Needless to say, all loved this girl they didn’t know.

Actually it humanized an otherwise perfect event, and served as the most precious of reminders, that nothing on this side of heaven is perfect. In fact, down the road, it won’t be the pastor’s words people remember, or the length of the Bride’s gown, or the musical selections. It will be that little girl’s improv performance and the sweet ‘music’ she added to an otherwise ‘perfect’ ceremony.

This is the way Grace really works. It is beautiful because of the reason it exists in the first place: scars on a Savior’s hands, wounds in a healed relationship – all serve as watermarks in a community that was flooded, and then came together and then grew stronger. Grace is redemptive and it exposes the mess it takes us through – and somehow it makes even the mess something we would not trade if we could. I can’t help but think that this was the enduring message of Jacob’s perpetual limp – his abiding reminder of God’s transforming grace in his most painful moment of self-realization (Hebrews 11:21).

I’m certain that no one would plan on a three year old Flower Girl dropping a basket of rose petals three quarters of the way down the aisle of a perfect wedding ceremony – but I am equally certain that none who witnessed the event would wish it never happened. Perfection is elusive – Grace is magnificent.


§ One Response to Grace and the Flower Girl

  • Mike Houghton says:

    Yes, grace is magnificent. I was asked to give some prepared remarks at Chuck Ryor’s farewell party last night, and while I’d hoped for the “perfect” words… summarizing a friendship in a few scripted sentences just doesn’t quite amount to much. The flower girl would have spoken better words… reminding us all of the many non-scripted, “real life” moments woven into the fabric of our relationships.

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