Feb 20, 2013

This Could Be Real

Ashley and I got married in January. The day turned unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the seventies by the time our wedding commenced. We ponied up what little cash we had to pay for the wedding and coerced our friends into helping us with all the setup and preparations, making handmade decorations and borrowing lights and chairs from the church. The day itself was not as restful as we would have liked.

We were both stressed, concerned someone would forget her job or mess up some important detail. Everything from the cutting of the cake to the pouring of the punch had been delegated, and if one person didn’t do his job, it all would have fallen apart. These small, but seemingly critical concerns, only magnified my overall worry, illuminating my secret insecurities about entering into matrimony, still unsure of how it would all turn out and worried I might mess everything up.

When the time for the wedding march arrived, our pianist, Mary didn’t play Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” as we had rehearsed the night before. In fact, she didn’t play at all. Instead, my best man, Dustin, left his place on the stage and despite my protests sauntered over to the stool we had set out for him. He picked up the guitar and started playing. My palms started to sweat, and I looked at the pastor with pleading eyes, begging him to do something. He just returned my glare with a smile. This wasn’t supposed to happen until we exchanged vows! But now the doors were opening and everyone was standing and it was too late. And here it was: the mishap I was waiting for, the sure sign of worse things to come. If the wedding was a catastrophe, surely the marriage would be worse.

But as soon as I heard Dustin strum those first three notes, as soon I saw Ashley emerge from the lobby, I knew what had happened. It was the song. That song. Our song. The one I played for Ashley on our first date. The same one I used to ask her to marry me. Somehow, she’d sent the words and music to Dustin to learn. And now she was walking down the aisle to it. As my bride made her march, I knew she had done this. She’d concocted this surprise, set it up without my knowing.

At that moment, watching my wife-to-be walk towards me, hearing my own words sung back to me on my wedding day, I lost it. I started crying—and didn’t stop. Not for the whole ceremony. Not for the pastor’s message or the rampant applause or even the “you may now kiss the bride” part. I sobbed through the whole thing. Anyone who was there that day will tell you: I was a blubbering mess. I could barely choke out my vows. All because of a song, just a silly little song. But not any song on any day. Our song on our day. A surprise that spoke volumes to me about what this commitment meant to Ashley—and now meant to me.

And that’s when I got it; I finally understood. As the song played and I watched my bride draw near, I began to believe. I believed in marriage, whether it was wonderful or hard, whether we would struggle or wake up to endless days of joy—or maybe all of the above. I understood how my parents could divorce and then remarry each other, how it wasn’t about having a perfect story but one that endures. I believed in what I could never see—until now. I believed in this person that believed in me, in this woman I was waiting for.

Yes, I cried that day like no man wants to be reminded of (and trust me, all my friends do). It was too much grace and too much love for one person to take in. Too much for a single day, for one unseasonably warm January day in the heart of Tennessee—the day I thought would be no big deal. The day we got married. And looking back on that day, nearly five years later, I can attest to the fact that there have been plenty of ups and downs in between that day and this—frustrations and unexpected mishaps that have shaken our faith a time or two. But I can also say without a doubt that it was, indeed, the best day of my life.

“Hold On” by Jeff Goins

Hold on to me, girl

Hold on to what my heart can see

Hold on to me, girl

‘Cause this could be,

This could be—

Real.

Image by Tim Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post excerpted from Jeff Goins’ forthcoming book The In-Between (Coming August 2013).

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