Monday, October 5, 2015

On going to her wedding.

On going to her wedding.

The invitation came in the mail, I didn’t know how to respond.  We hadn’t exactly parted under the best of terms.  When our relationship ended we were both hurting, living over 300 miles apart, and quickly losing control of everything around us.  For myself, I was in my first year of seminary and was trying to make sense of my life and grasp at the remaining “truths” of my theology. 

I held the invitation, not knowing what I thought.  Did I really want to go? Did she really want me to come? Can I watch her marry someone I’m not totally convinced is right for her?  I sought counsel from a few trusted confidants.  Most actually told me I shouldn’t go, that it didn’t seem like I was certain I needed to be there.  I thought, I prayed, I prayed, I prayed some more.  In the end, I determined that I would go.  I RSVP’d “Yes” and entered my third and final year of seminary. 

As the weeks drew closer to the wedding, I still didn’t know if I was truly prepared to go.  I’d sorted through my feelings and knew that although I would always love her, that love had changed; I knew that she wasn’t the person I was meant to spend my life in partnership with.  When an internship looked like it might prevent my attending, I simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief and lamented possibly missing the event.  Clearly, I was conflicted.

In the week leading up to the wedding, I made the final determination to go and began working my schedule around the necessary departure time.  It was a several hour drive, so planning for traffic was necessary.  I awoke before the sun and was out the door before many other residents in my 18-member house were awake. 

As I arrived at the location, it became clear to me how much I really did want to be there.  It was an outdoor wedding at a state park, parking was in a lower lot and the pavilion sat up under and behind a grove of trees.  I talked briefly on the phone with the person who had been our campus chaplain in college; she asked, “Are you okay with this?”  She understood what it could mean to watch someone I had dated marry someone else.  I assured her of my resolve and departed from my car. 

I took a wrong turn when walking and ended up in the wrong direction.  I glanced hastily at my watch, it was seven minutes before the ceremony was to start and people were nowhere in sight.  I looked around me in a bit of panic and found myself thinking, “If I miss this event, I’ll never forgive myself.”  I ran back the way I’d come as fast as I could, I ran up the hill without stopping, I made it to the pavilion with three minutes to spare. 

The first person I saw was the groom.  He smiled and said, “She’s going to be so happy you’re here.  She’s getting ready in that RV.  I can’t go in, but you need to go and see her.  Just knock on the door.”  I walked to the RV and knocked.  As any good Maid of Honor would do just minutes before a wedding, the MOH tried to usher me away.  The groom hollered from 20 paces off, “She can go in, she’s okay.”  The MOH looked at me, “Okay, but she’s getting into her gown.”

I walked up the stairs of the RV and looked to the left.  Her back was to me, she didn’t know I was there.  She turned around, saw me, and her face lit up.  I burst into tears.  She looked beautiful.  Not just beautiful because she was in a wedding dress.  Not just beautiful because it was her wedding day.  She looked beautiful from the depths of her soul.  She radiated joy, it originated from her core.  She was the happiest I had ever seen her, ever.  We hugged and I said through the tears, “You Are Beautiful!”  She said, “Don’t start crying on me already.”

As we hugged, I felt a weight lift from my soul.  She and I used to talk every day; we’d had a constant connection of friendship and/or romance for nearly six years.  When our relationship ended, that connection had been severed.  We hardly talked anymore, and even if we did it was nowhere near what we used to have.  I had been carrying that loss with me.  I knew on some level it was there, but I hadn’t registered the gravity to which it had impacted me.  When we embraced in that RV, I felt the weight of that loss flow off me and pool onto the floor.  Roughly two years of pain and heartache were simply washed away.
I was shooed off by the MOH (who did a VERY fine job, let me tell you) and exited the RV.  I regained composure in time for the ceremony to start, only to promptly lose my composure again as she entered the pavilion during the processional.  It was as though I was truly seeing her for the first time; which in a way I was.  She was a new person, unlike the person I had previously known.  Certainly there were parts of her former identity which I could recognize, but now she was truly whole, she held nothing back. 

As far as I am aware, I was the only person from our college days who was able to make it to the wedding.  There was a core group of us those years ago, and we were very tight.  I watched the ceremony and snapped a few pictures with my phone.  I watched both the bride and groom express deep tears of joy at the new life they were embarking upon together.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.  After the ceremony was over, I sent a picture to the others who were unable to be there.  “She’s married! :)” accompanied the image.  I received texts back almost instantly with exclamations of joy. 

I waited to go through the receiving line.  I had been asked to express love and congratulations on behalf of others who couldn’t be there.  One hug for one person, a second hug for another, and then a third for myself.  “I’ve missed you so much, I’m so happy for you!” I whispered to her.  The photographer offered to take a photo of us which had my face rather than the back of my head.  I can’t wait to see how we look with tears of healing and joy on our faces. 

I hugged the groom and we made a decision to get to know each other better.  I want to know the person who can make her as happy as she is; she deserves that happiness and he made it happen.  Any misgivings I had about him had disappeared the instant I saw her in the RV, and I look forward to a lifelong friendship with him as well as her. 

 So I went to the wedding.  I’m glad I did.  I know now that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world.  She gave me a gift in inviting me, and I believe it was a gift to both of us that I went.  I texted her that evening after the wedding with some photos and shared my experience about the weight being lifted; she responded that she knew exactly what I meant.  I don’t know what will happen next, but I’ll be honest in saying that I hope she and I can work toward rebuilding a solid friendship.  I believe that we are meant to be in each other’s lives. 

My soul feels lighter.  It feels like I’m taking a deep breath without pain for the first time in a long time.  I’ve been granted freedom from something which was holding me down.  I can’t exactly explain everything that happened, I don’t know if I really understand it.  I believe that attending the wedding was some kind of balm for me; it brought to the fore a realization of what had been suppressed, and it remove the damaged parts of me and replenished them anew. 

I am still processing and trying to wrap my limited brain around the magnificence of how God works in this world.  I am a firm believer that God uses us to call each other to life, and I believe that God was at work this weekend in a big way.  That I’ve cried three times while reflecting and writing this speaks to the magnitude of that truth.

If you have the type of relationship where you are invited to a former lover’s nuptials, my experience would suggest that you should go.  Definitely don’t just show up if you aren’t invited, there’s probably a reason for that.  But if you are invited, consider allowing yourself to be open to God’s transformative ways in this world.  I went to my ex’s wedding and I learned things about myself I didn’t know.  I went to my ex’s wedding and came away a changed person.  I went to my ex’s wedding and celebrated as she married the love of her life.  I went.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Rachel - this is only one reason why I love you. You allow yourself to continue to grow! Love you!